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Four things to watch in PLL Game of the Week: Chaos vs. Atlas

New York Atlas New York Atlas

It’s Homecoming Weekend for the Carolina Chaos as the Premier Lacrosse League heads to Charlotte. Here are four things to watch in the PLL Game of the Week: Chaos vs. New York Atlas this Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on TSN2 and TSN+.

1. Chaos without star goalie Blaze Riorden

Blaze Riorden is the Patrick Roy of goalies in this generation of lacrosse. Riorden stops shots in an unorthodox way, similar to how Roy was one of the first goalies to bring out the butterfly goaltending style in the mid-1980s, and he took home the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year Award in four of the last five seasons. But Riorden subluxated his left kneecap after making a save in last weekend's 16-11 win over the Denver Outlaws, and he’s listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game. 

Austin Kaut, Riorden’s longtime backup, stepped between the pipes in relief and made eight saves on 15 shots, weathering the storm and guiding the Chaos to victory. Kaut is Riorden’s Ron Tugnutt and wasn’t expected to play an extensive on-field role this early in the season.

The 32-year-old locker-room favorite is one of eight goalies to make 1,000 saves during his professional lacrosse career, and it will be paramount for him to make plenty more against an Atlas offense that leads the PLL in scoring. 

– Hayden Lewis

2. Connor Shellenberger’s status

After playing in the first of the Atlas’ two games in Week 1, Connor Shellenberger was ruled out with a groin injury for the second, a 17-13 win over the Maryland Whipsnakes. His status leading up to Week 2 is not yet known, making his availability of the utmost intrigue.

The No. 2 overall selection in the 2024 College Draft exploded in his professional debut, notching eight points (3G, 5A) in a 19-12 victory over the Boston Cannons. His point total tied Chris Cloutier (2018) and Joey Sankey (2015) for the most ever by a rookie in his pro debut. 

He also recorded the second-most assists ever in a rookie debut, behind Liam Banks (6A, 2004).

Shellenberger fit in seamlessly alongside Xander Dickson and was the main facilitator for Jeff Teat’s 11 points, the highest single-game total by any player since 2019.

It’s only been 48 minutes, but Shellenberger showed he’s already a key cog in the New York wheel.

– Lauren Merola

3. Can the Chaos limit Jeff Teat’s playmaking ability and Trevor Baptiste’s faceoff prowess?

The star of PLL Opening Weekend, Teat has amassed 18 points in two games this season. No other player has more than eight. Teat’s also recorded three or more points in every matchup against the Chaos in his career and has proven to be a thorn in the side of this Carolina defense.

Teat’s teammates often bring up his uncanny ability to fit passes in the tightest windows, making their jobs easy as goal-scorers. Limiting Teat’s production on the offensive side of the field is step one in beating the Atlas. 

Step two is making life brutal on Trevor Baptiste at the faceoff stripe. Baptiste was the 2022 Jim Brown Most Valuable Player and is a four-time first-team All-Pro. Chaos faceoff specialist Nick Rowlett struggled in his first career matchup against Baptiste last year, only winning 25% of the draws he took against the league’s best faceoff specialist. 

Making life hard on Baptiste and Teat will be especially important if it’s Kaut in net, not Riorden. 

– Hayden Lewis

4. New York needs to stay hot off the stripe

Like Hayden said, Baptiste is that guy. The Cannons’ inability to compete at the stripe in Week 1 was detrimental, but faceoff wins alone don’t do much for the Atlas. 

Perhaps the most frustrating part of New York’s game to watch last season was all the wasted faceoff wins. Baptiste went 212-of-274 at the stripe in 2023, and most of those possessions were thrown away or turned over within the short 32-second shot clock.

That wasn’t the case for the Atlas in Week 1, and it helped the Bulls stampede to a 2-0 start.

Baptiste, who no longer will see any long poles at the stripe with the new PLL rule taking effect this season, saw quicker – yet still victorious – battles on the ground against other short sticks and faceoff specialists in Week 1. New York head coach and general manager Mike Pressler said those added seconds make a huge difference, with the Atlas now starting their offense with the shot clock in the high 20s instead of the low 20s. It led to goal after goal after goal last weekend.

– Lauren Merola