“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk – All Lacrosse All The Time, a Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
The 2022 PLL Championship game took place at Subaru Field in Philadelphia on Sunday. Waterdogs, the #5 seed in this year’s playoffs, matched up against #7 seed Chaos. Both teams were coming off semifinal upset wins, with the main question being the health of several Waterdogs, particularly attackman Michael Sowers. Behind a 4-point effort from Kieran McArdle and stellar goaltending from Dillon Ward, Waterdogs beat Chaos 11-9 to win their first ever PLL Championship.
First half festival
Chaos opened the game on a three goal-run, as Waterdogs struggled out of the gate. Challen Rogers got things going at 2:14, followed by Josh Byrne beating Ward at the 3:03 mark. Thirty-seven seconds later, defenseman Matt Rees would fire a shot from the 2-point arc to extend the lead to 3-0. Initially ruled a 2-point goal, replays showed his foot touching the arc at the time of the shot.
Waterdogs finally got on the board when Connor Kelly (5:03) faked low and found the top corner on Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden. The teams would then trade goals in the last 35 seconds of the first quarter: Mac O’Keefe (11:26) for Chaos, and Sowers (11:35) for Waterdogs to make it 4-2 Chaos. The end of the first quarter also saw tensions start to escalate. Chaos’s Byrne and Waterdogs midfielder Zach Currier were both assessed penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Sowers’ goal was the first of a four-goal run for Waterdogs into the second quarter. Jack Hannah assisted McArdle (1:14) to trim the lead to one, then Sowers assisted Ryan Conrad (3:28) to tie it up at 4-4. McArdle tallied his second goal at 5:18 to give Waterdogs their first lead of the game. Byrne (6:59) would respond with his second goal to even the game at 5-5 going into halftime.
Third quarter run puts Waterdogs ahead for good
Chaos made an adjustment at halftime, employing a man-to-man defensive scheme to start the second half. However, Waterdogs exploited the scheme, breaking the game open with a four-goal run, all of which were unassisted. Conrad’s second (0:26), Sowers’ second (2:17), Conrad’s hat-trick goal (5:11), and Hannah on a narrow-angled shot (5:44) built a 9-5 lead. Rees (6:48) would cut the Chaos deficit in half, with no question this time about any feet touching the line of the 2-point arc. Kyle Jackson would follow at 8:30 to make it 9-8 Waterdogs heading into the final quarter.
Ethan Walker pushed the lead back to two just 20 seconds in to the fourth quarter. Chris Cloutier, who had been kept in check for most of the game, buried one past Ward at 3:14 to make it 10-9. Fittingly enough, McArdle, the league leader in assists, fed Kelly (7:41) for the final goal of the season.
Chaos tried to mount another comeback, but after a borderline hit by Chris Sabia on Josh Byrne, tempers flared again. Sabia was given a one-minute non-releasable penalty for instigating. Chaos forward Chase Fraser was given a two-minute non-releasable penalty for throwing a punch. This left Chaos a man down at the end of the game, and Waterdogs ran out the clock on their first ever PLL Championship.
Other Stats of Note
- McArdle (Waterdogs): 2g, 2a
- Sowers (Waterdogs): 2g, 1a; named Championship MVP
- Byrne (Chaos): 2g
- Riorden (Chaos): 17 saves, 2a
- Ward (Waterdogs): 13 saves
- Jake Withers (Waterdogs): 13 of 23 on faceoffs; 11 ground balls (led all players)
- Ground Balls: Chaos 28; Waterdogs 43
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.