“I knew deep down all we had to do was make the playoffs,” Redwoods midfielder Joe Walters said on Wednesday. “All we had to do was get healthy, make the playoffs, and then we'll go on a run. I think that's what you're seeing right now.”
That run will continue in Philadelphia. The fourth-seeded Redwoods knocked off the top seeded Chaos 12-7 and punched their ticket to the inaugural PLL Championship. Here’s how the hottest club in the league conquered the Chaos, who beat them twice in the regular season.
How It Happened:
Sergio Perkovic (2,0) dodged underneath Troy Reh and Brodie Merrill then finished a diving backhand shot 23 seconds into the game. The goal was a promising start for the ‘Woods. Entering this weekend, Perkovic registered 10 points and shot 31% in the club’s six wins. On the other side of the field, the Redwoods defense, who lead the league in caused turnovers, created havoc for the Chaos. They allowed only one goal in the first quarter and helped spur a four point run that featured two goals by Brent Adams and LSM John Sexton’s first two-pointer of the season.
“I think we like to play our game and make people adjust to that,” Sexton said earlier this week.
Although the Redwoods are the least penalized club in the PLL, a costly foul in the second quarter sparked a Chaos 5-1 run. Garrett Epple slid across the crease, hit Connor Fields high, then engaged in a scuffle with Kevin Buchanan. Epple embraced the agitator role and started pumping up the crowd. He was penalized two minutes. The Chaos got their payback on the scoreboard. Myles Jones intercepted a high pass from Troutner and ran untouched to score right in front of the crease. Jones (2,1) was just getting started. He added another goal 27 seconds later to cut the Chaos deficit to two. He later threaded a pass across the Redwoods defense to Miles Thompson for another goal. Kevin Buchanan (1,1) tied the game at six before halftime with a snipe past Troutner in the upper left corner.
The Redwoods capitalized after Jack Rowlett push around three minutes into the second half. A string of crips passes resulted in a Joe Walters goal. He found the back of the net again less than a minute later.
“Days when we play well, we have great ball movement,” Redwoods assistant coach Dom Marzano, explained in an interview on Wednesday.
“This game is all about momentum,” Paul Rabil told the NBC Sports broadcast team from the sideline after Walters’s second goal.
Jules Heningburg kept the momentum going. He scored his second goal of the game and added to his league leading 3rd quarter goals with a pinpoint low to high shot from the left wing.The Redwoods capped the quarter with an electrifying full field play. After a save by Tim Troutner on a deep shot by Kevin Buchanan, Garrett Epple collected the ground ball, ran into the offensive end, then dished to Ryder Garnsey on a backdoor cut. Garnsey scored with three seconds left and put the Redwoods ahead 10-6. He dropped his stick and sprinted towards the stands in celebration.
“Keep giving them body blows until their gloves drop,” Coach Nat St. Laurent instructed his club before the fourth quarter. “Then it’s lights out.”
Although he was held scoreless in the first half by Jarrod Neumann, Garnsey (2,0) kept attacking. At almost four minutes into the fourth, he backed down Neumann, rolled underneath, then scored while falling to the ground. Not even Chaos’s Bomb Squad could get them back into the game. With around three minutes left Neumann pulled up from well behind the two-point arc. Troutner stood his ground. It was only the third save he has made against Neumann this season. Troutner ended the game on an emphatic note with two more saves on the doorstep as time wound down. His 13 saves and the league’s best defense held the Chaos to only one goal in the second half.
“We realized we never really played to our potential,” Troutner said earlier this week. “Coach Nat would always tell us to play your game and stay positive, so we've been embracing that. We’re focusing on what's in front of us and nothing in the past.”
They’ll now focus their attention on the Whipsnakes and the Championship. The Woods are rolling on their way to Philadelphia.