The second game of a doubleheader on Saturday featured two teams who made major changes from last season. The Archers have long been discussed as a team coming up just short, underachieving, and unable to get over the hump in postseason play. Not content to attack 2023 with the same group, they were aggressive in free agency, letting offensive stars Will Manny and Marcus Holman walk while signing lefty sharpshooter Mac O’Keefe. The Cannons are coming off a summer where they won just one game. Lyle Thompson is taking the summer off from the PLL. New Head Coach/GM Brian Holman has rebuilt the offense with weapons like Matt Kavanagh, Marcus Holman, Jeff Trainor, and Cannons top draft pick Matt Campbell. If they wanted a new ending, both clubs would need to have to be different from the start.
Ultimately, the biggest difference was Mike Sisselberger, who went 80% facing off on the day in his PLL Debut.
"It wasn’t really my wins to take credit for. I look at the faceoff like a 3v3. Our unit, we practiced all week. I’m so blessed to have these guys around me. Even if I might not pick up the ball, having those guys with me and supporting me no matter what happens I can’t thank them enough. And we get the ball to the offensive end, we just have so many weapons," said Sisselberger.
Early on teams traded empty possessions, although both were able to create some good looks at cage. With three minutes left in the opening period and the game still scoreless, Cannons goalie was whistled for a slash trying to make a play on a ground ball, giving the Archers a chance at a power play against a cold goalie in Colin Kirst. The good shot from 12, but Kirst made the save on a high to high shot, and Cannons took over.
Ryan Drenner would open the scoring with just under 2 minutes left in the first quarter on a dodge to his left. The first quarter ended 1-0.
"Frankly, both goalies played well. It was a difference maker for them. And our mantra was just keep playing. It was a bit like a boxing match, feel each other out a bit. But I thought both goalies made some saves early, and there wasn’t as much pace early as you thought. Teams were more comfortable in the half field set as opposed to getting up and down," said Archers Head Coach Chris Bates.
Things picked up in the second. A familiar connection returned, as Grant Ament hit O’Keefe for a step down shot on the power play to tie the game at one. A few minutes later Ament would assist rookie Connor Maher in transition to give the Archers a lead, but it didn’t last long as Holman would score from range to tie the game again at two.
Rookie Matt Campbell would get his first goal as a pro with just under four minutes left to give the Cannons a back 3-2 lead. As the two clubs traded two goal runs, O’Keefe and Connor Fields scored to put the Archers back in front 4-3.
"I think what worked is that it’s the first game. I watched a little of the first game, and I saw some of that too. Guys weren’t settling in, that’s part of it. And I thought we played good defense. We wanted them to earn their matchups, and I thought we did a good job. In the second half, they made some adjustments attacking certain areas where we may not be as strong as we need to be right now. They’re professionals, they start shooting the ball better.," said Cannons Head Coach Brian Holman.
Fields would add another of the spectacular fashion, rolling back in the middle of the field to his right and shooting between his legs. The shot caught a deflection on the way to the goal and got by Ghitelman, giving the Archers a 5-3 halftime lead.
"I’m pleased that our guys came together and kept plugging. I don’t think any of us think it was the prettiest game in the world, but it’s a results business, so get the W. We had some new guys playing, our SSDM puppies did a nice job, those two held up. Half field defense was decent I would say. Offensively we got production from some different guys, and got some great production out of Siss at the X," said Bates.
Scoring remained scarce into the third quarter, although teams were still able to get shots and looks at net. O’Keefe added this third and took a late hit from Matt Rees midway through the quarter, sending the Archers to the power play, where Ryan Ambler added his first goal of the day to make it 7-3. Marcus Holman would stop the bleeding and make it 7-4 with a doorstep dunk with 6:11 left.
Fields, again had the answer, completing his hat trick to make it 8-4. Connor DeSimone scored his first to push it to 9-4 with just over four minutes left. A bouncer from Asher Nolting found it’s way to Matt Kavanagh to make it 9-5.
And then, the two point line made it’s first appearance of the weekend. A bouncer from range off the stick of Marcus Holman beat Dobson high, bringing the Cannons to within 9-7. In the PLL, that’s one possession. Archers answered with a goal from Tre LeClaire, but the Cannons refused to go quietly. Chris Aslanian scored another high bouncer, and the Cannons were back within two.
Ultimately, Sisselberger was just too much. He won the ensuing faceoff, after soaking some checks, found Ament for a time and room rocket, giving the Archers an 11-8 lead to start the 4th quarter.
The Cannons started the 4th quarter on the power play, and were able to convert when Kavanagh put home a rebound from Dobson to make the deficit two goals. Tre Leclaire would answer on the ensuing possession, courtesy of a Sisselberger faceoff win, to make the lead three again. Sisselberger, again, won the following faceoff, this time taking it all the way himself for a goal, his first as a pro.
Teams continued to trade goals through the 4th quarter, but the Cannons couldn’t close the gap. Sisselberger stifled any chance at stringing goals together, and the Archers secured the win