Utah Archers faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger

Why new faceoff rule should only help Archers’ vaunted 32-second offense

By Zach Carey | May 31, 2024

In 2023, the Utah Archers rode rookie faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger and the league’s most efficient 32-second offense to the club’s first title. 

In 2024, long poles are no longer allowed to take draws. What does that mean for one of the club’s biggest on-field strengths? 

“The hope is it benefits us,” Archers head coach Chris Bates said Thursday at PLL training camp in Albany, N.Y. “We’ve obviously got a good [faceoff specialist] that gives us possession pretty consistently.” 

Sisselberger did more than just give Utah possession as a rookie. He and the Archers faceoff unit led the league with the quickest average time between establishing possession and getting the ball to the team’s offensive personnel. With the 32-second shot clock after faceoffs, that’s critical. Now, without long sticks battering Sisselberger after every clamp, that time should only shrink in 2024. 

“It’s gonna be a little easier on the arms, for sure,” Sisselberger said with a slight smile. 

The offense could benefit as a result – even if opposing teams using true faceoff specialists means Sisselberger doesn’t win at as high of a rate. He noted that, on faceoff wins, there’s particular value in his initial matchup not being a pole. 

“Instead of maybe [setting] a pick down and you bring another pole into the mix, now you’re bringing a short-stick d-middie and maybe [we] get one on one of our top offensive guys,” Sisselberger said. “Getting a short stick on those guys and hopefully getting them to stay is a lot easier than keeping a pole on defense and getting off from there.” 

With dodgers like Connor Fields and Matt Moore, passers like Grant Ament and Tom Schreiber and shooters like Mac O’Keefe and Tre Leclaire, instant offense is in abundance for the Archers. The staff’s post-faceoff offensive scheme facilitates further success. 

“I think the biggest thing is just the genius brain behind our offense and our coaching staff,” Sisselberger said. “I think any faceoff guy would do well in this situation here on this team. Thankfully, I’m in those shoes. So whatever we write up, I just follow the plan and get it to the offense and they seem to be pretty good at what they do.” 

In Saturday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Waterdogs, the clubs’ opposing faceoff strategies will battle once more. This time without defenseman Eli Gobrecht and his six-foot pole as a thorn in Sisselberger’s side. 

“We’re interested to see, even this weekend, how the Waterdogs are going to try to go without a faceoff guy and what their strategies are,” Bates said. “So it’s a bit of a chess match. But I think [Sisselberger] will keep the process moving forward in being that much more efficient.”

The Waterdogs are likely to throw the kitchen sink at the faceoff stripe in Saturday’s 2023 title rematch. Philadelphia does not have a faceoff specialist on its 25-man roster. So whether it’ll be do-it-all midfielder Zach Currier taking draws like he did last year, Ryan Conrad mixing in after facing off during the Championship Series, Gobrecht taking reps with a short stick or any other host of options, the Archers will have to be ready for anything. 

But with Sisselberger, the club’s offensive personnel and its coaching staff, they’re set up for an even more successful season at the stripe in 2024.