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Digesting Major League Lacrosse: Week 3

0 - Published May 15, 2014 by in Featured, Major League Lacrosse, Pro Lacrosse

For a second there, it looked like things were headed back to business as usual and this whole “parity” thing was on its way out.

Well, about that: After week three, five teams are sitting at 1-2, the teams that met in the 2013 Major League Lacrosse Championship are at the bottom of the pile and once more, the league has turned us all into a bunch of season three Jon Snows, reminding us on a weekly basis that we, in fact, know nothing.

Is it time to accept this as our new reality?

It just might be.

In case you missed anything, here’s a closer look at week three:

Rochester Rattlers 15, New York Lizards 9

As you might remember, these teams met way back in week one, and the Rattlers picked up exactly where they left off. The Lizards, on the other hand, scored half as many goals as they did the first time.

Rochester’s offense was comprised of nine different goal-scorers, led by Dave Lawson (of his 29 career points, 16 have come in his four games against the Lizards), who scored three goals and an assist on his way to game MVP honors. Steven Boyle picked up his first hat trick since July 7, 2012, and not only did Sam Bradman’s Happy Gilmore-esque shooting stroke find the back of the net for the first time in his MLL career, but he began initiating the offense, driving to the goal and setting others up for scoring opportunities for the first time as well.

On the opposite end of the field, the Rattlers defense held the Lizards to just two goals in the second half, with a scoring drought of just over 22 minutes in the second half. After his six goal performance back in week one, Rob Pannell was held without a goal for the second time in his career, and three assists, all of which came in the first half of the game. It should be noted, however, that one of those assists was to Ned Crotty. That’s right folks, Pannell to Crotty has become a reality. Rob passed up a completely open look on the doorstep, sent it cross-crease to Crotty for the goal, then, I’m pretty sure, mentally flicked off half the lacrosse experts on the internet.

When he wasn’t busy on defense, Mike Manley jumped up to handle wing duties on a faceoff, grabbing a loose ball and scoring his second two-pointer of the season. Manley has six points this season; in the other 24 games of his career, he had a total of three. Along with Joel White, who’s never been afraid to shoot, the Rattlers poles have successfully established themselves as legitimate offensive threats without getting all…Boston-y with it, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Denver Outlaws 10, Boston Cannons 9 (OT)

All the Denver Outlaws do is win, win, win, regardless of circumstance. Their scoring is down like everyone else’s (pour some out for the Grippy Ball; gone but not forgotten), and they’re not blowing anybody out of the water (three of their last six regular season games were decided by no more than two points), but somehow, someway, they just keep getting it done.

If you’re a Boston fan, and you’re big on “What If,” here’s a mighty good place to start: Chris Eck was off graduating from business school (and congrats to him), so Craig Bunker stepped in to handle faceoff duties for the first time this season. Bunker won 9-23 draws (39%), whereas Eck went 24-38 (63%) when these teams last met. In a one-goal game, you have to wonder if those extra possessions could have been the difference.

The Cannons overcame the faceoff disparity thanks to their continually stout defense, which forced the Outlaws into multiple shot clock violations and “eh, here you go, take it” voluntary turnovers as time expired. Unfortunately for Cannons fans, it’s just that Denver’s defense was just a little better, limiting Boston’s main scoring options (Paul Rabil had four assists but was held to 0-8 shooting; Stephen Berger, Will Manny and Mike Stone were held to one point each) and killing off five of the six extra-man opportunities they allowed. Of course, it also helped that Jesse Schwartzman played out of his mind, racking up 24 saves (despite two collisions with crease-diving Cannons) on his way to his MLL-record 61st win in cage.

On a somewhat unrelated note, if you’re a midfielder who likes holding his stick up, catching his breath and hanging out on the defensive side of the field, Boston is the team for you. Even by their standards, the Boston poles spent a tremendous amount of time attacking the goal on Saturday. Both Scott Ratliff and Brodie Merrill scored goals, and at one point, Ratliff, Merrill and Kyle Sweeney were all on the offensive half at the same time, which, well, just seems like a bit much; tough to get the full offense going if they only get to us half their shot clock.

