Denver Outlaws rookie Brennan O'Neill

Top takeaways as Chaos, Outlaws notch dramatic Week 2 wins

By PLL Beat Writers | Jun 7, 2024

Carolina Chaos 12, California Redwoods 11

Hayden Lewis: Jules Heningburg’s dominant third quarter paves Chaos’ path to victory

In the Chaos’ first of two Homecoming Weekend games at American Legion Memorial Stadium, Jules Heningburg flashed back to his younger self and took over to help Carolina secure a one-goal win over the Redwoods.

After a turnover-filled first half that ended at a 5-5 stalemate, somebody needed to take over the game. Heningburg did so by scoring a third-quarter hat trick against his former team, accounting for a quarter of the 12 goals scored in the frame. 

“He’s a real, sort of perfect complement to us,” head coach Andy Towers said postgame. “His intangibles and what he’s brought to the culture of our locker room is immeasurable."

Heningburg, who spent four seasons with the Redwoods before signing with the Chaos in March, also scored once in the first quarter to finish with a game-high four goals. 

The spark Heningburg provided on offense helped remotivate Carolina's stout defense on the other side of the field. That effort was spearheaded by a stalwart performance from Austin Kaut in net (16 saves, 61.5%) and Jack Rowlett at close defense (two caused turnovers, four ground balls).

Kaut, the longtime Chaos backup who was starting in place of injured star Blaze Riorden, held the Woods scoreless for the final 14:34 of game time. He and his teammates need to bring the same defensive energy Sunday against New York Atlas, who boast the league's highest-scoring offense.

Up next for Carolina: vs. New York Atlas (Sunday, June 8, 5 p.m. ET)

Jerome Taylor: Goal droughts highlight Redwoods' six-on-six offensive struggles

The Redwoods dropped their season opener after a missed reset on what turned out to be their final possession.

The good news, however, is that early indications suggest Nat St. Laurent has struck gold again in the third round with Garrett Degnon (3G, 1T). The rookie was phenomenal in his debut, immediately filling an off-ball stretch shooter role. 

“He’s good in close, good with the ball and he also stretches the defense,” team captain Rob Pannell said in praise of the rookie. “I’ve been playing for 12 years, and he’s already got the same amount of two-pointers that I have.” 

Degnon was instrumental in reviving the Redwoods offense, punctuated by the aforementioned two-pointer that gave the Woods an 11-9 lead after a 15-plus-minute lull that stretched from the middle of the second quarter through the third. 

But therein lies the problem: Two 12-plus-minute stretches – including one to end the game – without goals underscored the Woods' struggles in six-on-six offense. 

“We have to execute and finish some of those shots," St. Laurent said. "... Tip your cap to [the Chaos]. They made some stops, and we didn’t finish. This game doesn’t define us, our season isn’t lost, but how we respond does define us.” 

Initially, the Redwoods' offense thrived in transition, with their established players on attack leading the way. But after the first quarter, the Redwoods couldn’t find a go-to action. 

Meanwhile, on the other end of the field, Heningburg carved the new-look Woods defense up from X, as the Chaos found a mismatch when either Brian Tevlin or Arden Cohen was the primary defender on him. Heningburg won’t be the last matchup nightmare this defense encounters, so figuring out how to approach them will be pivotal for overcoming the defensive departures this offseason. 

Up next for California: vs. New York Atlas (Sunday, June 16, 12:30 p.m. ET)

Denver Outlaws 18, Utah Archers 17 (OT)

Topher Adams: The kids are alright

Brennan O’Neill was the No. 1 pick for a reason. After a quiet Week 1, O’Neill slid in at attack in place of an injured Logan Wisnauskas. He should stay at that position the rest of his career.

Trailing by seven goals in the fourth quarter, the Outlaws rode their rookie sensation to glory. O’Neill tallied nine points (7G, 1T, 1A), becoming just the ninth rookie to do so. He scored the game-tying and game-winning goals. This is the generational, superstar talent Denver drafted first overall.

O’Neill was the superstar, but Denver’s other young stars helped lead the Outlaws to a signature victory.

Faceoff specialist Luke Wierman faced a stiff test against Mike Sisselberger, but he titled the field towards Denver, especially when it mattered most. Wierman won 23 of 36 faceoffs (64%), including 12 of 14 in the fourth quarter and overtime. 

O’Neill’s young supporting cast played their part, as well. Former Duke teammate Josh Zawada scored two goals and had three assists. Second-year attackman Jack Myers settled in at X and scored a hat trick.

Denver still has a lot to clean up moving forward -- the off-ball defense, for starters -- but this performance changes everything. With O’Neill anchoring the offense, the complexion of the Outlaws season is completely different. 

Up next for Denver: Bye week

Zach Carey: Archers defense has no answer for Brennan O’Neill 

A week after the Archers’ young defense put the clamps on the Philadelphia Waterdogs, it was exposed in Charlotte. A 14-7 lead entering the fourth quarter seemed entirely safe. O’Neill only had two points through three quarters. The Utah offense was cooking with gas. 

The Archers then proceeded to lose 12 of the remaining 14 faceoffs and had no sufficient answers once O’Neill and the Denver offense exploded. Wierman dominated against Sisselberger at the stripe while Cam Wyers could not come close to containing O’Neill on the lefty wing. 

Offensively, the few times the Archers had the ball late, they couldn’t win matchups like they had been earlier in the game. While Utah put up 17, the scoring droughts in the second and fourth quarters made life far more difficult than necessary. They gave the Outlaws the opportunity to take the bull by the horns, and O’Neill did just that.

Tre Leclaire (5G), Mac O’Keefe (3G, 1T) and Connor Fields (4G, 1A) each took over the game for a stretch. But Utah couldn’t find the back of the net when it counted most. The Archers had a few good shots late in the fourth and into overtime. However, far too often the ball died in players’ sticks. 

Finding consistency across 48 minutes shouldn’t be a major headache for an offense with so much talent. Determining how the club is going to handle life without Graeme Hossack, Matt McMahon and Jared Conners is the more pressing issue. 

Maybe O’Neill really is the best player in the world and will be unstoppable against the rest of the league, as well. But the degree to which the Archers lost the individual matchups on defense highlights a problem that needs to be addressed for the club to get back to the top of the league this summer. 

Up next for Utah: vs. Carolina Chaos (Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m. ET)