The last week of the regular season featured the most games in a single weekend this season, the latest #PLLAfterDark ever, a contest directly for the top seed and first round bye, the first playoff (read: elimination) game of the season a week early and a hometown hero overtime game-winning goal in the final game of the weekend! None of the contests disappointed as five of the six games ended with a one possession victory margin. Here is our game-by-game breakdown of Week 7!
Game 1: Whipsnakes outscore hot Redwoods offense in the 4th quarter to win 14-12.
Redwoods LC took advantage of tough sun location early in the weekend’s first contest and jumped to a quick 2-0 lead against the Whips. While Coach Stagnitta’s squad began to produce on the offensive end, the ‘Woods appeared to have the momentum in a tie game when lightning struck, initiating a weather delay half way through the second quarter. With the 3.5 hour-long weather delay behind them, the Whips came out firing.
Matt Rambo (4 G, 2 A) was a game-changer in his return from injury. It seemed as the entire Whipsnakes’ offense changed with his pressence. In typical fashion, Rambo dodges to 5-and-5 on the lefty wing and can do anything from there: lull his defender to sleep and rocker/question mark, feed anywhere a cutter is open, get a pick for a topside run. It makes the job of the entire opposing defense that much more difficult because the strategy essentially traps a slide defender and creates an extra man situation off-ball, cutting for one of the best feeders in lacrosse. You can see below that the ‘Woods’ John Sexton had to be prepared to slide and the crease felt a little less crowded for Jay Carlson (2 G):
The Whips’ offense is obviously not a one-trick-pony, as evidence by the phenomenal showing of last year’s MVP, Zed Williams’ (5 G). While the Whips did come out strong from the weather dealy, the game was still a one-goal contest going into the fourth quarter due to multiple standout Woods performances. The question that’s been posed seemingly every week is who on the Redwoods’ midfield should be assigned the LSM: Jules Heningberg (2 G) or Myles Jones (4 G, 3 A). The popular opinion has been to put the long pole on Jules because otherwise Jules just inverts a shortie matchup for free. However, Myles showed that he can just invert you too.
After Myles’s production this season to this point, it’s hard to justify continuing this strategy, although the playoffs might not be the time to experiment for most teams. So much attention placed on this assignment gives a ton of room for other Woods’ players to thrive. Ryder Garnsey (3 G) and Matt Kavanagh (1 G) produce even when super star Rob Pannell (2 A) is relatively quiet. TD Ierlan (47 %, 6 GB) suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the contest, in what I think was an egregious foul, but the officials left the laundry in their pockets. With no other faceoff man on the active roster, the Redwoods’ LSMs Kyle Hartzell and Sexton made scraps out the of the faceoffs, keeping them in the game and leading to a highlight play by Hartzell, hit by Kavanaugh, and goal by Garnsey.
The Whipsnakes managed to withstand the onslaught of physicality and outscored the Redwoods 6-3 in the final quarter to secure the 14-12 win.
Betting Breakdown: Whipsnakes ML bettors got a nice win (+100). The total of Whips-Woods contests are always tough to call because they are always close and usually around the 23.5 range. Great pick for the over bettors who took their chance! Hammering the over for the Myles Jones over one goal seems like the easiest decision of all time in retrospect.
Game 2: Chaos grab win against Archers 11-9 in the latest game in #PLLAfterDark History
A historically late start to the game began as a majority of fans probably expected, the Archers up 4-1 at the end of the first quarter. The rest of the game resembled the Chrome’s 8-7 win over the Archers earlier in the season. However, it’s hard to attribute it to a defensive or goalie performance like John Galloway’s that week. The Chaos defense had some flashy CTOs like this pick from Johnny Surdick (2 CT, 2 GB).
While Coach Towers’s defense played well, they only caused six of the Archers’ 21 (!!) turnovers. Additionally, Blaze Riorden only accounted for 12 Saves (57 % Sv %) in this one. The reigning Goalie of the Year has generally needed to collect more than 16 to keep the Chaos in games this season. The Archers were outscored 7-4 in the second half with a classic Ian Mackay two-pointer breaking the late 9-9 tie. The former Archer put the final nail his former team’s coffin.
Inconsistency has been the theme of the Archers’ offensive unit, which is widely celebrated because of their exciting style of play. The Chaos had only managed to tie the game, but never fully took the lead until the final score. It was really the Archers’ game to lose as their defense kept them in a position to win the entire game. A high unforced turnover rate committed by the Archers gave the Chaos the advantage earlier than the score would have suggested in the PLT Win Probability Engine.
Betting Breakdown: The previous 12-8 matchup result, an Archers’ defensive unit who had been the most efficient unit this season according to PLL Data Team’s Amelia Probst, and Blaze Riorden made the under a pretty enticing bet for this contest. That bet paid off. However, brave Chaos ML bettors are the true winners of the day.
Game 3: Waterdogs defeat Atlas 10-9 #1 seed and first round bye. Romar Dennis and Mikie Schlosser teamed up to try rekindling Joe Keegan’s love for the alley dodge.
