The Premier Lacrosse League returned to regular season action in Colorado Springs after a week off and the action did not disappoint. A total of six teams clinched playoff spots while the remaining teams, Chrome LC and Cannons LC, found themselves in the position to fight for the final playoff spot in their final game of the season in Albany on August 14. You couldn’t ask for a better finale to the season.
Yet, the end of the season drama arrived early when on Monday night The Post Game Podcast reported that Chrome LC had traded Justin Guterding to the Whipsnakes in exchange for rookie defender Nick Grill. The news was made official by the league on Tuesday morning. Inside Lacrosse’s Kevin Brown also confirmed that the trade was in the works prior to the Chrome’s two games in Colorado Springs and was the reason why Guterding was a healthy scratch for those two games.
The move reunites Guterding with his former Duke teammate Brad Smith and allows Chrome to bolster its defense before the team’s final, must-win game. However, many fans (including myself) took to social media to voice their displeasure with the trade.
The move led to speculation that Matt Rambo’s injury could be more serious than originally believed. However, in his postgame conference following the Whipsnakes loss on Saturday, Coach Jim Stagnitta addressed Rambo’s injury and stated that the hope is to have the 2019 MVP available in their final two games in Albany.
Since that press conference, Lacrosse Playground has received word that Rambo is still questionable for both Albany games, but he is expected to return by the Whips’ playoff matchup in Salt Lake City at the latest. Regardless, adding a player of Guterding’s caliber could help a struggling offense that has scored just 13 total points in its last two games.
Game 1: Atlas LC displays dominance over Chrome LC, 19-10
The Chrome made headlines before the weekend as well, adding 2016 Tewaaraton winner Dylan Molloy from the player pool. Molloy did not disappoint in his debut, recording two goals and two assists for the Men of Chrome.
However, it was all Atlas in this matchup as the team defeated the Chrome handedly 19-10. The Atlas went up 3-0 early thanks to Dox Aitken’s first career goal in the PLL and another two-pointer from Bryan Costabile. While the Chrome hung around and kept it at 8-5 through the middle of the second quarter, a late surge by Atlas increased their lead to 11-5 before the half and they never looked back.
The biggest bright spot was Trevor Baptiste, who went 25-for-30 at the stripe and broke the PLL records for most faceoff wins (25) and most groundballs (19) in a single game.
PLL Betting Breakdown: Atlas improve to 6-1 against the spread after easily covering against the Chrome on Friday night. Since losing to the Archers in Week 1, Atlas have covered every spread and they’ll continue to be a smart play on the moneyline or even against the spread, despite faltering against Cannons LC later in the weekend.
Game 2: Archers top Redwoods in a late night battle, 15-12
Arguably the biggest matchup of the weekend, the second PLL game of the weekend featured the first meeting between the Archers and Redwoods since their 2019 playoff matchup. Despite waiting nearly two years for the rematch, fans would have to wait a tad longer as the game got delayed more than two hours after its original start time.
The game got off to a fast start with Matt Kavanagh scoring on an early transition goal. From that point on, the teams went back and forth, with no team holding more than a four-goal lead the entire game. Both teams got a ton of production from the usual suspects, but one of the more memorable performances came from rookie Tre Leclaire, who recorded a hat trick and looked super comfortable in the Archers pick-and-roll sets. Yet, one of the top moments came from sharpshooter Marcus Holman. His near-side, top corner rip made such a splash that we wouldn’t be surprised if fans in the stands got soaked.
The Archers efficiency on offense continues to allow them to win tight games and that was evident in this contest, with the team shooting 35% on the day. It ended up being the difference maker too considering TD Ierlan dominated at the stripe, recording a 74% faceoff percentage for the Redwoods, and limited the Archers’ possessions. Another unsung hero was Adam Ghitelman, who recorded 16 saves and a 63% save percentage in the win.
PLL Betting Breakdown: The Archers entered the game as 1.5-point underdogs (on most sportsbooks), but they very much felt like low-key favorites and were a very easy play. They get the job done not only on the spread, but winning outright on the moneyline as well. As for the total of 23.5 though, both teams’ big guns came out firing early and often and the over ended up hitting with 9:47 left in the fourth quarter, providing over bettors with a sweat-free night.
Game 3: Waterdogs bury the weakened Whipsnakes, 11-6
This first-time matchup between the Dogs and Whips was originally slated for Saturday night, but got pushed to 9:15 CT on Sunday due to the weather delay. And the sluggishness certainly showed as both teams got off to a slow start.
It was the Whipsnakes who would strike first, finally starting the scoring after more than eight minutes of play. Jay Carlson would score with a behind-the-back beauty on the doorstep that led to a 4-1 Whips run. Yet, following Carlson’s third goal of the day, the Whips would be held scoreless for more than 15 minutes, in large part due to Dillon Ward’s dominant 19-save performance and the play of his starting defenders Liam Byrnes, Eli Gobrecht and Ben Randall, who combined for five caused turnovers.
Ward was lights out, stopping 76% of shots. As Joe Keegan pointed out, Ward has returned to elite form in the Dogs’ past three games, stopping 67.9% of shots. The Waterdogs defense as a whole also appears to be gelling, allowing an average of only 6.3 goals per game in that same three-game stretch.
And finally, credit needs to be given to Jake Withers and his wings in Zach Currier and Ryland Rees who dominated on faceoffs. Withers went 74% on faceoffs and neutralized arguably the best faceoff man in the game in Joe Nardella. Holding Nards to 28% at the stripe just doesn’t happen. Yet, Withers’ did just that and it played a huge part in the Dogs’ win.
