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Bernlohr, Whipsnakes Defense Dominate in Win Over Redwoods

By Josh Schafer | Jul 25, 2020

Ryder Garnsey raised his hands and chatted with the refs. He couldn’t believe there wasn’t a penalty as Bryce Young drove him into the ground. The flags never came though, and instead, Garnsey and the Redwoods offense was left puzzled with how to approach an aggressive, quick sliding Whipsnakes defense.

With little room to maneuver, the Redwoods offense never clicked in a 13-9 Whipsnakes victory on Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the first game of the Championship Series, the Whipsnakes dominated the faceoff-X and clamped down on defense, allowing just seven goals. Whipsnakes faceoffs specialist Joe Nardella won 15-of-22 faceoff, while three different players took faceoffs for the Redwoods, who are replacing faceoff-great Greg Gurenlian this year. In the end, the Redwoods couldn’t gain possession off faceoffs and when they did eventually have the ball, Whipsnakes goalie Kyle Bernlohr (15 saves, 68% save percentage) held steady. 

Whipsnakes faceoff specialist Joe Nardella propelled the Whipsnakes early. He dominated the faceoff-X in the first half finishing 11-of-13, two of which led to goals by the faceoff man himself. One of the Whipsnakes big offseason additions, Michael Erhardt helped Nardella on his first, feeding the faceoff specialist for a goal charging down the paint. Nardella scored his second after drawing a flag and bringing the ball to the ground with him. 

Both Nardella’s goals were indicative of how the first half went for the Whipsnakes. After allowing the Redwoods to take the lead behind a pair of Matt Kavanaugh goals, the Whipsnakes scored the final four goals of the second half. Zed Williams poured in three of those first-half goals, several coming off transition opportunities. 

Just before the half, Williams scooped the ball on a restart, drove down near goal-line extended and rolled in toward the net for a diving backhand-goal. Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent left the field screaming after Williams had clearly left the restricted area early after a faceoff violation. If the referees had caught the move out of the restricted area by Williams, the goal wouldn’t have happened. 

As the Redwoods offense settled into 6-on-6 scenarios in the second half, the Whipsnakes defense tightened. What looked like Ryder Garnsey’s best pass of the day didn’t lead to a goal. Joe Walters appeared wide open off the skip pass, but Whipsnakes goalie Kyle Bernlohr denied the shot. On the same possession, Bryce Young tossed Garnsey and forced an errant shot while Bernlohr stuffed another shot from the doorstep from Clarke Petterson. Every chance the Redwoods had was met by a stalwart Whipsnakes defense. 

In the end, the Whipsnakes retained possession while a mic’d up Garnsey was left to barter with the refs over the physical play. 

Nardella continued to dominate the faceoff-X as the game carried on while John Haus pumped in two goals to close out the third quarter and finish off a 7-0 run for the Whipsnakes. A two-pointer from the Redwoods brought things close but in the end, last year’s runner up didn’t have possession enough and it led to the same fate as last year’s matchup. 

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