This matchup features last season’s two-worst teams competing for the #1 Seed in 2021. It started out as a fast paced game that favored the Atlas. Trevor Baptiste (57%, 7 GB) was winning faceoffs, JD Colarusso (10 Sv, 50 %) was seeing the ball well in cage, and the offense was finding good opportunities, leading to a 4-2 game at the end of the first. A shift in the game’s pace was apparent with about 7:13 left in the 2nd quarter. The game was 5-4 in the Atlas’ favor and already almost half of the goals had already been scored.
The game slowed due to a combination of each offenses’ unforced turnovers (41 TOs total), great forced turnovers (25 CTOs total), defensive stands, and phenomenal goalie play by the ‘Dogs’ Dillon Ward (17 Sv, 65 %). Keeping the Atlas at bay allowed the Dogs to take their first lead of the game with this textbook and also historic goal from Ryan Brown. The goal made him the first player in the PLL with multiple 20-goal seasons:
A perfect display of how hard offenses had to work to score in this contest is seen in the follow-up to Brown’s goal. Jeff Teat (1 G, 2 A) and Mark Cockerton (2 G, 1 A) succeed on a high-effort ride and Eric Law (1 G, 3 A) finishes the play after a back-handed assist from Cockerton:
It was 6-6 going into half half. Our PLT Win Probability % gave the slight advantage to Atlas 60-40 and no team ever had larger than a 65% chance of winning the game in the first half. A highlight of the second half for the ‘Dogs was Jake Withers (45 %, 5 GB) and the faceoff unit limiting the number of Atlas possessions after going 4 for 14 at the stripe in the first half. With Ward playing as he was, limiting possessions made the Atlas’ job much more difficult. Atlas managed to maintain an advantage 8-7 going into the fourth quarter and then Mikie Schlosser (3 G) decided it was his turn, scoring all three of the Waterdogs’ fourth-quarter goals from assisted step downs and alley dodges:
After being held scoreless for almost a quarter and a half, Teat scored a gorgeous behind-the-back goal in the final minute and placed 4th on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
Atlas failed to win the final faceoff and the ‘Dogs held on to win 10-9. The advantage the Atlas gained in the third quarter (due largely to many ‘Dogs’ TOs in that quarter) melted back to even as we look at the PLT Win Probability during the game. The close to equal win probability was exemplified by Atlas managing to get a shot in the final seconds.
Betting Breakdown: The dozens of Under bettors can celebrate their wins on this one. Atlas ML bettors were probably on the edge of their seats and are a likely candidate for this week’s Wager Woe whereas the Waterdogs ML was a successful EMO from our guys at Bet On Lacrosse!
Game 4: Cannons defeat Chrome 13-10 in the season’s unofficial first playoff game.
In the battle for the league’s final playoff spot, the Chrome managed to pull out ahead early in the contest, up 4-2 after one quarter. Colin Heacock (4 G) made sure the Cannons knew he had shown up to play.
An early start in games is often what the Chrome have been missing and it seemed all of the moving parts were in sync: Connor Farrell (64%, 7 GB) was performing well compared to the rest of the season and John Galloway (14 Sv, 54%) showed success.
But, Paul Rabil (3 G, 1 2G, 1 A) really, really wanted to get into the playoffs. The second quarter featured a 5-1 run for the Cannons where everyone was contributing. Rabil and Stephen Rehfuss (2 G, 1 A) continues to be an absolute menace of a combination for midfield defensive units.
Rabil and Rehfuss are essentially the counterexample to my opinion about defensive strategy against Myles Jones and Jules Heningberg. If teams assigned the LSM to guard Myles and he still performed like Rabil has been all season against them, then my opinion surely does not matter and I’ll have to start watching some film again. These two pairs of midfielders will be a lot of fun to do case studies of in the offseason. Anyway, that run for the Cannons really set the tone for the rest of the game. Down 10-6 in the third, the Chrome started to find life as they normally do in late game scenarios thanks to another BTB from Heacock.
However, a two-bomb from Rabil was essentially the dagger for the Chrome comeback putting the Cannons back up 12-8. The final score of the contest was 13-10. And, thankfully, we all get to watch Lyle in the PLL playoffs and matched up with Rexrode again for essentially the matchup tie breaker (Rexrode “won” their first meeting and Lyle “won” their second).
The result made this the last game we would see John Galloway and Joel White suite up professionally. The two Syracuse alums have been standouts through their careers and both will go down as some of the best ever at their respective positions.
Betting Breakdown: Cannons covering was a tough decision to make given their affinity for one-goal games, but the price was right for some and it paid off! Over bettors are probably regretting their bet for a high scoring game involving the Chrome.
Game 5: Garnsey scores game winner in a defensive battle between the Redwoods and Chaos, 10-9.
A matchup between the Redwoods and the Chaos was pretty typical for these two teams. A glaring question for the Redwoods was how they would fill the void left by an injured TD Ierlan against an improving Max Adler. As expected, Adler (70 %, 8 GB) took advantage of the lack of depth for the Redwoods. However, this game is yet another example of how overwhelming faceoff proficiency, even at the professional level, does not mean certain victory. See our FO analytics article on this topic by Brian Andrews here.
