ALBANY — The Premier Lacrosse League delivered an entertaining weekend at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium for the second time in as many trips, and Connor Fields made sure fans headed home on a high note.
As Fields saw it, he owed that to them.
“The fans here, I think, are the best in lacrosse,” Fields said Sunday after scoring the game-winning goal, in sudden-victory overtime, to conclude the PLL’s regular season. “They’re loud. They’re very true fans, and they love the game and love their team.”
There has long been a special affection, too, for Fields from Capital Region lacrosse fans. He produced one dazzling highlight after another for head coach Scott Marr’s UAlbany men’s lacrosse program, signed countless autographs and concluded his high-scoring college career by leading the Great Danes to the 2018 national semifinals despite playing with a torn ACL.
And, Sunday, Fields offered Capital Region fans yet another moment to remember when he lifted the Archers to a 15-14 win against the Whipsnakes. Facing a single defender, Fields was able to get a step and gain enough separation to wind up for his trademark lefty shot before celebrating with his teammates.
“It’s just really cool to be back out here again, in front of them,” Fields said during a post-game press conference regarding the home crowd at Casey Stadium, a venue where he totaled so many of the points he produced during a college career that concluded with him ranked No. 2 on the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse scoring list. “They make the experience one to remember.”
In a weekend filled with close games and appearances from former UAlbany and Capital Region stars, the traveling professional league concluded its regular season Sunday with a pair of one-goal games, the first decided on a shot in the final minute of regulation and the second on Fields’ score. None of the PLL’s six games played in Albany were decided by more than three goals, and half of the contests were won by a single score.
The PLL also played at Casey Stadium during its 2019 debut season. The league was slated to play in Albany in 2020, but the PLL instead played its games in a bubble-like atmosphere at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday’s action wrapped a trio of days at Casey Stadium for the PLL. Friday’s action featured a lengthy weather delay and didn’t finish until past 1 a.m. Saturday, and Saturday night’s games included the return of Great Danes legend Lyle Thompson to compete at UAlbany for the first time since 2015. In all, six former Great Danes competed during the PLL’s weekend at Casey Stadium, while Stephen Rehfuss — a Latham native and Shaker High School graduate — registered two goals and an assist playing back in the Capital Region after wrapping his college career at Syracuse earlier this year.
The Archers’ 15-14 win Sunday followed the Redwoods’ 10-9 win against the Chaos.
Fields said Sunday’s game-winning goal instantly became “one of the top ones,” in terms of memories made on the UAlbany turf, right up there with winning America East Conference championships and the Great Danes’ memorable NCAA tournament win against North Carolina in 2017.
“Every time I’m on this field, I have such a great time playing out here,” Fields said during an on-field, post-game interview minutes after his game-deciding score.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
In Sunday’s first game, the Redwoods emerged with a 10-9 win after Ryder Garnsey was able to beat the Chaos’ defense — including goalie Blaze Riorden, a former Great Dane — with 19 seconds to go in regulation.
“Blaze played a great game, so I was lucky to get one by him,” Gansey said during an on-field, post-game interview.
Riorden made 13 saves for the Chaos, a club that also features former UAlbany star Troy Reh.
Riorden finished the season with 149 saves, a dozen more than anyone else in the league.
Riorden said it was “surreal” to play back at UAlbany.
“This is a special place for me — my second home,” Riorden said.
IERLAN MISSES GAME
Former UAlbany standout TD Ierlan didn’t play in Sunday’s game between the Chaos and Redwoods after he suffered a right-knee injury during the second half of the Redwoods’ game Friday night.
Ierlan was interviewed during Sunday’s game on the PLL’s broadcast, and said he’ll have an MRI this week to help determine if he’ll be able to play in the postseason.
“It’s getting better every day,” Ierlan said. “Had some really promising signs [Saturday] and [Sunday] after what we thought was going to be a pretty unfortunate injury during the game Friday.”
Prior to his injury, Ierlan had taken 203 of 206 faceoffs this season for the Redwoods. A rookie in the PLL, Ierlan finished second in the league in faceoff winning percentage at 65%, just behind Trevor Baptiste. Ierlan also finished second to Baptiste in total ground balls this season.
During his record-setting college career, Ierlan played two seasons for UAlbany before transferring to Yale and eventually finishing up his NCAA career at Denver this past spring.
With the regular season over, the PLL’s postseason bracket is set.
The Waterdogs are the top seed and earned a bye into the Sept. 5 semifinals in Philadelphia.
In next weekend’s quarterfinals in Salt Lake City, the No. 2 Atlas will play the No. 7 Cannons; the third-seeded Archers will play the sixth-seeded Chaos; and, the No. 4 Redwoods will play the No. 5 Whipsnakes.
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