Redwoods Survive Late Scare, Advance to Rematch with Whipsnakes

By Josh Schafer | Aug 4, 2020

The Waterdogs didn’t want Myles Jones to have a free shot. He’d finished while driving toward the net earlier in the evening and scored from beyond the two-point arc. So the defense overcommitted. They denied Jones but the skip pass was left open. He sent the ball over to Joe Walters who advanced the pass one more to Ryder Garnsey. The attackman buried his shot before the rotating Waterdogs defense could alter his shot. 

On Tuesday evening in Zions Bank Stadium, the Redwoods were consistently one step ahead of the Waterdogs in an 11-8 Redwoods win. The things the Waterdogs were supposed to be best at, faceoffs and groundballs both favored the Redwoods. The Redwoods won 60% of the draws and scooped 10 more groundballs than the Waterdogs. Playing from behind most of the game, The Waterdogs scrambled to cover the Redwoods high powered midfield featuring Jones (2G, 1A) and Perkovic (1G) but failed. When they did stop Jones and Perkovic the Redwoods just found someone else open and the Waterdogs didn’t have the answers offensively.

The Redwoods now advance to the semifinals and will play the Whipsnakes in a rematch of last year’s championship game at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The first quarter ended with each team only mustering one goal. For the Waterdogs, the issues were similar to many of their drought this season. Many Waterdogs offensive substitutions didn’t come until more than halfway through their possession. While the possessions lingered on, the offense failed to pose much of a threat. Many times the Redwoods defense prevented the Waterdogs from unleashing a clean shot on goalie Tim Troutner (11 saves). 

The Redwoods offense did enough in the first half to match its stalwart defense. Several of the Redwoods' opportunities were a product of how the Waterdogs reacted. One drive lured Zach Currier slightly off his line and left Joe Walters open for a catch-and-shoot goal. Another goal came from Ryder Garnsey banging bodies with Chris Sabia. Once Garnsey felt Sabia stumble on the first body collision, he drove to the cage and scored easily. 

Garnsey, who finished with two goals and two assists, initiated for himself while also benefiting from inefficient slides from the Waterdogs. One skip pass from Garnsey led to a goal for Brent Adams, who tallied a hat-trick in his first start at attack for the Redwoods. 

The Redwoods dominated the powerplay on both ends until it almost became their unpinning. The Waterdogs entered the game with the PLL’s worst powerplay but converted on two of their four opportunities. After the Redwoods had nailed a two-point shot from Jones to complete a perfect two-for-two outing with the extra man, they failed to guard the arc themselves. Off a restart, Connor Kelly bounced in a two-point goal to bring the Waterdogs within a goal late in the fourth quarter. 

But the Waterdogs struggled to retain possession on a consistent basis. The combination of Greg Puskuldijan and Peyton Smith dominated the faceoff stripe and prevented the Waterdogs from gaining an advantage in transition. 

The NBC Sports Gold cameras frequently cut to Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan in the huddle. He repeatedly told his team they just needed to win the gritty battles. He wanted them to win the ground balls and make the hustle plays that could extend their season. 

But as the clock ticked down and the Waterdogs faced their final possession of the Championship Series, the Redwoods made the hustle play. Copelan had drawn up a play to set up a Ben Reeves two-point shot, which would have tied the game. The ball never made it to Reeves though. The Redwoods denied the Waterdogs first drive. Patrick Harberson altered the second pass and Perkovic finished a transition opportunity down the other end. 

Those little plays, where the ball bouncing around on the ground seems like it could belong to either team, almost always belonged to the Redwoods on Tuesday. Because the Redwoods didn’t waste those extra possessions, they’ll continue on at PLL Island.