Waterdogs top Atlas, clinch first-round bye

By Austin Owens | Aug 15, 2021

The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader decided a first seed heading into the playoffs, and when it was all said and done, it was the Waterdogs pulling out a 10-9 victory against Atlas.

Kieran McArdle (1G, 3A) led the way offensively while Mikie Schlosser (3G) and Zach Currier (1G, 1A) also chipped in solid performances. 

Dillon Ward was phenomenal once again for the Dogs, as he turned away 17 shots to help them to the win.

“I think we did a really good job of smothering their weapons,” Ward said post game. “We know that they have a lot of guys who can bring the heat from the outside in the midfield and they’ve got really crafty attackmen. I think we just did a really good job of limiting what they wanted to do in terms of jumping picks or getting through picks on certain guys and crowding guys to make sure that they weren’t getting those two- or three-step crow hops before getting a shot off. 

“We did a really good job of just getting them uncomfortable, putting the balls on the ground, and coming up with balls going the other way.”

Eric Law (1G, 3A) was the top scorer for the Bulls while Jeff Teat and Mark Cockerton each finished with three points

Trevor Baptiste got the best of the faceoff battle on the night, winning 57 percent from the stripe while adding seven ground balls. 

Atlas came out of the gates hot, scoring four of the first five goals of the game. Romar Dennis started things off before Ryan Conrad answered for the Dogs. That was followed by a three-goal run highlighted by a pair from Cockerton. 

Matt Whitcher nabbed his first PLL goal to cut Atlas’ lead to 4-2 heading into the second quarter. 

Heading into the half, the Waterdogs put their foot on the gas, as Steven DeNapoli and Ethan Walker scored a quick pair to tie the game at 4. McArdle and Ryan Brown added two more in the quarter while Law and Dox Aitken potted a pair to keep the score 6-6 at the half. 

The two teams had a relatively quiet third quarter, with just three combined goals scored. Bryan Costabile scored two straight for Atlas, but Zach Currier brought the Waterdogs within one heading into the fourth.  

The fourth quarter was owned by Schlosser, who got his hat trick. The four-goal run made it 10-8. Teat managed to get one back to make it a one-goal game with under a minute to play, but the Bulls would come up just short of the mark. 

“We set out to create a locker room that was set with high-character guys and team-first guys,” Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan said. “We wanted to play a certain style and we had a pretty aggressive off-season. We're proud of some of the moves we made there, and to see that materialize and have us secure the one seed, it is a really gratifying feeling.

“It’ll be nice to have three weeks off. We’ve got to use our time very wisely and making sure that we’re staying connected and making sure that we’re prepared for the semis.”

With their win, the Waterdogs have sealed their bye and have the chance to get a few weeks of rest before heading into Philadelphia for the semifinals. 

Atlas will have a quick turnaround, as they’ll be back in action next weekend in Salt Lake City in the quarterfinals.

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