After Redwoods punched their ticket in a convincing win over Chaos, Chrome and Archers took the field to determine who would be the final team to make it to Championship weekend and compete for the first overall draft pick.
Both teams came out firing, combining for nine goals in the first quarter. Archers struck first, scoring the first two goals of the game in the first 90 seconds. With both Tom Schreiber and Ben McIntosh out of the lineup, Joey Sankey received the matchup of Chrome’s long stick midfielder. The natural attackman didn’t seem bothered by the extra pressure, dodging and finding a cutting Will Manny for the Archers’ first goal of the game. Just 19 seconds later, after his second consecutive faceoff win, Stephen Kelly showed off his offensive abilities, inverting Connor Farrell and burying one past Chrome goalie Alex Ready. On the stick of Justin Guterding and Jordan Wolf, Chrome answered with three quick goals in the span of just over a minute.
Initiating offense from behind the goal, Chrome’s two-headed monster of Guterding and Wolf acted as both finishers and initiators. First, Guterding benefitted from Simon Mathias drawing the attention of the defense and maneuvering around a rotating defense. Then, Guterding tripped his defender up in the back of the net and found Wolf on the back post. Wolf put in another one 18 seconds later blowing past an overaggressive Matt McMahon and burying one past Adam Ghitelman. After a fast break from Manny off a feed from Kelly, Simon Mathias finished one for himself, dodging down the right alley. Mathias, a staple in the Chrome attack rotation, saw a lot of time at midfield in this game with the absence of both John Ranagan and Jordan MacIntosh. Alongside Mathias, Romar Dennis stepped up into the void left by Ranagan and MacIntosh and shouldered the burden of initiating the offense out of the midfield. Dennis consistently drew slides all night, allowing the Chrome to attack the backside of the defense as they recover. Guterding and Wolf connected again after one of Dennis’s downhill dodges and Guterding found Wolf cutting through the heart of the defense.
After a first quarter that saw nearly as many goals as the complete game the last time these two teams met, the defenses settled in and held the teams to just six combined goals in the second and third quarter. The two teams entered the locker rooms tied at six as Ryan Ambler, Marcus Holman, and Mike O’Neil tallied singles in the second quarter. The third quarter belonged to Will Manny and the Archers as Manny finished his third and fourth of the night. Ryan Ambler and Archers’ power play unit added on another as Archers entered the fourth quarter up 9-7.
A Guterding two-pointer just 40 seconds into the fourth quarter evened the score at nine but it was Archers’ ability to execute what they do best that allowed them to take a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Despite posting the worst offense in the league throughout the regular season, Archers finished the year having assisted on 62 percent of their goals, just one percentage point behind league-leading Whipsnakes. They don’t score very often, but when they do, it’s very likely to have come from their ball movement-oriented offense.
Just like they have all season, Archers leaned on their tendency to share the ball to secure tonight’s victory, scoring eight assisted goals in the game and assisting on all three of their fourth quarter tallies.
Although Archers, without two of their top five scorers, surpassed their goals against average, the player of the game goes to Stephen Kelly. In an up and down season where he eclipsed the 50 percent win mark only three times and struggled to a lowly 38 and 41 percent in his two matchups with Chrome, dominated rookie of the year candidate, Connor Farrell. While winning 15 of his 18 faceoffs and gathering 11 ground balls, Kelly also tacked on a goal and an assist, showing his diverse skill set and ability to impact multiple facets of the game.
With the win, Archers secured a trip to Philadelphia where they will match up with Atlas for the third time this season. After splitting the season series one-a-piece, the rubber match will determine who will be on the clock first in the 2020 PLL draft.