PLL Notebook: Chaos Once Again Embracing Underdog Status

PHOTO COURTESY OF PREMIER LACROSSE LEAGUE

Max Adler won 16 of 23 draws overall and 9 of 10 in the second half.


The Redwoods will once again see Matt Rambo in their nightmares after another painful playoff exit.

Rambo, who famously scored in overtime to help the Whipsnakes top the Redwoods in the Premier Lacrosse League’s first championship game in 2019, was up to his usual antics in the PLL quarterfinals this weekend in Salt Lake City. One week after returning from an injury that kept him out for a large portion of the season, the former MVP notched another game-winning goal.

This time, he didn’t wait until overtime. Rambo cut from behind the net with about a minute left in regulation, got an angle on Redwoods defender Garrett Epple and put a shot to the back of the net to put his Whips up 14-13.

His heroics capped off a wild 8-2 game-ending run for the Whipsnakes, who ended the Redwoods’ season for a third straight year. The Whips advanced to the semifinals, joined by the Waterdogs, Atlas and Chaos.

“We’ve been in that position so many times,” Rambo said. “That’s why it’s a 48-minute game, not a 24-minute game. We had a good halftime, good talks. We tried to stay positive this half, and good things happen.”

Rambo had the final goal, but his partner in crime Zed Williams powered much of the offense. He notched nine points on four goals, one two-pointer and four assists.

“I say it week-in and week-out, he’s the best player,” Rambo said.

Whipsnakes backup goalie Brian Phipps came on in the second half and helped key the comeback, making six saves.

The Redwoods were shorthanded without faceoff specialist TD Ierlan and midfielder Sergio Perkovic, but that doesn’t ease the pain that a talented bunch is dealing with after another frustrating finish.

The Whipsnakes next face the top-seeded Waterdogs for a chance at a third straight appearance in the title game.

CHAOS STRIKES AGAIN

The Chaos don’t care about how they start the season. Andy Towers’ group understands that what’s most important is how you finish.

The Chaos upended the Archers, one of the trendiest picks to claim the crown this season, in a 13-10 triumph Friday night. The squad that went from last place to the championship game during the 2020 PLL Championship Series is once again embracing its underdog status.

It turns out, their name has become quite fitting. Eighty-seven percent of fans picked against the sixth-seeded Chaos this week, and the team was certainly aware. Towers reminded them all how few believed in them in his postgame speech.

And how do they feel about those looking to jump on the bandwagon?

“Don’t vote on us next week,” defenseman Jack Rowlett said. “We don’t want you. If you’re in the 13, awesome, otherwise, you’re good. Thanks.”

Blaze Riorden lived up to the billing of a two-time goalie of the year winner, making 13 saves in a performance that led Rowlett and Towers to proclaim him the league’s MVP. But Towers said the team’s MVP that night was Max Adler, the faceoff specialist who has improved as the season has gone along.

Adler, Major League Lacrosse’s top faceoff specialist last year, won 16 of 23 draws overall and 9 of 10 in the second half.

Also stepping into the spotlight was Kyle Jackson, inserted into the lineup after the Chaos were forced to place Chris Cloutier on injured reserve. Jackson finished with four goals and two assists, surpassing his total from five regular-season games.

“While KJ got some points within the framework of our scheme, he also manufactured,” Towers said. “He was 2 and 1 in the first half off two unbelievable offensive zone ground balls that he threw in the goal. … We aren’t surprised at all by his production.”

The Chaos look to continue their reign of terror in the semifinals against the Atlas.







ATLAS STAY POISED

Jake Carraway, one of the Atlas’ young stars, admitted during an “Under the Helmet” segment on the NBC broadcast that there were some jitters for the youthful group in the first quarter against the Cannons.

But eventually, their talent won out.

Up two goals entering the final quarter, the second-seeded Atlas pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 13-9 victory Saturday.

The Atlas stayed poised even when the Cannons went up 2-0 early and kept striking back once the Bulls claimed the lead. Paul Rabil hit a two-pointer to cut the deficit to one goal in the third quarter in a potential momentum-swinging play. But Trevor Baptiste won the next draw and dished out an assist to Eric Law to quell it.

“I thought guys responded,” Atlas coach Ben Rubeor said. “I thought guys, when we needed plays to be made, plays were made. We weren’t perfect, but we’re not going to be perfect.”

Law, the veteran of the Atlas offensive unit, finished with seven points, and Jeff Teat and Mark Cockerton each had three. JD Colarusso continues to perform well in Jack Concannon’s stead. He made 14 saves.

Now, a retooled roster many thought was built for the future is a win away from the championship game.

JOURNEY ENDS FOR K18

The Redwoods’ loss brought an end to the storied career of Kyle Harrison, who announced prior to the season that this was his final playing professional lacrosse.

Beloved since his days at Johns Hopkins, Harrison’s impact is difficult to put into words. He won at all levels of the sport and was consistently admired for his leadership and friendliness. He was an icon for Black players looking for a role model and helped bring lacrosse to new markets as a key figure in both the LXM Pro Tour and the founding of the PLL. He’ll be a first-ballot selection for the recently formed Pro Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

A tearful Harrison spoke with the NBC broadcast postgame.

“I’m just fortunate, man,” Harrison said. “I got to play 17 years. I would have liked to get this one done obviously, but respect from your peers is the only reason we play this game. So I smile because of that, and I smile because I get to go home to my family.”

NOTEWORTHY

Veteran Joe Walters made his season debut with the Redwoods, helping replace the injured Perkovic. He had a ground ball against Whipsnakes. Drew Simoneau played in place of Ierlan and won 41 percent of his draws. … The Chaos survived buzzer-beating Archers goals at the end of the second and third quarters. … The Chrome picked up goalie Nick Washuta and defenseman Eric Rubak to take the roster spots of retiring John Galloway and Joel White. The Waterdogs picked up Christian Mazzone from the Archers, and the Cannons added Adam Charalambides and Nate Solomon. … With Law’s seven-point day, he’s now second all-time in MLL/PLL history in playoff points behind John Grant Jr. That pushed Matt Kavanagh to third.

UP NEXT

The remaining PLL teams get a week off before heading to Philadelphia for the semifinals. All times EST:

  • No. 6 Chaos vs. No. 2 Atlas, 11 a.m. on Sept. 5 (NBCSN)

  • No. 5 Whipsnakes vs. No. 1 Waterdogs, 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 (NBCSN)

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