PLL Notebook: Cannons Clinch Final Playoff Spot, Waterdogs at No. 1

PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Mikie Schlosser scored the eventual game-winning goal, helping Waterdogs LC lock up the top seed and a bye into the PLL semifinals.


The Cannons, the final champions in the history of Major League Lacrosse, will get an opportunity to earn a second straight title. But the road will not be easy.

Cannons LC survived a win-or-go-home matchup Saturday night against the Chrome, getting six points from Paul Rabil in a 13-10 triumph to punch a ticket to the Premier Lacrosse League playoffs. Rabil helped lock up the result with a massive power-play two-point goal with eight minutes left that pushed the Cannons’ lead to 12-8 in Albany.

“It’s tough to manage those fourth quarters,” Rabil said on the broadcast immediately after the game. “We’ve been behind, and we’ve said it all season, trying to climb back. We were tested tonight because we had the lead, so you play a different brand of ball.”

The Cannons’ talent hasn’t been questioned often this year, but the results hadn’t been there. They entered Saturday’s contest, a battle between the PLL’s seventh- and eighth-seeded teams, 2-6 with four one-goal losses.

Lyle Thompson talked about the team having a playoff mindset halfway through the season, and they absolutely needed that approach in this week’s win-and-in situation. Shayne Jackson had four points, and Thompson and Stephen Rehfuss each added three. But it was Rabil who starred, continuing his bounce back season.

“I’m just really proud of Paul for how he has come back mentally from last season,” Cannons coach Sean Quirk said. “Everyone knows that he struggled in the Championship Series last year. He’s just been a constant leader and professional on this team. I’m really proud of him.”

The Chrome defeat brought an end to two storied careers. Goalie John Galloway and long-stick midfielder Joel White, who played together at Syracuse, with the Rochester Rattlers and now with the Chrome, announced before this weekend’s game their plan to retire from pro lacrosse together.

They spoke to the media together after 15 years of hard work at each other’s side.

“To be able to do this with my best friend is an absolute pleasure,” White said. “On the field, all that stuff, we’re obviously going to miss that, just the competitive athletes in us. But it’s all the intangibles.”

Both reached the height of their crafts during their professional careers. Galloway was twice named Major League Lacrosse’s Goalie of the Year, while White was the MLL’s 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. They also won gold together with the U.S. men’s national team in Netanya, Israel.

“It’s incredible how good of friends they are,” said Chrome coach Tim Soudan, who also coached the pair in Rochester. “A lot of guys are really close friends, but they’re tight like I’ve never seen. The relationship, the quality of players that they both are, and the ability to play together so long and hold that level of play is pretty incredible at the professional level.”

The Cannons advance to play the second-seeded Atlas in the quarterfinals, a battle of franchises tied together by the Rabil trade this past offseason.

THE TOP ‘DOGS

In just one season, Andy Copelan has built the expansion Waterdogs into a top-seeded playoff team.

The PLL’s first-ever expansion club was put into a tough position last summer, given little time to gel thanks to the short, tournament style the league imposed during the pandemic. Copelan retooled in the summer, adding big names like goalie Dillon Ward and attackman Ryan Brown, and it has paid off.

Mikie Schlosser, another offseason addition, scored a fourth-quarter hat trick to help the Waterdogs prevail 10-9 against the Atlas in a battle for the league’s top seed and a bye into the semifinals.

Schlosser scored the eventual game winner with under four minutes left, surviving contact to cut back to the goal and let off a nasty backhand shot.

Kieran McArdle had four points on a goal and three assists, Zach Currier added two and Brown scored a goal to become the first player in PLL history with multiple 20-goal seasons. Ward made 17 saves in the cage.

Ben Randall and Liam Byrnes, two more additions for Waterdogs 2.0, combined for nine caused turnovers and six ground balls.

“We had a really impressive offseason, honestly, with the steps we made there and to see those materialize and for us to secure the one seed at the end of the day, it was a really gratifying feeling,” Copelan said. “It’ll be nice to have three weeks off. We have to use our time wisely and make sure we’re staying connected and staying fresh for the semifinals up in Philly.”







