The variables couldn’t have been much better. Opening up a Saturday night at one of the biggest lacrosse meccas of the world, and playing in front of a sold-out crowd. With fans on either side cheering them on, and an overtime victory for the Chrome, Homewood Field could be heard across the world.
I didn’t even mention the players out of position, locker room intensity, and the guys getting chippy on the field. This game was not just about the 5 goal comeback in the fourth quarter, but the environment surrounding it. Everything surrounding the game from on and off the field, quite frankly, makes it the best PLL game of 2022 and possibly in the history of the league.
This Chrome team is good. Very good. But everyone knows that to be in the PLL, you need to be the best of the best. Not only does this make the good teams great, but it means that every team has enough talent to win every matchup on their schedule.
The Cannons may have not headed into week 4 with a good record, but their team is incredibly talented. With some of the best offensive depth in the league with Lyle Thompson, Asher Nolting, Ryan Drenner, and the occasional goal from Ryan Tierney, the Cannons live up to their name with firepower on that side of the ball.
However, matched up against the best defense in the league, the Cannons may have met their match. The Chrome lead the league in SAA (scores against average) and ground-balls, with a close second place for caused turnovers.
As the teams walked onto the field Saturday evening, I sat puzzled in the press box in a state of indecisiveness. Although there was a clear favorite due to record, I honestly couldn’t decide on a favorite for this game. As I sat wondering about the outcome of the game, the Cannons proved my thinking correct by heating up to start the game.
Cannons Fire Off
What makes a good game is when you don’t know who’s dominating. Luckily, in the first quarter, that’s what we received with an even score of 3-3. The Chrome scored two, the Cannons scored two, and each team scored one apiece to end off the quarter.
There was no clear winner in this first quarter. The Chrome made some great transition plays while the Cannons stayed patient and found the best shots. This meant that there was absolutely nothing to indicate the stellar performance we were about to witness in the second period.
Starting the second quarter with each team finding the back of the net, the Cannons’ artillery laid it down on the Chrome, scoring 3 unanswered goals to end the half, heading to the locker room with a score of 7-4. The Cannons’ offense was spectacular, and Marrocco was protecting the goal like his career depended on it. All was going well. Too well.
The Chromeback: Formulation
The first half was chippy and physical, and some of the Chrome were getting hotheaded. The game wasn’t over, but you could clearly tell by watching the game that this team wasn’t mentally there. Then, almost like a lighter to rekindle the dwindling fire of the Chrome roster, enters Jesse Bernhardt.
"We're better than that."
🗣 Inside the locker room at the half. pic.twitter.com/Fd241n92vQ
— Chrome Lacrosse Club (@PLLChrome) June 25, 2022
This halftime speech, although not suited to a younger audience, is exactly what this Chrome team needed. Bernhardt is the heart and soul of the defense, a leader by example when it comes to mentality and drive. Bernhardt is what this team needed, and as they ran on the field for the second half, the energy had clearly shifted.
We must not forget that the league is made up of the best professional lacrosse players. Lyle Thompson and Asher Nolting wouldn’t just let the Chrome walk all over them. No, adversity makes them strengthen tenfold. Thompson assisted Nolting twice in this third quarter, while the defensive halftime speech didn’t spur the Chrome offense enough to score even one goal.
I sat, looking across Homewood Field as the quarter came to a close. Although I had my doubts about this comeback, there was something different about this game.
The fans were still in it, even through adversity. The sun began to set with the lights shining bright, and under these lights I noticed something. The Chrome weren’t done. I don’t mean that in the normal sense of ‘playing until the final whistle’. This team was not simply hungry, they were starving, foaming at the mouth, simply waiting for the fourth quarter to start.
This team was different from the one in the first half. Bernhardt, throughout the game, was firing up his teammates and getting vocal with the opposition and referees. His energy, although not completely positive, was fueled by the need to win. This is what the Chrome needed leading into the fourth quarter.
The Chromeback: Heat Building
The fourth quarter began as the crowd began to cheer. Not as strong as before, but the fan presence was there. Eli Salama scored in transition, and Thomspon fired back. The Chrome would not let up, with Justin Anderson finding the net.
Bubba Fairman of the Cannons made an incredible goal in transition, which hushed the Chrome fans throughout the stadium. Even as Mike Messenger dived for a score, you could tell hope seemed lost as the Cannons led 11-7 with 6 minutes to go.
