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Four things to watch in PLL Game of the Week: Outlaws vs. Redwoods

Brennan O'Neill Brennan O'Neill

The upstart Denver Outlaws take on the winless California Redwoods this Saturday in Minneapolis in the Premier Lacrosse League’s Game of the Week. Here are four things to watch in the game, which begins at 6 p.m. ET on TSN+:

1. Brennan O’Neill’s second act

Outlaws attackman Brennan O’Neill solidified himself as a superstar in just his second professional game. The former Duke standout and No. 1 overall draft pick scored seven goals -- six in the fourth quarter and overtime -- to lead Denver to an 18-17 overtime win over the defending champion Utah Archers.

O’Neill is one of the best prospects in lacrosse history, and Saturday against the Redwoods is another chance to show that. Once again, though, he’ll be without two-time All-Star Logan Wisnauskas, who did not play against Utah and was placed on the physically unable to perform list Tuesday.

Without Wisnauskas, O’Neill will start full-time at the lefty attack spot. He’ll be at the center of every defensive scouting report from now until the end of the season. California will throw its best defensemen and team defense his way. O’Neill is good enough to dominate through it all, though.

– Topher Adams

2. Can the Redwoods offense get rolling?

The Redwoods' offensive lulls have been their Achilles heel through two games. Against the New York Atlas, a near-quarter-long scoreless stretch turned a tie game at halftime into a 14-10 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. The week prior against the Carolina Chaos, two 12-minute droughts, including one to end the game, resulted in a 12-11 loss.

On a team with Ryder Garnsey, Rob Pannell and Wes Berg, there are little to no questions about their ability to score. It's just been a matter of consistency.

To help energize the offense, Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent reinstalled Romar Dennis into the lineup against the Outlaws. It will be the first time this season that Dennis’ dodging will be paired with offseason addition Chris Gray, and considering the Outlaws are the only team in the PLL giving up more points (16.5 per game) than the Redwoods (16), this could be the perfect opportunity for the offensive unit to start fulfilling their potential and pick up their first win. 

– Jerome Taylor

3. Luke Wierman’s biggest test yet

O’Neill isn’t Denver’s only rookie sensation. Faceoff specialist Luke Wierman is off to an excellent start in his pro career. He’s won 65.1% of his faceoffs against Utah’s Mike Sisselberger and Nick Rowlett of the Carolina Chaos.

Now, Wierman faces his toughest matchup yet against California’s TD Ierlan. Ierlan -- the all-time leader in NCAA faceoff wins -- is third in the league in faceoff winning percentage and has won more than 60% of his draws in three of his four pro seasons.

Denver’s faceoff unit is a strength of the team. Wierman can win and generate offense with a core of dangerous wings including Jake Piseno, Ryan Terefenko and Justin Anderson. Against Ierlan and the Redwoods, Wierman will have to prove he’s one of the very best in the world at the stripe. 

– Topher Adams

4. Overcoming injuries on defense 

As Topher mentioned above, the battle at the stripe will be phenomenal this week. Ierlan is coming off an excellent performance against Trevor Baptiste, but just like in that matchup, Ierlan and his wings can't be expected to win every faceoff, and this Redwoods defense will have its hands full with O’Neill and company.

St. Laurent signed defenseman Chris Fake this offseason partly because of the success he had against O’Neill in college. But Fake is doubtful to play this week, and the Woods’ first-round pick from last year, Owen Grant, is on IR. After key offseason departures, it was understood that with all of the new faces on this defense, it would face growing pains this season. Now with two of their promising poles on the mend, deterring Denver’s offense is going to be even more challenging. 

– Jerome Taylor