Film study: How Wes Berg scores on every tenth touch for the Redwoods
Since the start of the season, Wes Berg's efficiency has been turning heads, setting the tone that this year would be special for him.
In 2023, Berg has delivered the productivity that made Nat St. Laurent ecstatic about getting him back in the green and yellow this offseason. After playing with the Redwoods during the PLL’s inaugural season, Berg was selected by the Waterdogs in the expansion draft the following year.
“We wanted him here in 2019 because he’s a winner. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t protect him with the league growing,” St. Laurent said after the ‘Woods week 1 win. “He calms the offense down, and when you got him and Rob Pannell on the same field, it just brings a really calming presence.”
Based on Berg’s play, St. Laurent's enthusiasm is proving to be well-founded. The three-time champion is thriving in his second stint with the ‘Woods. He’s gelled seamlessly with fellow attackmen Pannell and Ryder Garnsey. And with 17 points (and counting) under his belt, this season marks Berg’s highest-scoring campaign in the PLL thus far.
“[Berg] is really a piece that we’ve been missing,” Pannell said during training camp. “He’s the glue, he pieces everything together.”
This season, Berg’s stick has been sticky enough to catch tough passes in tight quarters on crease before finishing. And more important than the number of points he’s recorded is how he’s gotten them. He’s not only been impressive on the stat sheet, but he’s passing the eye test, too, so let’s check out how he’s doing it.
Wes Berg by the numbers
For starters, what Berg has been able to do on limited touches might be the most impressive thing about his game this year.
On just 19.5 touches a game, he’s scored 15 goals. That translates to finding the back of the net roughly every 10th touch. When his two assists are factored into the equation, Berg has contributed to putting points on the board for the 'Woods every 9th touch.
Based on the performance of other players who have the same number of touches per game, he should have around ten points, yet, he’s got almost double that.
Much of that efficiency can be traced back to Berg consistently placing himself where his teammates, notably Garnsey and Pannell, can find him for high-percentage scoring opportunities. Currently, he’s tied with his line-mate, Garnsey, for fourth in assisted goals (thanks, RP3).
Wes Berg on the crease
This season the Redwoods’ offense has looked their best in their single crease look, and Berg’s a big reason why. So what does an uber-efficient, crease-stalking savant look like on the field?
Berg has the innate ability to create separation on the crease. In the play below, he recognizes that Michael Ehrhardt is paying a little too much attention to Garnsey with the ball so Berg takes the opportunity to creep to the far pipe, and Garnsey dots him with a pass.
Despite his scoring this year, Berg still can disappear from defenses. On this power play, his off-ball movement is perfectly coordinated with Garnsey and Charlie Bertrand. In this sequence, Berg slyly fills the space that Bertrand vacates on the crease, setting himself up for a wide-open, point-blank shot.
As Cole Kirst carries upfield from the wing, Bertrand replaces. Once Garnsey gets the ball, he and Berg do a similar dance. Except as Garnsey carries towards Berg, Berg shuffles down to the crease, and following a deceptive pass fake by Garnsey, he delivers a no-look, flick-of-the-wrist pass to Berg, who does the rest.
Bertrand, speaking about his own strengths as an off-ball cutter, emphasized the importance of understanding the dodger’s intentions, and Berg has the same intuition. As if he can see the play unfold from his teammate's perspective, he synchronizes his steps with the dodger.
In the play above, as Pannell pushes upfield, Berg shuffles and shadows. But before Pannell starts his roll, Berg crashes to creases. The slight change of direction leaves Will Bowen’s palm in the turf, and Berg finishes the play with a patented quick-stick.
With Ryan Lee lost for the season, Berg’s had to shoulder most of the load as a crease finisher for the Redwoods, and so far, he’s done an admirable job. Now, he’ll have to continue being the glue for the ‘Woods as they continue to fine-tune their offense heading into the playoffs.