PLL Betting Breakdown: Over 24.5 seemed out of the question early on in this one and it was never even close. As for the point spread, the Waterdogs covered again as 1.5-point underdogs and the Whips fell to 2-5 against the spread. The Whipsnakes are a team to avoid betting the spread for the time being until they can prove they can cover again.
Game 4: Chaos defeat Chrome and secure playoff berth, 14-12
The Chaos-Chrome game was a tale of two halves. The Chaos opened up the scoring and went on a 9-2 run before Justin Anderson and Dylan Molloy brought the Chrome within five goals. A Josh Byrne goal before the half appeared to give the Chaos the momentum back heading into the half, but the Chrome came out with a vengeance in the second half, in large part due to the play of rookie Kevin Rogers who scored four goals on the day, including a pivotal two-pointer that brought the Chrome within four late in the game. Despite the Chrome’s eight-goal rally, the team would fall short as Blaze Riorden and the Chaos held on to win.
Blaze finished with a 20-save effort and stopped 66% of the shots he saw. Through seven games, Blaze has posted an average 61% save percentage and made an average of 17.7 saves per game. What’s even more impressive is the two-time Oren Lyons Goaltender of the Year hasn’t recorded less than 14 saves and a 54% save percentage all season.
Additionally, the Buffalo Bandits—er, Chaos LC were led by the crew of roommates in Josh Byrne, Chris Cloutier, Dhane Smith and Chase Fraser, recording 10 of Chaos LC’s 14 goals and contributing on every goal but their lone two-pointer.
PLL Betting Breakdown: The Chaos entered the game as 1.5-point underdogs and even when their win appeared to be in jeopardy late in the game, them covering the spread never really was. As for Chrome, it’s probably safe to avoid betting them against the spread or moneyline in their final game of the season as they have only covered twice and both times came as 2.5-point underdogs.
Game 5: Atlas move to top of standings thanks to close win over Cannons, 13-12
It was a true game of runs between the Atlas and Cannons, similar to their first meeting in Baltimore. Following an opening Shayne Jackson goal for Cannons, the Atlas scored four straight goals on three shots. Three of those goals came from a single and two bomb from Bryan Costabile, who ranks second in two-pointers with three on the season. The Cannons answered with a 6-1 run of their own capped by a diving Lyle Thompson goal with three seconds left in the second quarter and took a 7-5 lead into halftime.
Yet, the Atlas came out firing in the second half, scoring four straight including a two-pointer from rookie Dox Aitken, his first career goal in the PLL. The Cannons would rally thanks to the efforts of Lyle Thompson, who tied the game at 11-11 and added his final tally of the game with less than a minute to bring the Cannons within one goal. Yet, ultimately the Atlas’ stable of weapons were too much too handle. One of those weapons was Trevor Baptiste, who continued his dominance at the stripe, going 76% on the day and even contributing on the score sheet with a goal of his own in the third quarter.
The result set up the Atlas to claim the top seed and first-round bye in the PLL playoffs with a win in Albany, while the Cannons now have a must-win game against the Chrome.
PLL Betting Breakdown: This game featured a pair of wager woes. To start, the Atlas entered the game covering the spread in six straight games and were poised to do it again if it wasn’t for Lyle Thompson’s goal with less than a minute left to help Cannons cover the 1.5-point spread. On the flipside, if you’ve bet on the Cannons to cover as 1.5-point underdogs every game this season, you’d be undefeated. As for the total, it seemed like the game was headed for over 25.5 when Dan Bucaro netted the 24th goal of the game with just under 7 minutes remaining. Yet, after that point only one goal was scored and over bettors were left reeling.
Epoch Moments of the Week
Dylan Molloy’s first PLL goal was a classic one as he ran through defenders on his way to his first score.
Yet, it was Dan Bucaro that was snatching bodies on the opposite end.
Bryan Costabile may be the most electric player in the PLL. Whether he’s scoring from range in transition or going BTB like in this goal, he always brings the energy.
The fact that this is Kyle Harrison’s final season is really starting to set in, but thankfully he keeps leaving us with more memories, including this deep ball. K18 has still got it!
This week was honestly filled with highlight goals that didn’t surprise us. Yet, no matter how many times we see Jay Carlson go between the leagues or BTB around the crease, it will never, ever get old.
Did someone order the two-bomb special? You know, back-to-back two-pointers with a side of taking the lead. Compliments to the chef can be sent to Kieran McArdle and Ryland Rees.
We’re pretty sure Chris Cloutier shoots backhand harder than many people can shoot overhand. There’s just no way to defend this backhand laser.
Lyle Thompson’s theatrics have become so routine that this goal for him isn’t anything particularly eye-popping compared to his standards, but we’d be taking him for granted if we didn’t highlight this unreal effort with a minute left in the game.
Looking ahead to Albany
The PLL playoff picture is reaching its final shape, but the top seed and first round bye is still up for grabs. For Coach Ben Rubeor and Atlas LC, earning the first round bye is simple: win and it’s yours. Waterdogs LC (+12 SD) are also in a prime position to take the top seed, but their seeding will ultimately come down to how Archers (+25 SD) and Redwoods (+5 SD) fare in their final two games.
While the Whipsnakes chances at a first round bye are all but impossible given their -12 score differential, they’ll still be looking for wins in both their games for a chance at a higher seed and some much-needed momentum heading into the playoffs. The Chaos will also look to win both their games to avoid landing the #7 seed again (though they fared fine in that spot last year).
As for Cannons and Chrome, the only teams that failed to clinch a playoff berth, their path is simple: win and you’re in.
While the Chrome and Cannons will only be thinking about winning in Albany, a large victory by either team paired with a pair of losses from the Chaos could actually allow them to earn as high as the sixth seed depending on how the score differential shakes out.