Back to the game itself, Kevin Buchanan continued the summer of Kevin Buchanan by tying the game (his third goal on the day) with just 26 seconds left, and Jordan Burke stopped a John Grant Jr behind the back shot to force overtime. Buchanan got an open look in the extra session, but Schwartzman made the save and the Outlaws were headed the other way for what became, without a doubt, the “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me”-est shot of the year thus far. Chris Bocklet took a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced back to him like Thor’s hammer. He grabbed it, padded his GB totals and shot again – game over. The lesson here is that winning streaks, while mostly talent-based, still require a little luck from time to time.

Actually, here’s the real lesson: if Chris Bocklet ever tries to get you to play H-O-R-S-E for money, just turn and walk away. That’s trouble you just don’t need.

Florida Launch 10, Ohio Machine 9

If you’re just joining us, Casey Powell leads the league in points, and was named week three’s offensive player of the week, just like he was in week two. Oh sorry, I meant just like he was in week two, 2001. To put that timespan into context, if Player of the Week awards were babies, Casey’s first one just had a bar mitzvah.

Powell scored the game-winning goal, his fifth of the evening, with two minutes left, and the Florida Launch came back to secure their second win in a row.

Florida scored the first four goals of the game, with Garrett Thul, once again covered by an unfortunate short stick, quickly scoring a goal and assisting on two more. Ohio then answered back with a six-goal run of their own, featuring goals by Dominique Alexander (seeing a greatly increased offensive role), Kiel Matisz (his first of the season) and newcomer Tom Schreiber, who scored a go-ahead goal and assisted on another in his debut.

In what you’d have to assume was some form of prearranged rookie hazing, Schreiber found himself stuck covering Casey Powell while trying to protect a two point Ohio lead. About five seconds later, Powell had brought that previously mentioned six-goal Machine run to a halt.

Logan Schuss scored a hat trick in his season debut, with Peter Baum contributing one of his own as well, but they definitely would have appreciated a little help: after accounting for eight goals last weekend against the Outlaws, Kevin Cooper, Kyle Harrison and Marcus Holman shot a combined 0 for 12. Take nothing away from Brett Queener, who had a solid day in the cage (including two saves on Baum in the last minute, one of the incredible, point-blank variety), but Ohio’s going to need a few more contributors on any given day if they expect to win.

Charlotte Hounds 12, Chesapeake Bayhawks 7

As ridiculous as it sounds, we should’ve known that a game against the Bayhawks was all it would take for the Hounds to bust out of their slump and get their groove back. After all, in their three trips to American Legion Memorial Stadium, the Chesapeake Bayhawks are yet to leave with a win. Unlike their previous appearances, however, this one was hardly ever in question; after just under five minutes, the Hounds had already jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Add that quick start to the fact that the Hounds won eight of the first ten faceoffs (14-21 total), and things never really looked good for your defending champs.

Adam Ghitleman was off coaching Harvard, but the Bayhawks had no answer for Pierce Bassett. Matt Danowski was off coaching Duke, but the Bayhawks had no answer for, well, a bunch of guys, really, but mainly Mike Sawyer, who shook off some early season rust with a hat trick, two of the goals coming in that four-goal rush out the gate.

There aren’t a lot of positive things to say about Chesapeake’s worst offensive showing since July of 2011 (for the record, that’s a span of 37 games), but Peet Poillon scored two goals, Ben Rubeor scored two impressive goals of his own (including your typical “buzzer-beating behind the back and off the goalie’s head while you’re both on the ground”) and, well, that’s about it.

If you didn’t watch a second of the game, here’s the main takeaway: for the first time this season, the Charlotte Hounds resembled the Hounds of 2013. Their play between the arcs is what distinguished them from many of the other teams in the league, and Mason Poli’s (one assist and a huge-two pointer that doubled Charlotte’s lead at the time) return to the lineup, along with a far more productive Kevin Drew and Josh Hawkins, had a great deal to do with the return to form.

So, now what? Weren’t the Hounds supposed to be awful, and the Bayhawks the ones who had turned everything around? