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Premier Lacrosse League - Week 1 recap

New York Atlas vs. Boston Cannons New York Atlas vs. Boston Cannons - PLL

Utah Archers 12, Philadelphia Waterdogs 11

Zach Carey: It’s pretty hard to win a lacrosse game without scoring a goal in the final 20:23 of regulation. Yet Brett Dobson’s three saves in the final 30 seconds sealed the deal on Tony Resch and the Archers defense’s master class. 

“Thank god we have the best goalie in the league,” Grant Ament said postgame.

Dobson was the star of the show. With 22 saves on 33 shots on goal (66.7%), the third-year keeper picked up right where he left off last September. Meanwhile, Resch – Utah’s renowned defensive coordinator – got his incredibly young defense to perform on a huge stage. 

Six of Utah's eight defenders are first- or second-year players. Three are rookies. Yet the Archers still held the league’s second-most efficient offense in 2023 to just 11 goals. Missing Jared Conners, Graeme Hossack, Matt McMahon and Latrell Harris had no tangible impact. 

That’s a testament to how the Archers have brought in pro-ready defenders, how good Resch is at coaching up that talent and just how effective he is at building a scheme that plays to Utah’s strengths. Of course, it helps that Warren Jeffrey and Cam Wyers stepped up and won their matchups against Michael Sowers and Kieran McArdle. 

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves. The sloppiness in the final 20 minutes will be an area for improvement moving forward. Fortunately for Utah, though, the 12 goals in the first 28 minutes were just enough.

“A win’s a win,” Dobson said. “They don’t ask how, they ask how many.”

Up next for Utah: vs. Denver Outlaws (Friday, June 7, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Wyatt Miller: The Waterdogs were down 12-4 in the third quarter, but they aren’t called the “Cardiac Dogs” for nothing. Bill Tierney diversified the offense, using Matt Brandau and McArdle at X at times, while Connor Kelly feasted inside and Zach Currier adjusted his faceoff checks after a dominant first half by Utah's Mike Sisselberger.

Sowers was 0-for-5 at one point and McArdle was off, as they combined for just two goals. Still, the Dogs clawed back using aggressive checks and early slides. They shut down an Archers offense that looked unstoppable while scoring the first five goals of the game, most of which came near the crease. The Archers ended with 25 turnovers, 12 of them caused by the Dogs, and didn’t score in the last 20 minutes of play. That resulted in a 7-0 Waterdogs run to pull within one at the 4:59 mark in the fourth quarter.

That’s when the real battle began, but the Waterdogs gave up a golden opportunity. On a 52-second possession that started in enemy territory, Ryan Conrad got the ball popped out of his stick. Then Philadelphia got a huge stop, and Tierney called a timeout after the clear.

It wasn’t enough, though. Dobson did exactly what he did last September in the Cash App Championship – he saved the day in the final seconds. It was complete deja vu, down to the long-range save in the final seconds of a one-goal game. Dobson displayed incredible athleticism all game long, and the Waterdogs just couldn’t figure him out.

Up next for Philadelphia: Bye week

New York Atlas 17, Boston Cannons 12

Lauren Merola: Jeff Teat, Connor Shellenberger and Xander Dickson held it down on attack for the Atlas in Week 1. While that line is subject to change once undrafted rookie Payton Cormier and Eric Law are cleared to play, former Virginia standouts Dickson and Shellenberger proved that past playing time together is no match for long poles (or short ones, for that matter).

Dickson finished with four points (3G, 1A), Shellenberger notched eight (3G, 5A) and Teat – who was in desperate need of a paired facilitator down low after scoring a PLL career-low 11 goals last season – had 11 (!!!) points (4G, 7A), the highest single-game total by any player since 2019.

Shellenberger's eight points were tied for the most ever by a rookie in his professional debut.

And the Cavalier command didn't end there: Dox Aitken, who played Shellenberger and Dickson in college, added two goals on 50% shooting and nabbed four ground balls in his return from the holdout list.

One other important note: Tim Troutner got the start and Liam Entenmann did not see any time, but odds are that was always head coach and general manager Mike Pressler’s plan in goal. Entenmann didn’t face any serious shots in his only training camp practice Friday. I expect him to be eased into league play.

“Liam hasn’t slept in five days,” Pressler said of the fifth overall draft pick, who won a national championship with Notre Dame last Monday and then joined Shellenberger for the Tewaaraton Award ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Troutner backed up Pressler’s faith in his offseason signing, too, saving 13 shots at a 54.2% clip. Pressler called Troutner and Entenmann New York's "1 and 1A" in net.

Sarah Griffin: It wasn’t the prettiest day between the pipes for Colin Kirst, but it certainly doesn’t help that he faced 34 shots on goal.

The Cannons’ defense was forced to make some last-minute adjustments with Jack Kielty out for the season and Jake Pulver ruled out Saturday morning with a right abductor injury. But ultimately, despite the 19-12 score, defense was not the biggest issue for the Cannons.

The glaring problem for Boston came down to the stripe. Boston’s faceoff approach was a hot topic coming into training camp, and Saturday showcased why. The Cannons went 7-for-32 on faceoffs, giving a well-connected Atlas offense plenty of opportunities and leaving little room for error for Kirst and the defense.

