Woods weather second-half surge to beat Cannons

By Austin Owens | Jun 5, 2021

In their inaugural game in the Premier Lacrosse League, the Cannons gave the Redwoods all they could handle and more, but in a back-and-forth affair at Gillette Stadium, it was the Woods coming out with a 12-11 victory on Friday night. 

Rob Pannell and Myles Jones led the way offensively for the Woods, finishing with four points apiece. Pannell had a hat trick while Jones scored two of his own. 

Paul Rabil was the Cannons’ offensive leader, posting a hat trick while adding an assist. 

Tim Troutner earned the victory in net, stopping 19 shots in the process. His counterpart, Nick Marrocco, was equally as impressive, turning away 21 shots. 

Lyle Thompson didn’t wait long to start off his PLL career with a bang, scoring on a diving shovel shot just 58 seconds in. 

“I grabbed the ball and looked at the clock and there was six seconds. So I knew I didn’t have time. I either had to make an early feed or commit to going to the net,” Thompson said of his first PLL goal. “I know that inside, I get jammed up and defenders can contest it a little better and make me stop. He gave me my left hand so I went to the left hand and the shovel shot and put it in the back of the net.”

That was quickly followed by a transition marker from defender Holden Garlent, who was also making his PLL debut. 

The Cannons hopped out to a quick 3-0 lead -- with Thompson burying his second goal of the game -- just minutes into the first frame, but a Jones goal at the 8:26 mark got the Redwoods on the board. 

Garlent wasn’t the only unlikely scorer for the Cannons in the first frame, as Tyson Bell got out in transition and ripped a shot just inside the 2-point arc to widen his team’s lead. 

Pannell came up big to end the first quarter, scoring two of his three on the night. Those goals bookended tallies from Matt Kavanagh and Andrew Kew, respectively. After the first 12 minutes, the Cannons held a slim 5-4 advantage.

Nat St. Laurent’s side came out firing to start the second though. Jones tallied his second of the game before Jules Heningburg notched his first of 2021 just 9:52 into the quarter. Their run continued with a man-up goal from Sergio Perkovic to make it 7-5. 

The Cannons found themselves in a slump offensively, as the Redwoods’ stingy defense started to settle into the contest. 

Ryan Lee notched his first PLL goal to cap off a five-goal run by the Redwoods to end the first half. 

They walked into the locker room with an 8-5 advantage.

TD Ierlan lived up to his reputation as a dominant force at the stripe early on, going 12 of 18 in the first half. 

Troutner and Marrocco were each at the top of their games, turning away 10 shots apiece through the first two quarters. 

Coming out for the second half, the Cannons quickly closed the deficit, going on a three-goal run. Ryan Drenner dodged from X and got topside for a shot with his hands free to start it. That was followed by Rabil’s first of the year off an alley dodge and Kew’s second on a quick shot at the top of the crease. 

That would be the only scoring we’d see in the third stanza, as it was the Cannons flipping the script, holding the Woods scoreless in the third. 

Rabil continued the Cannons’ run into the fourth, as he cut through the middle and finished off a Stephen Rehfuss feed from behind the cage. That put the Cannons back into the lead for the first time since the first frame. 

Rabil completed his hat trick minutes later with a step down opportunity, which he blew past Troutner. Drenner added on with a finish off some great ball movement in transition. 

“What I’m taking away from tonight is having a good second half. I thought I did well in the first half, but I missed some chances I should have hit,” Rabil said following the game. “It’s hard to rebound from that. But I was seeing a lot of support from the team in the locker room.”

That six-goal run would finally be halted by Heningburg with 7:12 remaining. He was left wide open on the crease after Jones drew a slide and dished it inside. 

With just under 5:30 to play in the fourth, Lee pulled the Woods to within one with a quick stick finish on the crease off a feed from Pannell, and two minutes later, Matt Kavanagh squared it at 11.

The game of runs continued, as a Kew offside penalty gave the Woods a 30-second man up opportunity. They were able to rotate the ball around the perimeter and find an open Pannell, who stung a shot top corner past Marrocco to make it a 12-11 game with just over 1:30 to play. 

The Cannons had a few chances in the final minute to knot the game, but once again, the Woods’ defense came up big, not allowing a shot to be directed at Troutner.

Ierlan won 21 of 27 draws, good for a 78-percent clip on the night. He got the game ball from Coach St. Laurent for his efforts.  

“I didn’t want a young rookie to come into the league -- when he’s already playing against the best in the world -- and feel like the world is on his shoulders,” St. Laurent said post game. “We just need him to be him and Coach Mac (Todd MacFarlane) has done a great job with him and our wings were terrific. 

“I tried to make sure we did everything we could to make sure there was no pressure on him. We just kept telling him, ‘If we can get to 50 percent, we’re going to be in every game.’ I don’t even know what the numbers were, but for him to do what he did was great.”

The Redwoods’ season opener also signaled the first contest in Kyle Harrison’s final season. The legendary midfielder announced on Thursday that 2021 would be his ‘One Last Ride’.

Harrison finished the game with a ground ball and a pair of shots, one that rang off the crossbar from distance. While this game was the first of what should be a memorable send off for one of the all-time greats, Harrison kept the focus on the team’s accomplishments. 

“I’m not an emotional guy by nature. I’ve been playing for 30 years now. But there was something different tonight about running out on that field and doing the pre-game routine and waving to my parents in the stands,” Harrison said. “But more importantly, this was a big night and a big step for the Redwoods. 

“Even meeting this morning, I made it very clear that while this is my last year, that’s not our focus. Our focus is on finishing what we started three years ago, which was winning a PLL Championship. So it was a good step for us tonight to get a win. Obviously, there’s some things to clean up, but it’s a good step forward.”

The Redwoods get out to a 1-0 start to open the season, they’ll have the chance to sweep their weekend doubleheader on Sunday when they take on Chrome at 3:45 p.m. ET. 

The Cannons will still have a chance to get back to .500 this weekend, as they’ll also be back in action on Sunday when they take on the Waterdogs at 1:00 p.m. ET.

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