The final game PLL Week two featured two teams that were hungry to get their first win of the year. The Chaos were coming off a tough week one loss in overtime but were hopeful going into week two after returning four players from the NLL finals. On the other side of the field, the newly-structured Cannons looked to get off to a strong start and match their win total from a year ago. The Bandit boys didn’t seem to miss a beat as the four combined for nine points. Without even a full week back together, they appeared ready to go off the bus, finding themselves up 5-1 at the end of the first. The Cannons fought back to keep the game within reach and eventually evened the score at six a piece. Despite their efforts, it seemed like every time the Cannons got momentum, Chaos had an answer. When the fourth quarter came around, the scoreboard seemingly felt much closer than the game itself. That was until rookie midfielder Matt Campbell stuck a high bouncing two point goal to tie the game at thirteen with just a minute remaining. The clutch goal sent Chaos into their second overtime game in as many weeks. This time however, they took full advantage as Josh Byrne barreled through his defender on the first possession and put the ball in the back of the net.
Chase Fraser was another Bandit player who didn’t seem to need any time to adjust back to the field game. He got Chaos on the board first with a backhanded shot wrapping around the cage and followed up converting off a loose ball in front of the net to give his team an early 2-0 lead. The ball continued to bounce Chaos’ way as another loose ball in front of the net was cashed in, this time by Ryan Smith. Late in the first, Chris Aslanian got the Cannons first goal of the game off of an inside feed from Jonathan Donville. Chaos wasted no time getting back on the board as FO man Nick Rowlett won the ensuing faceoff, made a face dodge, and fired one in the net backhand. This was the rookie's first career PLL goal and sent the bench into a frenzy. Josh Byrne wrapped up an impressive quarter from the offense, shooting around the defender for his first goal of the season. Chaos got an immediate boost from their returning NLL stars and saw themselves with a 5-1 lead to close out the opening frame.
The Cannons got back on track to start the second quarter, adding a Marcus Holman twister off the feed from Asher Nolting just over a minute in. Shortly after, Ryan Drenner beat his man with a right to left split and stung one top shelf on the run to reduce the Chaos lead to two. Just when it seemed like the Cannons were making their run, Pat Resch came streaking down in transition and found Chase Fraser camped on the back pipe, adding another for the first half hat trick. After the goal, Coach Holman called a timeout to regroup before the half. Whatever was said during that break must’ve worked as the Cannons answered with two goals in the finals 30 seconds, including one from Asher Nolting with 0.6 seconds left to make the score 6-5 Chaos going into halftime.
The Cannons came out of the break hot and got the scoring started in the second half. Marcus Holman cut to the crease and put his body on the line, finishing with a diving backhand shot to even up the score at six. Chris Aslanian continued to build the momentum, firing a rocket down low off of a no-look feed from Marcus Holman, giving the Cannons their first lead of the game. Less than a minute later, Josh Byrne answered for the Chaos sweeping from X and firing a shot around his defender that beat Ghitelman high. On the following faceoff, SSDM Zach Geddes scooped up the groundball and found 2x fastest shot champion Jarrod Neumann for his first two bomb since 2019 to go up 9-7. Brian Minicus then used his explosiveness to beat his man and finish one on the run for Chaos’ fourth straight point. Just when it seemed Chaos had all the momentum, Matt Rees scored a huge two right off the face off to cut the lead back to one. Just twenty seconds later, Will Perry had the answer, receiving a lob pass over the defense from Byrne to bury one from up top. To wrap up the quarter, Ian MacKay had his man tied up at X and found Chris Cloutier for a BTB finish with 16 seconds left to take a 12-9 lead.
For the first goal of the fourth, Ryan smith muscled through his defender and fired one towards the net. Ghitelman got a big piece but it wasn’t enough as the ball still managed to trickle in. Matt Campbell was finally able to halt the run in with his first of the day in transition off a feed from Matt Rees. In an attempt to cut down the lead, the Cannons used some late game trickery on the power play. A hidden ball trick up top freed up Ryan Drenner to find an open Donville for a quick shot in front of the cage, reducing their deficit to a manageable two goals. After the Chaos were unable to convert on their next possession, the Cannons found themselves with the ball with a minute remaining and called timeout to scheme up a plan. Out of the timeout, the Cannons executed a perfect play that set up rookie Matt Campbell to unleash a high bouncing 2 pointer to tie and send the game to overtime.
To hit a two, down two at the end of the game is an extremely difficult task as defenses are taught to press out and be on shooters hands. Post-game, the media asked Coach Holman how he was able to get such a clean look for the game tying shot. He replied, “All the credit goes to Coach Mitchell, our offensive coordinator. Yesterday we actually worked on that specific play in practice. We didn’t need the two so we had a couple options, but it was literally exactly how we drew it up on the board and in practice yesterday.”
After their miraculous rally, the Cannons still had to finish the job and find one more to seal the win. With no timeouts in overtime for the PLL, teams have to be ready for every situation, offensively and defensively. In their overtime loss last week, Chaos was without Josh Byrne. This week, it was Byrne who got the ball on the first possession and barreled through his defender to escape with the 14-13 win.
Coach Andy Towers echoed how much Josh Byrne meant to the team when asked post game about the plan going into overtime. Responding, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think that Josh Byrne is the best attackman on the planet. We all believe that one guy can’t cover him. If it's an overtime game and we don’t put the ball in his stick, I should be fired.” Sure enough, they got him the ball and he made the most of it.
For the Cannons, this one really had to sting. All season they have been identified as a new and improved team and showed an incredible amount of resilience to claw back and stay in this game. Even with the tough loss, no one was in better spirits than Coach Holman. When asked about closing thoughts on the game he smiled and answered, “Heck of a game. I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of battling.” He went on to add, “I know the guys aren’t going to want to hear this but were making strides with our program. I thought today was a step forward. We talked all week about playing 48 minutes. I thought we did that and we just needed a couple more, but I’m proud of our guys.”
They’ll have a short week as they shift their focus to taking on Chrome Friday night in Columbus. Through two weeks, the Cannons defense has given up the most goals in the league with 30, so look for them to make adjustments as they prepare for a powerful Chrome offense. On the other side of the field, they have scored the second most goals through week two with 26. Asher Nolting has looked impressive instigating from X and has seemingly cut down on the turnovers with just two to this point in the season. Chris Aslanian also looked really good as a party starter up top so I’m excited to see what this team does going forward.
The Chaos have to feel pretty good about their week two performance considering it was just their first week returning NLL stars and have yet to add a major playmaker in Dhane Smith. Coach Towers praised his defense post game particularly rookie defenseman, Will Bowen. He told the media, “Frankly, if we had the first pick, we would’ve taken Will and I told him that. What he has brought to us is not just his ability to cover small quick guys and big strong guys, but he has taken ownership of being that quarterback of our defense and that voice accelerates our connection and makes us very hard to penetrate.”
Next week, that defense will have a chance to take on one of the most potent offenses in the league against the 2-0 Archers. That game will be featured on ESPN Saturday at Noon EST.