Waterdogs best Atlas in overtime to win fifth straight

By Austin Owens | Aug 7, 2022

The Waterdogs were able to take home their fifth consecutive victory in dramatic fashion on Saturday afternoon, beating Atlas 16-15 in overtime at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver. 

“I’m really proud of our guys. I think that was a good team win,” Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan said following the game. “That Atlas team is really complete and they showed their true colors, coming back there down the stretch. … This was our third overtime game of the year so we had that experience. I think that certainly helped a little bit.

“But I’m just proud. I don’t know how many one-goal games that is or how many in a row, but I think that tells you everything you need to know about our locker room.”

The first half was a shootout between the two squads, who combined for 17 goals through 24 minutes.

Both teams were able to pot three apiece in the opening frame. Chris Gray opened the scoring, and goals from Ryan Conrad and Trevor Baptiste would follow in the next 28 seconds. Kieran McArdle and Conrad scored to give the Dogs an early lead, but Colorado native Eric Law knotted it up to end the first. 

They would trade runs in the second, highlighted by 2-point tallies from both Koby Smith and Connor Kelly. A pair of goals from Michael Sowers gave the Waterdogs an 8-6 lead, but Law and Dan Bucaro quickly tied it again. Kelly’s second score of the half gave the Dogs a one-goal advantage at the half. 

Romar Dennis opened the second half with a bang, stinging a 2-pointer on the run to push Atlas back in front. But the back and forth continued throughout the third. Back-to-back markers from Kelly and Zach Currier made it 13-11 heading into the fourth, and Kelly added another to start the fourth to give the Waterdogs their biggest advantage of the afternoon. 

Zac Tucci and the Waterdogs’ wings tried to turn face-offs into a three-man battle against Trevor Baptiste, and despite the Atlas draw man going 20 of 29 on the day, Tucci did a good job of making life hard on the league’s top face-off specialist. 

Despite that, Baptiste put his stamp on the game in the fourth quarter, helping the Atlas roll off a 4-0 run in a 2:01 span in the final five minutes to jump out to a 15-14 lead with 3:08 remaining.

The Waterdogs continued to push for the game-tying goal, but they were turned away on multiple occasions by Jack Concannon. But with 15 seconds left in regulation, Waterdogs captain Steven DeNapoli pinged a stepdown shot off the short-side post to send the game into overtime. 

After a pair of possessions without a goal, the Atlas got caught in the sub-game, giving the Waterdogs a 6-on-5 advantage. Currier was able to circle over to the left wing, where he found an open Jack Hannah for a step-down opportunity. The former Pioneer ripped a shot past Concannon on the short side to give the Waterdogs the 16-15 victory. 

“It felt amazing. I’m just excited we got the win, especially after we fought that hard. But being back at DU, it’s been an absolute blast,” Hannah said post game. “It still just kind of felt like a home game for me – kind of like it was the college season. But it felt good and it felt normal to be back out there. I couldn’t have been more excited to get to shoot that shot with all of the DU fans here.”

With five consecutive victories under their belts, the Waterdogs now sit tied for third in the league standings with Atlas and the Chrome at 5-3. Another big matchup with the Redwoods awaits them next weekend in Salt Lake City. 

Atlas will be looking for a bounce back against the Whipsnakes in what could be one of the games of the summer.