With Zac Tucci left off the 19-man roster, it was faceoff by committee for the Cannons. Zach Goodrich, Connor Kirst, Pat Aslanian and Bubba Fairman all faced off with, as expected, very little success against Trevor Baptiste.

It was a quiet debut for sixth overall pick Pat Kavanagh. The 2024 Tewaaraton Award winner tallied just one point: an assist on Matt Campbell’s two-point goal in the first quarter.

Up next for Boston: vs. Maryland Whipsnakes (Sunday, June 8, 5 p.m. ET)

Carolina Chaos 16, Denver Outlaws 11

Hayden Lewis: After switching offensive blueprints in the offseason, the constants heading into Week 1 for Carolina came at defense. Early in the contest, both teams struggled on offense, turning the ball over multiple times each and allowing the defenses to get set.

Blaze Riorden backstopped the Choas defense early and picked up momentum for the squad after an assist early in the second quarter. But shortly after that helper, the four-time Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year went down with a left knee injury and didn’t return to the game. Before exiting, Riorden saved eight of the 11 shots he faced.

Veteran backup Austin Kaut played solid in relief, stopping eight shots for a 53.3% save percentage. Kaut can’t fill Riorden’s shoes long-term but is a great option in the short term. Head coach Andy Towers said he thought Riorden would be “OK.”

The new-look offense sparked late in the third quarter and ignited an eight-goal run to close out the game in the second half. Rookies Shane Knobloch and Ross Scott found their footing by recording their first career goals, with Scott potting two. Although Carolina scored 16 points, it turned the ball over 22 times.

High turnover numbers won’t lead to victories down the line and need to be cleaned up.

Up next for Carolina: vs. California Redwoods (Friday, June 7, 6 p.m. ET)

Topher Adams: The Outlaws had countless questions offensively heading into the first game of the season. More than a half-dozen new players cracked the 25-man roster on that end of the field, and the early results were a mixed bag.

Jack Myers and Josh Zawada started alongside Logan Wisnauskas at attack in the first quarter, while Brennan O’Neill and Cross Ferrara ran out of the box. That flipped in the second quarter.

The offense never settled into a consistent rhythm.

Even when the offense created good chances, the Outlaws scored on just nine of their 46 shots. Second-year pro Sam Handley did look dynamic against more short-stick matchups alongside O’Neill. The Penn graduate scored two goals and added a two-pointer off an O’Neill assist.

Developing a consistent rhythm and hierarchy offensively -- potentially built around Handley and O’Neill in midfield -- will be essential to Denver building an identity moving forward.

Defensively, the Outlaws played well most of the game, but goalie Sean Sconone had a difficult day between the pipes. The sixth-year pro saved 26.5% of the shots he faced, with Carolina hitting a pair of late two-pointers to put the game away. The Outlaws will need sharper play in goal heading to Charlotte next weekend.

Up next for Denver: vs. Utah Archers (Friday, June 7, 8:30 p.m. ET)

New York Atlas 17, Maryland Whipsnakes 13

Lauren Merola: Connor Shellenberger, the Atlas rookie who dazzled Saturday with three goals and five assists, was out Sunday with a groin injury, and New York proved it is so much more than one player in the second game of its season-opening doubleheader.

Gavin Adler also was not playing at 100%, according to head coach and general manager Mike Pressler, nor was Bryan Costabile, who was running on a tweaked ankle.

Still, the Atlas scoresheet shined. Jeff Teat, after posting 11 points Saturday, scored three goals, as did Xander Dickson and Dox Aitken. Eight New York players notched at least one score.

Rookie Tyler Carpenter capped off the weekend with six ground balls, Trevor Baptiste went 20-of-27 from the stripe against a tougher assignment than Saturday in Petey LaSalla and Tim Troutner made 14 saves (58.3%).

The Atlas lunged out to a 7-1 lead by the end of the first quarter and led by as many as nine but started to wear at the end of the third, seen most in the substitution game. The Bulls then reclaimed the pace of the game, slowing it down to escape the weekend with another win.

New York heads into Week 2 with as many wins as it totaled in 2023 thanks to a total – though tired – team effort.

Up next for New York: vs. Carolina Chaos (Saturday, June 8, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Adam Lamberti: The Whipsnakes' season opener did not get off to a good start.

The Atlas, playing their second game of the weekend, flew out to a 10-1 first-half lead. Starting goaltender Kyle Bernlohr was pulled midway through the first quarter after allowing 6 goals and registering zero stops. Backup Brendan Krebs was shaky at first in his place but settled in and made some key stops that propelled a Whipsnakes surge.

Highly touted rookie TJ Malone was a catalyst in chipping away at the Atlas’ lead as he recorded six points (3G, 3A) in his professional debut. Mike Chanenchuk connected on a pair of two-point goals and added a one-pointer.

The Whipsnakes closed the gap to two goals with 5:38 remaining in the game after a Roman Puglise strike in transition, but the Atlas answered with key goals by Aitken and Myles Jones to close out the game.

It was encouraging to see Maryland respond and make it a ballgame after the Atlas threatened to run away with it, but just like last year, the Whipsnakes got off to a slow start that they couldn’t overcome later in the game despite making plays.

The Whipsnakes will look to regroup as they head to Charlotte in Week 2. 

Up next for Maryland: vs. Boston Cannons (Saturday, June 8, 5 p.m. ET)