The Chromeback: The Final Episode
6 minutes turned to 5, then quickly to 4. Then 3 minutes came, and with no scores since Messenger, the crowd began to fade. Concessions were packed, with people clearing their seats to beat the halftime rush.
Two minutes came, and even I began to pack. I started preparing for the upcoming press conference and put away my notepad, putting my attention on my computer. Then, in the quarter of my eye, Justin Anderson makes a goal with 1:55 on the clock.
3 goal game, 1:30 left, and my mindset hadn’t changed. However, I was slightly interested, keeping an eye on the game as I prepared to congratulate the Cannons over Twitter. Then, with 1:21 left, Nichtern scores. I stop typing, as my eyes look up at the score. 11-9. With a two-pointer, although unrealistic, this is a one-possession game.
The crowd was getting louder, the fans were going back to their seats and crowding the fence near concessions to get a better view. Some gave up, deciding to watch the game broadcasted on the scoreboard.
Then, as time dipped below one minute, the crowd started to lose hope again. Cheering to support their team’s efforts, congratulating them on the fight. Those cheers went from polite to chaotic as Dylan Molloy scored with 0:53 seconds left.
The field was booming, the stands, although concrete, felt as if they were shaking. John Hopkins University was deafening, with fans of all ages eager to see what happened next.
Time ticked down, and the Chrome had possession. With 0:35 on the clock, Ryan Terefenko caught the ball at the top of the two-point line, and with a bit of open space, wound up to shoot.
With the adjacent defender on his left sticking to his man, the slide came from the opposite. Despite the open space on a longer shot, Terefenko faked, dipping underneath the slide man on his right, and stacked on top of him for better positioning. With nobody on his right and the defense hugging to his left, he was able to squeak into position closer to the crease, scoring the game-tying goal with 0:32 left.
The stadium erupted, and even I left my seat. 4 goals in a minute and a half? What kind of madness is this? I sat down quickly, hands on my head, in complete awe. The Chrome has attempted quite possibly the most incredible comeback since Paul and Mike Rabil formed the league in 2018.
Yet, I say ‘attempted’ for good reason. The job wasn’t finished. The clock struck 0:00, and the slate was clean. 11-11, 12 minutes of play, the first goal wins. This game was incredible. The Chrome were on a hot streak, and that could carry over and win them the game, but the Cannons were given time to recollect and dig deep to hold it down and leave with a victory. Nothing was set in stone.
Overtime begins, and it’s Chrome possession. They needed to play with patience, completely different from what they were asked of before. With this patience, they almost succeeded. A Chrome attackman found space from X, curling around the crease, winding up to shoot.
In almost an instant, this player went from winding up for a shot to laying face-up on the turf, with goalie Nick Marrocco standing on top of him. A flag goes through the air, and all seemed lost for the Cannons.
The penalty is assigned to a Cannons defender, giving the Cannons hope with Marrocco still in goal. With this, they got the ball back on man down and headed down the field.
The Cannons were in position, and as the ball made its way around, Chrome SSDM Mike Messenger causes a turnover and transitioned the Chrome into a fast-paced offense. Finally, lightning struck twice, as Messenger was passed the ball wide open across the crease, putting it in the goal and winning it for the Chrome 12 to 11.
From the bottom of my heart, this game specifically was the best lacrosse experience of my lifetime. The people in attendance made the match so much better, with a game so iconic it has garnished a name spoken by the masses: The Chromeback.
So much needed to happen in order for this game to exist. Do you know Mike Messenger, the game-winning scorer for the Chrome? He is an SSDM (short stick defensive midfielder) on their roster, yet Coach Soudan decided to play him on both sides of the ball. Mike’s message to the Cannons wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
The halftime speech by Bernhardt was almost movie-like, with the venue of Homewood Field in Baltimore adding to that cinematic value. Legendary intensity, back-and-forth shootouts, and utter dominance by both teams in their own regard made for a historic matchup.
Although the score may be replicated, and there will be bigger comebacks, hitting on all of those variables is something that will never be replicated. Finding another mystical single-game pairing of Magic Mike and The Wizard Wisnauskas isn’t something you can find again. A rookie sensation, doubted as an unlikely No. 1 pick, alongside an overlooked defensive midfielder who finds his way implemented into the offense? There won’t be anything like it.
The Chrome and Cannons are the reasons why I love the sport. With every piece intact and every scenario being met, you can make a night of Lacrosse an experience you will never forget. The Chromeback is easily the best PLL game of 2022, and absolutely is the best game we have seen from the league thus far.