Coach Brooks drew up the play with Gray specifically in mind. Gray found himself ready at X to run off the pick from Bryan Costabile. From there, it was just Chris Gray doing Chris Gray things. Even with the sound Whipsnakes defense, Gray created enough separation for himself to fire one topside and bury the winning goal.
“He’s a special player,” said Jeff Teat. “There’s never a point in the game or in season where we’re not going to go to him. You know he was struggling a little bit but to be honest I didn’t really feel it because he was playing hard and getting good looks, just wasn’t finishing. He mentioned something about it with a couple minutes left and we were just like, ‘hey, you’re going to score your next shot,’ and low and behold he got the job done for us.”
3. Cannons: 0-2, but making strides in the right direction
Wins and learns, wins and learns.
They’re 0-2 but it needs to be reiterated: this is not the same Cannons team as last year. Coach Holman said it himself, the team is making strides even if that’s not what they want to hear right now.
Similar to their game versus the Archers, at no point did the game get away from the Cannons. They started off slow in the first quarter, but they found their groove in the second and it became a competitive battle between two well-rounded teams.
The young guns in Matt Campbell and Asher Nolting both had two huge goals. Even after only two weeks, we’ve seen them continue to unlock their game at the highest-level surrounded by veterans like Marcus Holman, Ryan Drenner, and Matt Kavanagh to help elevate them. Chaos LC’s defense is no walk in the park. The Cannons were able to hold onto the ball for long possessions, even if they weren’t always able to capitalize with Blaze in net.
Defensively, this team has improved tenfold already from last year. Rookie LSM Ethan Rall and close defenseman Matt Rees stood out in particular, winning ground balls and forcing Chaos to make turnovers.
Stephen Kelly (15-for-25) played a much stronger game at the stripe against Nick Rowlett who was coming off a 13-for-18 rookie debut.
The most commonly heard phrase by both coaches and players in the PLL is “wins are hard to come by in this league” and it’s absolutely true. Coach Holman has built a roster that can win and will win. It boils down to just making one more play than the other team, as we saw this weekend.
4. Chaos: Everybody eats on Chaos LC
Something that always strikes me from Coach Towers’ interviews early on in the season is his focus is never on who is or isn’t on the roster that week. It’s always about the 19 guys on the field with him.
“Each team has unique circumstances. Ours is relatively known,” said Towers.
Yes, Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Chirs Cloutier, and Ian MacKay weren’t there for the first game of the season. Yes, Dhane Smith isn’t back yet. And yes, all four played a big part in the win on Saturday. But Chaos gave the reigning champs a run for their money on Opening Weekend even if they didn’t get the result they wanted. This is a selfless group that isn’t concerned with who gets the job done, only how.
Chaos saw goals from 8 different scorers against the Cannons in Charlotte. Byrne led the pack with 3 including the OT winner, Fraser netted 3 as well, and one behind-the-back goal from Cloutier that earned a spot on SportsCenter. All three are integral parts to this offense. But 7 goals didn’t win the game, 14 did.
Goals from veteran Ryan Smith, rookie Brian Minicus, a new face in Will Perry, first year faceoff specialist Nick Rowlett, and a two-pointer from defenseman Jarrod Neumann are all just as integral to Saturday’s victory. On Chaos, everybody eats.
Factor in their team-first defensive unit and the best goalie in the world between the pipes, it’s hard to find a more cohesive group.
5. Chrome: Well, at least there was Jackson Morrill
Look, I consider myself a pretty positive person. This was a real doozy of a game for Chrome LC. 7 goals total is not great. 5 of those coming from the same player? Definitely not great. However, Jackson Morrill deserves his flowers.
The midfielder shot an incredible 83.8% against a red-hot Dobson. It didn’t matter who was covering him or where he was on the field, sometimes you’ve just got it.
After a strong rookie season in 2021, Morrill had a quiet year last season with 8 points total. Now through two games, he’s already recorded 10 points along with an even more impressive 0 turnovers. If you’re going to buy Jackson Morrill stock, now is the time.
Aside from Morrill, unfortunately, there’s not much to smile about from this performance for Chrome’s offense.
“Our defense played unbelievable today,” Morrill said postgame. “Our offense totally let us down. Back to the drawing board for us. We need to get back to how Chrome likes to play offense.”
Chrome’s opportunity to redeem themselves will come Friday night versus a hungry Cannons team.
6. Redwoods: The vibes are better than ever
Last week I said anything you remember about the 2022 Cannons is in the past because they’re an entirely new ball club. Well, the same can be said for the 2023 Redwoods.
Coach St. Laurent said the vibes in training camp this year were much better than last season. The Woods followed up on that statement with an explosive win versus Atlas LC in Albany.
If we’re going to rank teams based on good vibes, I’d have to give the Redwoods first place after another statement win, this time versus the reigning champs.
After falling behind 6-1 to the Waterdogs in the first quarter, the Woods came out looking like a different team in the second quarter and never faltered after that. They made the decision to switch Garrett Epple onto Michael Sowers and everything fell into place for their defense. Jack Kelly made 19 saves (68% SV%) in a gutsy performance in net.
On the offensive end of the ball, the usual culprits in Rob Pannell, Wes Berg, and Mr. SportsCenter himself Ryder Garnsey did their thing, but we also saw quite the debut from rookie Cole Kirst. Kirst stepped into the lineup after it was announced Charlie Bertrand was sidelined for the week. He contributed big time with 2 goals and an assist, along with some electric cellys.