In an early battle of the unbeatens, Chrome took on an Archers team that was missing one of their top stars in Grant Ament. A shuffled Archers offense would face one of the league’s top defensive units made up of JT Giles-Harris, and the pair of veterans Mike Manley, and Jesse Bernhardt. Going into the weekend this seemed to be a pretty even match up, yet the Archers found themselves in the lead for most of the game. A big reason why was because of the play of goalie Brett Dobson. The first-year starter in net was the story of the game, stopping 18 shots at a 72% clip. Despite a valiant effort from Jackson Morrill and Chrome late in the game, the Archers were able to hold on for a 12-7 win, moving them to 2-0 and bumping their goal differential up to +8.
Mac O’Keefe got the scoring started just over two minutes in with one of his signature low to high shots right over Sean Sconone's head. The Chrome answered quickly with an inside finish by Jackson Morrill off the feed from Wisnauskas in transition. After a quarter the Archers led 2-1. Like many games last week, this one got off to a slow and sloppy start. Pace of play was extremely fast with a lot of back and forth. Archers controlled most of the possession however it still seemed like teams were getting their feet under them with six turnovers each in the first frame. As a result, the Chrome men didn’t see many settled possessions and saw their lone goal of the quarter in transition.
North Carolina grad Connor Maher opened the scoring in the second quarter in his return to the Tar Heel State. For the rookie SSDM, this was his second time in as many weeks where he has been able to find the back of the net. Coach Bates joked postgame “When he scored last week, I told him on the sideline that occasionally even a blind squirrel finds a nut, so naturally he chirped me a bit when he came off the field after scoring again today.” Minutes later with just 22 seconds left in the half, Tom Schreiber came sweeping down the right alley and snuck one in the bottom left corner. This put the Archers up 5-1 going into halftime led by Dobson’s 11 saves and four points from Tom Schreiber.
To start the second half, the Archers found themselves with an early powerplay which allowed them to stretch the field and free up another outside shot from Mac O’Keefe. This time it was a low-to-low two pointer, courtesy of Tom Schreiber a feed to go up 7-1. Media asked what it has been like to add a shooter like O’Keefe to the offense and Coach Bates answered with high praise and explained how much he can stretch the field to find lanes for not just himself but others on the field. He added “I told Mac as we were going through the week preparing, if your hands are free, I will never tell you not to shoot it.” During the game, Joe Keegan tweeted that since entering the league, O’Keefe has shot the two ball at over 21% which are just eye popping numbers. The element of consistent outside shooting is one that the Archers have not had in past seasons but will definitely serve them well. He’s one of the top shooters on the planet and he’ll play a huge role on this offense as the season goes on.
Finally, after a near 25-minute scoring drought, Chrome got a pair of goals to stop the bleeding with a wraparound from Jackson Morrill and a lefty step down from Wisnauskas to make the score 7-3 Archers after three.
Matt Moore notched his first of the game with a low-to-low shot off a roll back just inside the two-point line to start off the 4th quarter. That started off what would be by far the highest scoring quarter of the game seeing nine of the total 18 goals. Oh and by the way, if you still had any doubts about Jackson Morrill running the Chrome offense from X, they should all be erased as he put the team on his back scoring five of the teams seven goals, three of which came in the final frame.
It still seemed like both teams were still trying to figure out how to fine tune their offense as this was definitely a defensive battle. I thought Mike Manley’s individual play against Connor Fields in particular was tremendous. Both teams pointed out postgame that they thought their respective defenses played a great game. When asked about closing thoughts on the game, Chrome attackman Jackson Morrill said simply “I thought the defense played excellent and the offense let them down.” Obviously for Chrome, putting up one goal in the first half isn’t ideal and they would have to adjust. Coach Soudan said after the game they came in with a gameplay to play fast but the Archers' ride really slowed them down and forced them to second guess their strategy.
The rope unit of the Archers also played a crucial role in limiting good looks from Chrome shooters. They held one of the top midfield groups in the league to a combined 0 for 14 shooting. Additionally, Graeme Hossack held Cross Ferrara to 0 for 7 just one week after the rookie's impressive debut in Albany.
Both teams showed a lot of room for improvement, so we’ll have to see what adjustments each team makes for their upcoming matchups. After next week, teams have a 2-week bye for the world games. With Ament's hamstring injury, the Archers may lean on the side of caution and rest him, so he’ll be fully ready to go for the second half of the season.
The Chrome move to 1-1 and will shift their focus to next week where they head to Columbus to face off against the Cannons Friday night at 8:30pm EST on ESPN+.
Archers improve to 2-0 and will look to build off their momentum to take on the Chaos Saturday at 12:00pm EST on ESPN.