I’m staying in downtown Minneapolis two blocks from Target Field and with the Orioles in town playing the Twins, our group of Drew Carter, Dana Boyle, stat man Russ Dlin, joined ESPN radio baseball announcer Mike Couzens on Friday night for some MLB. I hadn’t been to a game in a dozen years and Major League Baseball has undergone some drastic changes, just like lacrosse.
What’s most notable about the weekend in the Twin Cities was the display of creative shot-making. PLL fans witnessed a wide array of dazzling releases. Each more spectacular than the last. The weekend had four games that included: behind the back goals (a vicious right handed version by Zed Williams). We had a lefty around-the-world goal from Josh Byrne and multiple shovel shots including a high voltage gem from Ryan Smith of the Chaos. Tom Schreiber pulled off a “Joey Spallina” behind-the-back and Rob Pannell hit a “Lyle Thompson” backhander with fellow Thompson brother Jeremy in the television booth.
I feel for the goalies. There were more than a handful of un-saveable lasers during the four game stint played in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd. These players continue to push the creative boundaries and are routinely converting on shots that we never knew imagined just 10 years ago.
PLL Returns to Minneapolis
Minneapolis is a lovely summer city with ideal weather. I went for a run on the Mississippi River on Saturday morning, a delightful shaded path that snakes alongside the western shore.
Waterdogs vs Chrome
Waterdogs improved to 3-1, thriving in the face of a significant face-off disparity. Goalie Dillon Ward made 15 saves while Ethan Walker, Jake Carraway and Michael Sowers provided the punch. Sowers is humming, putting it all together with his electric feet and X-ray vision.
Chrome offense did not benefit from the return of Brendan Nichtern and after four games aren’t complimenting each other. This squad has too many capable parts to be held to single digits. Rookie Sam Handley showed flashes of dominance that made him a bear to cover at Penn.
Cannons vs Atlas
Packed house for the nightcap at the Vikings training facility in Eagan, Minnesota. The arena was jammed and buzzing with excitement on a gorgeous summer night. Lacrosse is now played at 95 high schools in the land of 10,000 lakes. DJ Ralphy Ralph had the kids on their feet bumping and grinding.
Cannons looking like a new team, took down the Atlas in an offensive show of connection. When 1 + 1 = 3, teams climb towards their peak. The parts are making each other better for Brian Holman’s crew. His son Marcus surpassed 300 career goals. Jonathan Donville, Matt Kavanagh and Asher Nolting all had stellar outings. A 9-1 run in the second quarter was all you need to know. Rookie Matt Campbell danced past shorties unqualified to cover him. He demands a pole from here on out.
Atlas defense is a red hot mess, having surrendered 19 goals in back-to-back games while owning a gigantic face-off advantage. The defensive efficiency may be the worst two game stretch in PLL history.
PLL Minneapolis – Sunday
Summer sun and temperatures in the low 80s greeted players and fans on Sunday for the ESPN2 game at 1pm local. We were joined in the television booth by former pro midfielder Jeremy Thompson. Jeremy did a fantastic job talking about the indigenous roots of lacrosse while adding to our game analysis. He is wise beyond his years and I both benefited from and enjoyed his presence. I think he appreciated our sense of team work and energy level – two traits essential for broadcasting.
Chaos and Redwoods
Chaos decided to rest goalie Blaze Riorden and it seemed as if some of their World Championship players were a step slow after a grueling two weeks in San Diego. Jack Rowlett was also a scratch for their defense. Goalie Austin Kaut got the start and shrugged off a slow start, eventually settling in and playing well after trailing 5-1. Kaut is ultra experienced, a generous teammate and ideal back-up goalie in the PLL. Coach Andy Towers is lucky to have him on the Chaos and his outing validated his position on the roster. The Chaos offense sputtered. The two man games weren’t crisp. The ball died in sticks and attackman Brian Minicus didn’t get many touches.
Meanwhile Ryder Garnsey and Rob Pannell put on an attack play clinic. Garnsey is now shooting 18 of 30 for the summer and Pannell had a point in every way imaginable. Rob has never been better. He’s playing with such ease and poise, not chasing stats, letting the game dictate his decisions. It’s a thing of beauty and if you’re a young player do yourself a favor and go to ESPN+ and watch this replay with both eyes on every play he makes. TD Ierlan had a strong day facing off and midfielders Myles Jones and Jules Heningburg contributed. Heningburg is especially dangerous against a shorty because of his versatility and ability to attack the goal from up top, a wing or behind. When he’s paired with Pannell, it’s almost unfair. Goalie Jack Kelly was stout, especially smothering low shots and the heavy Notre Dame flavored defense once again held the opponent to single digits.
Whipsnakes vs Archers
Whips are suddenly (1-3) after failing to finish off what was a 9-7 lead in the third quarter, being outscored 8-3 after a two-minute non releasable penalty. The Archers can score and when Mike Sisselberger is cooking at the faceoff stripe, their pressure and offensive diversity can be suffocating, even without passer Grant Ament.
Matt Moore, Tom Schreiber and Connor Fields were the key trigger men in the 15-12 victory, pushing the Archers up the standings to (3-1). One thing the Archers do especially well is run from defense to offense and run off faceOff wins forward. Goalie Brett Dobson throws laser outlets which sparks memories of John Galloway, perhaps the best passing netminder I’ve seen since 2000.
The Whips dressed four rookies and six players with limited experience. Most concerning would be their normally air tight defense just doesn’t look the same in 2023. Rookie Tucker Dordevic was awesome with his dodging and shooting acumen. Right now he, Matt Campbell and Gavin Adler would have to be 1-2-3 in rookie of the year voting. Veteran sniper Mike Chanenchuk had a strong outing showcasing his wrist shot. In the end, the Archers remain a team worth the price of the ticket, they play fast and spirited and the actions rarely subsides.
The PLL is at Rafferty Stadium in Fairfield, Connecticut on July 14 and 15. Come watch in person and see what everyone is talking about. All Premier Lacrosse League games can be seen live on ESPN+.
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