Redwoods hold Fields scoreless, shut down Chaos to secure trip to Championship
Connor Fields and the Chaos fail to get going against Matt Landis and a dominant Redwoods defense.
With a right to play for the PLL championship on the line, the Chaos took on the Redwoods on Saturday in front of a packed crowd at Red Bull Arena.
The two teams played twice in the regular season with the Chaos winning both games by a combined margin of four goals. Chaos entered the postseason as the number one overall seed. With a win over Whipsnakes last week, they would have been able to advance straight to the title game in Philadelphia. The Whipsnakes had other plans, as Chaos suffered a 15-7 defeat, forcing them to play their way back into the title game. Chaos also lost the last week of the regular season, making this the only time all year the Chaos had lost two weekends in a row.
The Redwoods, on the other hand, were coming off a solid win over Archers in the first round of the playoffs and an absolute demolition of Chrome in the last week of the regular season. The Woods needed the win, and the large margin of victory, to make the playoffs, as they’ve essentially played an extra week of playoff lacrosse. So while the Chaos entered the game as the higher seed, the Redwoods came into the day with a lot of momentum.
The Redwoods looked like they were shot out of a cannon to start the game, with Gurenlian winning the opening draw. Sergio Perkovic was able to score on an incredible diving finish to put the Redwoods up 1-0 early. Blaze Riorden stuffed Jules Heningburg on the doorstep on two occasions to keep the lead at one as the Chaos weathered an early storm. Then Josh Bryne was able to get a goal back for the Chaos to tie the score at 1-1.
The rest of the 1st quarter was all Redwoods. The defense was absolutely smothering, and MVP candidate Connor Fields was all but invisible as the Chaos looked for an angle to attack from. An offense that usually can find skip lanes and seams was looking, but the lanes simply weren’t there. On the offensive end, the Redwoods attacked with high pick sets for their midfield and Brent Adams was often the beneficiary, with two goals in the first quarter. Then John Sexton fired in a two in transition with a minute left in the quarter to put the Redwoods up 5-1 and firmly in control of the game.
As the second quarter started, the Chaos looked to get more from Fields. Early in the quarter as Fields dodged to his right, Garrett Epple slid hard and absolutely leveled fields with a high hit. Kevin Buchanan stepped in to defend his teammate, shoving followed, culminating with Epple throwing his helmet and asking the crowd to make some noise. When the dust settled, Epple had two full-time minutes to serve, Buchanan had one, and the Chaos finally woke up.
Myles Jones would score on the ensuing 5v5, Tommy Kelly would win the following faceoff, and Jones would score again on extra man to bring the score to 5-3. Miles Thompson found Dhane Smith on the wing shortly after, and the Chaos were suddenly within one, forcing a Redwoods timeout.
Pat Harbeson would draw a foul to give the Redwoods a man-up opportunity and Jules Heningburg converted it to score his first goal of the day, putting the Redwoods back up by two. However, Gurenlian would violate on the following faceoff an the Chaos seized the opportunity, with Jones passing out of a double to find Miles Thompson for a goal. With no Gurenlian to take the following draw, Kelly won it easily, and Dhane Smith found Kyle Buchanan for a rocket from a step inside the two-point line to tie the game. The goal put the cap on a 5-1 quarter for Chaos, and the teams went into halftime tied at 6.
The third quarter went how the start of the game did. The Woods came out firing and the Chaos was back on their heels. Back to back goals from Joe Walters put the Woods back up by two.
Later, off an interference call, Heningburg picked the ball up for a quick restart on the wing and miscommunication from the Chaos led to him going uncovered and he ripped a shot past Riorden to make it 9-6. There would be no other scoring until Epple started a fast break with only a few seconds left, and he found Ryder Garnsey for a goal with three ticks on the clock to make it 10-6 Redwoods. With a four-goal lead and their defense having shut out the Chaos for a quarter, the Redwoods were back in control of the game.
It proved to be a grasp they wouldn’t give up. The Chaos would score just one more late goal, a rebound put home by Miles Thompson, as the Woods rolled to a 12-7 final score. Holding Fields scoreless and stymying the Chaos offense in what is one of the most impressive performances of the year from the outstanding Redwoods defense. Tim Troutner finished the day with 12 saves, including 8 in the second half, frustrating Chaos scorers as the Redwoods put the game out of reach. The Redwoods scoring was balanced, with two goals each from Perkovic, Garnsey, Heningburg, Adams, and Walters. Sexton had a two-point goal, Matt Kavanaugh had two assists, and Kyle Harrison and Garrett Epple each added an assist for Redwoods. Greg Gurenlian finished his day winning 11 of 20 faceoffs.
For Chaos, Myles Jones and Miles Thompson each had two goals and an assist. Dhane Smith and Kyle Buchanan each had a goal and an assist, and Josh Byrne added a goal. Blaze Riorden finished with 16 saves, and Tommy Kelly won 10 of 20 draws, while Austin Henningsen in his first PLL action won 1 of 2 faceoffs.
“I’m just so proud of our guys. I always am. We feel strongly that we have the best defense in the league,” said Redwoods Coach Nat St. Laurent on his defense’s dominant performance. “This is the second or third time this year that we’ve held a team to just one goal in the entire second half. What Matt Landis did against [Connor Fields] arguably the best player in the league was just ridiculous.”
“I think it comes down to them capitalizing on their opportunities and us not,” said Connor Fields. “Credit Tim [Troutner] in net. He played great, but I think some of them we gave to them and it really hurt us in the end.”
“I think I had some chances to score and made some looks but ultimately it wasn’t my day today. They played a great game, but at the same time we beat ourselves too.”
To hear more post-game reactions from Redwoods Head Coach Nat St. Laurent and players Matt Landis, Garrett Epple, and Eddy Glazener, as well as Chaos Head Coach Andy Towers and attackman Connor Fields, check out the Pro Lacrosse Talk podcast.
Redwoods 12, Chaos 7