WELCOME HOME, CONNOR FIELDS

The PLL’s regular season lasted a few minutes longer than expected, with the Archers and the Whipsnakes needing overtime. Fittingly, a man famous for donning the Great Dane purple and gold ended a memorable weekend in New York’s capital.

Connor Fields corralled a pass from behind the net, then took advantage of a short-stick matchup to get in prime position for a game-winning shot past Whipsnakes’ Kyle Bernlohr. His third goal of the game gave the Archers a 15-14 edge.

“Wouldn’t this be fitting?” PLL color analyst Ryan Boyle said as Fields began his cut to the net. And he was right.

“Every time I’m on this field, I have such a great time playing out here,” Fields said on the Peacock broadcast postgame. “I think Albany has the best fans in all of lacrosse, and they really showed out this weekend.”

Two playoff matchups came down to the final contest, though with the parity the league has experienced, it seems the seedings hardly have any consequence. Nevertheless, the Archers’ win earns them a date with the Chaos, who they lost to Friday night in the weekend’s second game.

THE ROAD BACK TO GLORY

The Whipsnakes split the weekend with a 14-12 win against the Redwoods and the Archers defeat, pushing the club to 1-3 in its last four games. But there is good news for a group looking to win a third straight championship, as 2019 MVP and offensive focal point Matt Rambo returned to the lineup after missing much of the season with a hand injury.

“He’s a huge impact,” Whipsnakes coach Jim Stagnitta said. “He’s more than just a really talented player. He’s a great team guy, he’s a great locker room guy. He makes everybody around him better, just brings a calmness. He lightens up and takes pressure off people. That’s certainly something that we need.”

The Whipsnakes also worked in the newest member of their offense, Justin Guterding, who the team acquired this week from the Chrome for Nick Grill. He seemed to quickly find a role working in the two-man game with Rambo and Zed Williams.

With the loss against the Archers, the Whipsnakes will play the Redwoods in a rematch of the PLL’s first championship game.

The Redwoods ended the weekend strong with a 10-9 win against the Chaos but suffered a major loss in the second half against the Whipsnakes. TD Ierlan, who has become one of the league’s top faceoff men in his rookie campaign, left with an injury.

He said in an interview during Sunday’s Archers-Whipsnakes broadcast that the results so far have been more positive than initially expected. He’ll undergo an MRI this week.

The Whips’ 2020 championship game foe, the Chaos, also split the weekend with an 11-9 win against the Archers and the loss to the Redwoods. They’re seeing the emergence of Chase Fraser, who has shown his acrobatics in the box with the Buffalo Bandits translate to field. He notched a hat trick against the Archers and five goals against the Redwoods.

NOTEWORTHY

The Archers’ Grant Ament topped the PLL’s regular season point chart with 35 in his second professional season. He finished three points ahead of Lyle Thompson, Jeff Teat and Myles Jones. Other statistical leaders: Lyle Thompson and Zed Williams with 22 one-point goals, Sergio Perkovic with five two-point goals, Ament with 22 assists, Trevor Baptiste and Ierlan with 65-percent faceoff percentage, Adam Ghitelman with 62-percent save percentage, Baptiste with 83 ground balls and Liam Byrnes with 22 caused turnovers. … The Waterdogs and the Archers finished with identical 6-3 records. The Waterdogs earned the top seed thanks to the score differential, edging the Atlas by just one goal. … Friday’s games were heavily delayed by weather, leading to action past midnight. … The Chrome likely secured the first overall pick in next year’s college draft. If Cannons lost, that first pick would have gone to Atlas as part of the Rabil trade. … The Waterdogs’ Connor Kelly, the Atlas’ Jack Concannon and the Chrome’s Will Haus and Jesse Bernhardt all moved from the injured list back to their respective active rosters this week.

UP NEXT

The PLL heads back to the city where it played its entire 2020 bubble season for a trio of quarterfinal games at Salt Lake City’s Rio Tinto Stadium. All times Eastern:

  • No. 3 Archers vs. No. 6 Chaos, 8:30 p.m. Friday (NBCSN)

  • No. 2 Atlas vs. No. 7 Cannons, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC)

  • No. 5 Whipsnakes vs. No. 4 Redwoods, 6 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN)

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