Blaze Riorden (13 Sv, 62%) had a routine game although his saves total per game this weekend were particularly low. This can be credited to an improving Chaos defensive unit. The Chaos defense has continued to impress lately, particularly Jack Rowlett (2 CTOs, 1 GB) who held Pannell to only 1 assist. If the defense can remain consistent, allowing Blaze to make the saves he needs to and not save the game for them, they could make a deep playoff run this like they did in the bubble. Another name that has impressed recently from the Chaos unit is Chase Fraser (5 G). He scored over 50 % of the Chaos’ goals and went 50 % shooting on the day. However, no other player on the Chaos had more than a single goal.
The Redwoods’ offensive unit took some time to get going in this contest. Losing 9-6 in the third, they went on a four-goal streak to take the lead and eventually the win. Tim Troutner (17 Sv, 65 %) was a major factor in allowing the comeback. Once again, Myles Jones (1 G, 1 2G, and 1 A) is proving that he deserves the LSM matchup regardless of the risk of placing a SSDM on Jules. He has proven his proficiency shooting in close after a dodge, feeding off the dodge, and shooting from deep. Utilizing the LSM to potentially eliminate the need to slide to him and get on his hands for deep shots could eliminate some of the Redwoods’ scoring opportunities. Sergio Perkovic (1 G, 1 2G), Charlie Bertrand (1 G), Garrett Epple (1 G), and Ryder Garnsey (2 G) led the offensive charge in this matchup. Garnsey managed to seal the win with 19 seconds left in the game.
Betting Breakdown: The easiest Under to ever be hammered in the history of sports betting. Considering the Woods’ defense, Blaze, and two offenses that have a slower style of play (initiations by ISOs or PNRs and slow subbing games to achieve a settled 6-on-6 situation), you would have had to do a lot to convince me this would have been a high scoring game. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Wager Woe of the Week being the Woods not covering the spread on this week’s Bet On Lacrosse Podcast.
Game 6: Fields returns to Albany and scores OT winner in 14-13 win over Whipsnakes
Well… it’s groundhog day. Again. Archers go into this game with a fast paced offense that gives them an early 6-3 lead after one quarter of play. That momentum carries into halftime, 9-6 Archers. They were distributing well and minimizing turnovers. Multiple players had 4 points: Connor Fields (3 G, 1 A), Will Manny (2 G, 2 A), and Grant Ament (3 G, 1 A). In particular, Ament had zero (0) turnovers after a five-turnover performance on Friday. Fields was incredible to watch against the Whipsnakes defense at his alma mater with multiple highlight goals.
Although, the Archers’ offense were clicking much better than Friday, they still found themselves scoreless for 14 minutes in the second half while the Whipsnakes went on a 6-0 run. This streak had the potential to be much worse if not for Drew Adams (18 Sv, 58%), who was given another starting shot in place of Adam Ghitleman who has received a much higher share of playtime, and Stephen Kelly (47 %, 10 GB, 2 G, 1 A), who managed to keep the contest at the stripe relatively even against Joe Nardella and producing on offense!
To continue the deja vu theme in this section, let’s look at another goal from Rambo (3 G) that starts out almost exactly the same as the one highlighted in Friday’s matchup. Rambo on high lefty wing posting a defenseman up. However, in this case, he saw that the slide wasn’t there and decided to push topside and take it to the cage himself to make it a 9-6 game going into half.
The Archers maintained the score differential until the score was 12-8. The Whips then outscored the Archers 6-1, led by Williams (4 G), Carlson (3 G), and a classic (but kind of rare this year) Mike Chanenchuck two-bomb to tie the game half way through the fourth.
Zed followed this up with a goal to take the lead. However, Will Manny tied the game with another highlight goal with 2:50 left on the clock. Almost 3 minutes of action followed without a goal and the last game of the regular season went into overtime, because of course it would. In a dodge from the left wing and winning topside, of course Matt Ram…. sorry, force of habit…. Connor Fields scores the game winner in Albany of all places.
Betting Breakdown: This game featured the only over to hit for the whole weekend! By forcing overtime, the Archers provided wager woes for both Whipsnakes ML and Archers spread (-1.5) bettors.
Looking Ahead to the Quarterfinals
The first slate of games could not be better matchups. The Archers get an immediate rematch with the Chaos coming off an OT thriller win. Even if the Archers get the win here, they have to show their offense can consistently perform to get to championship weekend.
Then the Atlas-Cannons series, which has featured two one-goal games in the Atlas’ favor, will likely be another extremely close contest. It will be interesting to see the decision the Atlas might make regarding goaltending. Colarusso has been great in cage, but the question is still worth asking.
Finally, we get an almost immediate rematch of the Whipsnakes-Redwoods, which never disappoints. With TD Ierlan’s injury from Friday night presumably causing him to miss the entire season, the Woods picked up Drew Simoneau—from the Whipsnakes’ reserve roster of all places—to join Charlie Leonard as the Redwoods two faceoff options. It will be interesting to see any adjustments both teams make defensively, if any, to help increase their chances of winning.