Photo courtesy of Nick Ierardi

What to Watch for in Week 3 for Cannons LC

By Grant DelVecchio

Jun 16, 2023

Three weeks ago, as training camp got underway in Albany, I wrote that this would be a year of discovery for the Cannons organization. While there’s still much to be uncovered about this year’s team, as weeks go by, more and more questions are starting to be answered.

Here are three things to keep an eye on as the Cannons LC (0-2) and Chrome LC (1-1) square off under the lights in Columbus tonight. 

The Rookies

It’s still early, but Matt Campbell looks comfortable at the pro level.

Nothing has phased him so far, it looks like he’s been in the league a long time,” Coach Holman said after the Villanova product scored a goal and added an assist in his debut against the Archers.

He then followed up his debut with a clutch performance last weekend. With the game on the line and under ninety seconds to work with, the Cannons were content to put the ball in the rookie’s stick. Campbell came through, uncorking a two-pointer from up top past Blaze to tie the game at 13 with 1:04 to play and force overtime.

It’s a play the Cannons practiced several times leading up to the game, and they couldn’t have executed it any better when it came time for the real thing. Though there are multiple options built into the play, the first look is for Campbell to let it rip from up top coming off of that “elevator” double screen. 

The Cannons putting Campbell in that situation and the rookie coming through in the way that he did is a good sign of things to come. 

On the other end of the field, the undrafted rookie LSM out of Rutgers Ethan Rall put together an impressive debut performance against Chaos LC. Rall caused two turnovers, one in a one-on-one matchup against Josh Byrne, and picked up five groundballs. The five GBs are a season-high for any Cannons player not named Stephen Kelly.

Jack Kielty, the quarterback of the Cannons defense, singled Rall out in the post-game presser saying he thought he was “phenomenal.” 

“He's a tough competitor,” Coach Holman echoed. “Sometimes you can't measure a player by their size. [Ethan’s] got that lacrosse heart where you know he's not fazed by having to guard a guy that is six-two or six-three. He really helped us off the ground and off the wings, which also helps Bones [Kelly] a lot. I'm excited for him to get to play again this week.”

Colin Kirst to make 1st start of season

If there’s one thing Coach Holman has made clear since the start of training camp, it’s how much confidence he has in both Adam Ghitelman and Colin Kirst to get the job done in between the pipes. 

While that may have seemed like coachspeak in the beginning, Coach Holman proved it when he thrust Kirst into the cage in place of Ghitelman with a little over nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter of the Cannons season opener against the Archers.

“We have two excellent goalkeepers, they’re both ready to go any minute, and I don’t hesitate about playing either one,” Coach Holman said after the game.

Last week against Chaos LC, Ghitelman played the whole game in net. Tonight, Kirst will make the second start of his young career. The former Rutgers and Lehigh netminder made four saves and gave up three goals versus the Archers. In his lone start last August against the Whipsnakes, Kirst saved nine shots while ceding 11 goals. 

The Cannons have one of the more unique goalie situations in the league; both Ghitelman and Kirst are talented enough to be starting goalies in the PLL, and both bring a little something different in net. Ghitelman has the wisdom of experience and is one of the very best at being a vocal, commanding leader on the back end. Kirst’s remarkable hand speed makes him an elite shot stopper. The two have enjoyed supporting and learning from one another.

“They're going to be a force together for the Cannons this year,” Coach Holman said after the Archers game. “That may be playing one [of them] in a half, it may be playing one [of them] three quarters, or it may be playing one [of them] the whole game. “They're both good enough to be goalies in this league and to lead our team.”

Cannons Utilizing Strengths on Defense

The Cannons defense got one of the toughest draws to start the season, opening up against the incendiary Archers and then taking on a reloaded Chaos team last week. 

While the team isn’t pleased to be leading the league in goals allowed, Coach Thompson expressed his satisfaction with where the unit is headed. 

“I think that [the Archers and Chaos] provided two unique challenges for us defensively, and ultimately, I feel like we’ve played pretty good six on six defense,” Coach Thompson noted. “We've given up too many of what we call ‘grenades’, those garbage goals on the inside. If we clean some of that stuff up, I think we're gonna be right there.”

Last week against Chaos LC the Cannons caused nine turnovers, a season-high for any team. They also tried something new defensively: double-poling. In other words, bumping one close defender up top to guard a midfielder and having a SSDM (in this case Zach Goodrich) defend an attackman. 

When playing a team whose primary initiators are in the midfield, double-poling down low can help disrupt an offense’s flow or game plan. It is also a counter against teams that like to invert and take short sticks behind the cage, since as a defense you can now have a pole defend the ball carrier even with the invert. While we may not see a lot of double-poling from the Cannons tonight against Chrome, it’s something to monitor moving forward.

The identity of any good defense includes toughness and physicality. The Cannons are getting an added boost in both departments tonight as Cade van Raaphorst and Max Wayne both make their Cannon debuts. CVR adds a little bit of everything for the Cannons, meanwhile Wayne is a six-foot-four, 215-lb presence protecting the crease who “can cover with the best of them” according to Coach Thompson, who was Wayne’s college head coach at Christopher Newport University.

“We like to protect the paint and make you earn everything,” Coach Thompson explained. 

“You combine that with a pretty significant chip on our shoulders, especially for the guys that are returning from last season. Guys are really hungry and guys are really tough, and I think those are two main ingredients for any great defense.”

The task won’t get any easier for the Cannons (0-2) as they seek win number one on the year tonight against Chrome (1-1). Stream the game live starting at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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