Cannons drop must-win against Whipsnakes, 11-9

By Sarah Griffin | Aug 22, 2022

It was possibly the most complete 48 minutes of execution we saw from the Cannons all season in a game where they had everything to play for in a heartbreaking 11-9 loss to the top-seeded Whipsnakes to end their season. 

“It’s been an unpredictable year but you always know the effort and desire these guys are going to bring,” said Cannons head coach Sean Quirk. “It came down to the final play of that game…I couldn’t be more proud of this group.” 

For the Cannons, aside from the do-or-die playoff implications of the contest, their final game was headlined by veteran defenseman Brodie Merrill, who played in his 200th career pro field lacrosse game. He’s the first player ever to reach such a milestone. 

The milestones didn’t end there for Merrill. With four ground balls, he tied with Greg Gurenlian as the all-time leader in pro lacrosse in ground balls with 1,120.

“I love Brodie not just as a player, but as a man and a competitor,” said Quirk. “He was our first pick in the PLL expansion draft for a reason. That was the player we needed to build this team and locker room around.”

Merrill and the Cannons came out firing in the first half, all puns intended. The first quarter was all them, as Chris Aslanian opened the scoring with a power play goal on his former team to get the Cannons on the board first. Asher Nolting continued his impressive rookie season with his 13th goal of the year to make it 2-0 early on.

In the second quarter, the Cannons picked up right where they left off with a wrap-around bouncer from Stephen Rehfuss off the feed from Lyle Thompson for his sixth goal of the season. 

The Whipsnakes finally broke the ice and responded thanks to a goal from Brad Smith, quickly followed by another goal from Mike Chanenchuk. Chanenchuk also netted a two-pointer to finish out the half and bring the Whips within one as he set the stage for a hopeful second-half turnaround. 

Nolting halted what could’ve been an offensive run for the Whipsnakes in the second quarter with his second goal of the afternoon and maintained momentum in favor of the Cannons.

Of course, Nolting wasn’t the only rookie making an impact for his team. Colin Kirst got the nod between the pipes for his first professional career start. He made two big saves in the first to shut the Whipsnakes out in the opening quarter. He’s just the third goalie all year to do so, the others being Matt DeLuca and Dillon Ward, both of the Waterdogs. 

Kirst made 9 saves total for a 50% save percentage in his debut. As the game slipped away from the Cannons in the second half, he kept them in it to the very last minute with some crucial big stops. He held the Whipsnakes scoreless again in the fourth quarter, shutting out his brother Connor Kirst with a highlight-reel worthy save.

Even with a solid pro debut for the rookie in the net, ultimately the Whipsnakes did what they’ve done best all season long to pull off the victory: hit singles.

It all started with Michael Ehrhardt’s two-pointer in the third quarter. From there, the floodgates opened as they went on a five-goal run. Ehrhardt’s two-pointer, Zed Williams’ two goals, and goals from Jay Carlson and Matt Rambo erased the Whips’ sloppy start to give them an 11-7 lead and ultimately, the win. 

“Ehrhardt’s two-pointer took some pressure off us,” said Rambo. “After that we were able to move the ball faster and hit singles.”

It might not have been the prettiest of wins for the Whipsnakes, but head coach Jim Stagnitta said it best: winning teams are able to respond and play from behind like his club did today. 

With two weeks off thanks to a bye-week during the quarterfinals, Stagnitta feels confident in his team as they prepare for the semifinals in D.C.

“Last season it felt like we limped our way into the playoffs. We’re healthy this time and getting better every week. We have young guys gaining confidence and experience. We’ve fought to be in this position all season long.” 

The Whipsnakes end their regular season with nine wins and just one loss. While the Cannons record might not reflect the fight they’ve put up all season, they left it all on the field in their final game.