Unlike typical playoff formats, fans didn’t have to wait until the Championship game to see the Top 2 teams in the league battle with playoff intensity. Whipsnakes and Chaos rounded out the first round to decide who would go straight to Philadelphia for the Championship and who would meet Redwoods in New York for the semifinals.
As the Top 2 offenses in the playoffs took the field, it was the defenses that stole the show in the first quarter. Both teams were held scoreless for nearly half of the first quarter as Blaze Riorden started hot and the Whipsnakes’ defense forced turnovers. Finally, with just over six minutes in the first quarter, Connor Fields dodged left from X and found Dhane Smith for a quick-stick goal on the back pipe. Just over a minute later, Fields took advantage of open space while both teams were subbing as he executed his patented rocker move to get underneath Matt Dunn, tiptoe the crease and get one past Kyle Bernlohr. The Whipsnakes offense would continue to create shots but was unable to find the back of the net until newly converted midfielder, Ben Reeves, dodged both his defender and the slide to beat Riorden with only eight seconds left in the first quarter.
Heading into the second quarter up 2-1, Chaos extended their lead as Fields picked up a missed pass intended for Kyle McClancy and converted on his second goal of the game. After a rare Mike Chanenchuk goal from inside the 2-point arc, Fields connected with Josh Byrne on a beautiful set play on the powerplay to again widen the lead to two goals.
That Byrne goal with just over five minutes to play in the second quarter would be the last goal Chaos scored until the beginning of the fourth as Whipsnakes would go on an eleven goal run between the second and third quarter. Within that eleven-goal run, seven different players found the back of the net while Chanenchuk would add two 2-pointers and Drew Snider would notch his second hat trick of the season.
During this run, Whipsnakes dominated Chaos in every facet of the game. Joe Nardella and his faceoff unit won 64 percent of faceoffs while the Whipsnakes offense outshot Chaos 20 to eight. Whipsnakes controlled possession and overwhelmed Riorden and the Chaos defense, creating offense in transition and on dodges in settled offense. The Chaos defense was holding their slides, daring a Whipsnakes offense that had the second worst shooting percentage in the league, to score unassisted goals. The Whipsnakes, and especially their midfield answered the call, scoring six unassisted goals during this 11-goal run.
Not only were Whipsnakes making Chaos pay for holding their slides in six-on-six scenarios, the Whipsnakes power play unit was taking advantage of late rotations. The powerplay unit for Whipsnakes, which converted on a league-worst 21 percent of opportunities, produced the two Chanenchuk 2-pointers.
While sitting in a simple 3-3 set, the Chaos defense was late to rotate to Chanenchuk both times causing NBC analyst Ryan Boyle to exclaim, “KNOW YOUR SCOUT!”
Leading 14-4 heading into the fourth quarter, the Whipsnakes coasted to a comfortable 15-7 victory and clinched their ticket to the inaugural PLL Championship game in Philadelphia. Chaos will have to regroup as they head off to New York and meet a Redwoods team that is on a two-game win streak and is firing on all cylinders.