Another week in the book as the PLL gave us four more great games, this time in Columbus, Ohio. The top three teams in last weeks power rankings lost. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given how tight the games have been through three weeks, and just the general level of talent parity across the league. Sorting through rankings when everyone is either 2-1 or 1-2 is no easy task. In the ranking below, if you were to pick any two teams on the list and put them on the field today, I’d pick the team ranked higher to win. Once again there’s a new number one. And things get turned up a bit more after the break for the World Championships, as rookies like Tye Kurtz and Thomas McConvey make their debuts for their clubs.
1. Chaos (2-1)
For the past few years, the running gag about the Chaos was that they sort of phoned in the regular season and heated up come playoff time when the stakes were high. As much as it can appear that way, these players just aren’t wired that way. They don’t show up to a game to just…not play. The real issue has been missing personal due to overlaps, and the fact that, as it once again is, the league is hyper competitive. But the Chaos have always been good enough to win these games. Will Bowen and Brian Minicus both bring exciting new dimensions to their respective ends of the field. Bowen a QB voice that can organize the group behind their excellent on ball play and in front Blaze Riorden. Minicus a true threat from X in the style of a traditional American attackman. Both took to this team like a fish to water, no surprise given how well the coaching staff and players knew them before the draft.
2. Archers (2-1)
Last week’s number one, dropping just one spot. Ament wasn’t able to get through a game again, a frustrating outcome for him and this offense. The international break ideally gives his hamstring time to heal. In the loss to Chaos, Archers didn’t necessarily play badly. They outshot the Chaos. More than half their goals were assisted. Eight players scoring a total of 10 goals. That feels like an Archers branded type of day. The problem for them was just Blaze Riorden being on the business end of too many shots. It happens. Archers, even with a banged up Ament, still have the tools to be there in Philly at the end of the season.
3. Waterdogs (2-1)
Through two weeks, the book on the Waterdogs was “If you stop Sowers, you stop everybody”. Early on, it looked like it might be more of that. Sowers battled with Gavin Adler but didn’t create much at all. Atlas built a lead behind Baptiste’s outrageously dominant day. But it didn’t hold. With the new rules, faceoff dominance impact has been reduced. Thanks for a trio of two pointers for Connor Kelly, all in the second half, the Aqua Pups came all the way back for a 19-18 win. The way the team found scoring from all over the place and impact from all over the place, be it Kelly, a big goal from Matt Whitcher, Eli Gobrecht forcing faceoffs backwards, they put it together with a bunch of swiss army knives. It looked like the way the Waterdogs made it to the title. With a roster of guys who all do their own job, and someone else’s if you need.
4. Whipsnakes (1-2)
Anyone out there who sincerely had the take that the Whips were falling off should be in federal prison. Hyperbole? Maybe. The Whips played their most Whips game in a long time. Go looking for the big electric highlights and, despite what social media might show you, there really weren’t a ton. The “hit singles” mantra that comes from Matt Rambo whenever they interview on the field (in between jabs at Ryan Boyle) was on full display. They just scheme and execute, scheme and execute, capitalize on mistakes. You see a final score of 18-11 and it’s almost surprising. Death by a thousand cuts. Or Whipsnake bites. Rambo has been outstanding the last two weeks, shooting and dodging at an MVP level. If Brad Smith can return at 100% after the break, it will really unlock some matchups for the Whips on offense. The faceoff changes have resulted in them not missing Joe Nardella much, and Petey LaSalla has been solid in his stead anyway.
5. Redwoods (2-1)
The Woods took a bit of a beating from the Whips. They didn’t really get run over, as noted above, it felt like death by a thousand cuts. Jack Kelly didn’t have his best stuff, and the Whips capitalized. The Whips also hit three two pointers, and that’s with Ehrhardt sitting for a half. Owen Grant showed off the stuff that made him the second pick, absolutely owning the grass between the arcs and letting shots go from two point range in the high 90s, while flat footed. He did pick up an injury that will keep him out of the World Championships, a brutal break for him, Canada, and the Woods. Ryder Garnsey’s growth as a player is the story of the season maybe not just for the the Woods, but for the league. Phil Shore wrote a great feature about it this week, but in short, Garnsey’s college career was a bumpy rode. Academic issues that made him ineligible, flirting with transferring, it was newsworthy for the wrong reasons. He’s since matured, is invaluable on the Notre Dame sideline as a coach, and is absolutely an MVP candidate right now.
6. Atlas (1-2)
Coach Pressler was, rightfully, very hot after their loss to Waterdogs. He reportedly used the phrase “junior high mistakes” to describe his defense’s play. Three straight weeks of some similar ugly spots for the Atlas at that end. Adler has been consistently winning his matchup. But off ball players and misplayed help defense has seen the Bulls create offense for their opponent. They misplayed picks and exchanges not once, but twice in the same play to allow Connor Kelly, the obvious player to stop, to get a time and room two pointer and tie the game late. It’s the kind of thing that the whole building saw coming and the Waterdogs hit it anyway. Jeff Teat and the offense have been great. Baptiste will get them the ball plenty. 18 goals should be enough to win every week. The talent is there on the defensive end (it should be after taking poles at one and three in the draft), but they need to clean up off ball and help defense consistently if they’re going to contend.
7. Cannons (1-2)
First win in 376 days. Coach Holman’s first in the PLL. The storylines abounded. Marcus Holman with a five point game, in the city where his career started, delivering the first career win to his dad, on Father’s Day weekend. Quite the script. The Cannons had some new faces on the defensive end. They grabbed Cade Van Raaphorst from the player pool, gave Max Wayne his first start, and Colin Kirst his first start in net. Getting that many new voices comfortable together is no easy task given that practice time basically amounts to maybe a couple hours the night before the game. But the defense looked solid, and all the new faces made excellent plays. I won’t be stunned if Kirst keeps the job. Matt Campbell, Ryan Drenner, and Asher Nolting remain the most impressive parts of the offense to me, and the Cannons get better every week. I started saying it last week, but I’ll continue to harp on it. I won’t be shocked if the Cannons manage a top four finish.
8. Chrome (1-2)
Back to back losses where teams were able to take the Chrome out of what they usually are comfortable doing. Cannons just executed better. Chrome were missing Jesse Bernhardt to paternity leave, and that was obvious. Rookie Troy Hettinger played well in his place, picking up five ground balls, but the voice and organizer of the defense is hard to overcome. That was compounded as Mike Manley picked up an injury and the Chrome had to shuffle matchups. On the offensive end, more weapons need to find their way on to the stat sheet. If your squad has Wisnauskas, Molloy, Morrill, Handley, and Anderson, but Messenger is the second leading scorer, the offense needs to find more ways onto the stat sheet. Heacock was out and that was big, but when the season resumes, nobody buts asterisks next to losses because of guys being out. They’re just losses.