MVP Williams nets six goals, leads Whipsnakes to PLL title
Simply the best
HERRIMAN, Utah — Chaos reigned for three quarters Sunday in the Premier Lacrosse League championship game.
But then Zed Williams, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, restored order.
Playing before a nationally televised audience, the Silver Creek Central School graduate erupted for six goals, including five in the final period, to lead the Whipsnakes to a pulsating 12-6 come-from-behind victory at Zions Bank Stadium to secure their second straight championship.
“I know the whole game our defense kept us in it,” Williams said in a postgame interview on NBC. “Kyle (Bernlohr) was standing on his head (in goal). I knew they were going to give us possessions. … I knew I had to make something happen in the fourth quarter.”
Then Williams paused and, in a halting voice, said: “This one is for my dad.”
The top seed, the Whipsnakes’ Brad Smith cut the deficit to 6-3 with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter, which was just a harbinger of things to come against No. 7 Chaos.
In the fourth quarter, John Haus closed the gap to 6-4 with his fourth goal of the championship series at the 10:12 mark, and then the floodgates opened as Williams, who was held scoreless in the overtime semifinal win over No. 4 Redwoods on Friday, began to work his magic.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, who had already tallied a first-period goal, found the back of the net five seconds later and then again at 9:41, 9:06, 8:11 and 2:45 of the final period. Combined with tallies by Jay Carlson at 9:19 and Matt Rambo at 5:15, it was more than enough to claim the glass Championship Cup.
“I think great teams are going to make a great run,” Chaos coach Andy Towers told NBC. “You certainly have to credit Zed Williams the way he shot the ball down the stretch. That kid made some incredible shots against arguably the best player and definitely the best goalie on the planet.”
Whipsnakes coach Jim Stagnitta said he felt his team had opportunities in the first half, but it was playing a “lot of one-on-one.”
“We kind of got back to our game plan in the second half,” he said.
It really kicked in during the final 12 minutes, led by Williams.
“I didn’t coach that,” Stagnitta said. “That just happened.”
It was hardly surprising that Williams came up big. During group play, the Whipsnakes beat Chaos, 12-7, a game in which Williams had four goals on five shots. On Sunday, Williams connected six times on 14 shots and was moved nearly to tears in his televised postgame interview on NBC upon receiving the MVP award that is named in honor of legendary lacrosse player Jim Brown.
“Zed, man, you’ve got to give credit to him,” said Rambo, who also had three assists. “He stepped up big. Thank God we have Zed on our team now.”
Mike Chanenchuk opened the scoring for the Whipsnakes with just a little more than a minute gone in the first period, and Williams’ first goal came about a minute later, staking the Whipsnakes to a 2-0 lead. But they didn’t score again until Smith’s goal with 4:40 remaining in the third period and Chaos appeared to be in control.
And then they weren’t.
“(Williams) is the nicest kid I’ve ever met in my life,” said Bernlohr, who finished with 16 saves. “Individually, he’s just so talented. It was just an unbelievable draft pick by Coach Stagnitta. You can’t say enough good things about Zed.”
PLL co-founder Paul Rabil couldn’t say enough things about the tournament either.
“We’re grateful, and it starts with our medical team, who installed a great protocol,” he told NBC. “… We’re the first league to pull this off, start to finish, without any COVID-19 threats. … And it’s special because our MVP is Zed Williams who hails from the Seneca Reservation. What we’ve been able to do amidst this global pandemic and amidst this conversation about social justice is special to us.”