By: Steven MacDonald
Week five in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) continues Saturday as the third place Redwoods square off against the league leading Whipsnakes.
The history of this rivalry shows that this game will be another instant classic. The Redwoods won the first ever meeting, but the Whipsnakes have won every meeting since. The most notable Whipsnakes wins in this series include a pair of overtime games: the 2019 championship game and the 2020 semi-finals.
The Whipsnakes have been the No. 1 team for all but one week in 2021. They possess the PLL’s fifth rated offense coming into week five, highlighted by their second ranked power play unit, and are fifth defensively. The Whipsnakes are the league’s second rated faceoff unit thanks to specialist Joe Nardella.
With attackman Matt Rambo absent from the lineup again this weekend, the Whipsnakes offense will rely heavily on the play of Zed Williams, Jay Carlson, Brad Smith, and Chris Aslanian.
Following the trade with Cannons that netted the Whipsnakes midfielder Chris Hogan and faceoff specialist Drew Simoneau, the former will suit up in the place of short-stick defensive midfielder Matt Abbott. It will be Hogan’s second time this season appearing on an active PLL roster.
The Redwoods come into week five of play with the league’s No. 3 offense and power play unit.
On the defensive side of the field the Redwoods rank fourth giving up 12.2 goals per game, while holding the PLL’s No. 1 penalty killing unit.
Rookie TD Ierlan leads the league in faceoff percentage at 68 percent and, as a result, the Redwoods are the No. 1 faceoff unit in the PLL.
Led by attackman Rob Pannell with 10 goals and 10 assists, the Redwoods have four other players with double figure points. Three of those four players reside in the midfield with Myles Jones, Sergio Perkovic, and Jules Heningburg.
A Final Thought:
The matchup to watch for in this game is at the stripe between Ierlan and Nardella as they represent the top two faceoff specialists in the league.