Atlas break 30 again; defeat Whipsnakes to earn a spot in the finals
On Saturday at the PLL Championship Series, the stakes went way up. It was win or go home in both games. For the Whips, they had the herculean task of attempting to slow down the Romar Dennis and the Atlas. For Atlas, they got the good news that Koby Smith would be good to play, giving the top seed in the tournament their full roster of weapons.
The Whips strategy was clear out of the gate: try and stop Romar by any means necessary. They also would need Brian Phipps to stay hot in net, and his five first quarter saves were critical. The Whips defense picked up Romar before he reached the midfield line in transition, and they used Roman Puglise to face guard him when possible. Romar was able to get free once and hit a two pointer, but the strategy helped keep the Whips within one, as the first quarter ended with them trailing the Atlas 6-5.
In another new tactic, the Whips showed a willingness to attack from behind the goal, which hasn’t been a popular Sixes strategy. However, it allowed players like Keegan Khan to operate more in their comfort zone, and helped him register two first half goals.
In the second, Atlas were able to break the game open. There were, as there have been all week, a series of small plays that led to big breaks for the Atlas. A loose ball that could have gone either way was won by Dan Bucaro, who promptly hit a two. Phipps was hit with a delay of game penalty for rolling the ball away, and although the Atlas didn’t convert, it generated further opportunities. Dennis hit another two even as he was being faceguarded, bringing the Atlas total to four converted two pointers in the half. Whips didn’t hit a two in the first half, which made it difficult to keep pace, and Atlas outscored Whips 7-2 in the quarter.
The onslaught continued in the third as Dennis hit yet another two. It was one of four Atlas two pointers in the period, with Brian Costabile hitting another and Chris Gray adding two more. Dennis was on the field for most of the third quarter, but was able to recover as part of a clear and then trailing the play in order to hit more two point shots.
In the fourth, Atlas completed the victory by surpassing the 30 goal mark for the second straight game. Whips fought hard until the end, winning the last stanza.
Afterwards, Stagnitta reflected on the week playing Sixes.
“The worst thing that can happen from this is we get better,” said Stagnitta, pointing specifically to players like Roman Puglise and Ty Warner who, if nothing else, further developed as two way midfielders with an offensive skillset.
“You guys know me well enough to know I’m not a very good loser, but at the same time, I’m taking away all the positives and we’re going to build on this as we move towards the summer,” he added.
For Puglise, it was his first game action following a severe wrist injury that required major surgery and sidelined him for his entire first year as a pro.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play again,” Puglise said. Puglise played well in the tournament, drawing difficult assignments as a top defensive player without much experience. He said he believes this experience, along with his connection to the locker room culture as a Maryland alum, will only help him going forward.
Archers comeback effort falls short as Wisnauskas and Williams lead Chrome to victory
In the second game of the double header, Archers battled Chrome. Archers have been excellent at executing their offense, which is similar to their approach in the field game. Chrome has been physically overpowering teams with players that have full bought in both ends like Dylan Molloy, Logan Wisnauskas, Colin Heacock, and Cole Williams. Chrome would be looking to put together a complete game, as they had given up some runs that hurt them in the round robin games. Archers would be looking for continued strong play in goal from new netminders Nick Washuta and Brendan Krebs, who had been impressive coming in.
The first period was physical and punishing, as both Jon Robbins and Wisnauskas dished out some punishing hits. Chrome was bale to win the first period 5-3 thanks to two goals from Williams. The play continued into the second as Archers continue to struggle scoring.
Archers managed just six goals in the first half, and had just two combined points from Grant Ament, Marcus Holman, and Will Manny at half time. Chrome led 10-6 at the break.
In the third, Chrome fought to extend their lead further, leading 17-8 with just 36 seconds left in the period. Marcus Holman was able to add a two pointer, and Will Manny registered his first point of the day with 4 ticks left in the period to cut the lead to 17-11 heading to the fourth quarter.
But if we’ve learned anything from Sixes, it’s that the game chaotic.
“It’s a fun game, it’s up and down. You’ve got to just sort of manage the game. You can’t ever control it, you just have to manage it,” said Chrome Acting Head Coach Jacques Monte.
Those goals were the beginning of what would be tremendous Archers run. Archers added three goals via a goal by Connor DeSimone and a two pointer by Matt Moore in the first 40 seconds of the 4th quarter. A three goal run later, which two more from Ament, saw the Archers make it one possession game. A spectacular goal from Marcus Holman, who scored without even seeing the net by shooting over his shoulder, electrified the crowd and it looked like the Archers might complete the comeback from nine down.
“We came with a mission and the mindset to be the last team standing. I don’t think you get to where we are, as pros, without being a competitor and hating losing so, so much,” said Holman.
On the whole, Holman said the format we fun to play, and said seeing teammates in new roles was a major part of it.
“It’s fun to see Will Manny two sliding on defense, and then you see Jon Robbins score on a shovel shot. I was having fun both ends of the field,” Holman said.
However, in Sixes, having to battle against the clock is never easy, and time simply ran out on their opportunities. The Chrome were able to slow possession and chew up clock 30 seconds at a time.
Logan Wisnauskas led the Chrome with seven points on three goals and four assists, while Cole Williams had five goals on seven shots.
Chrome will face the Atlas in the the finals on Sunday at 11:30am.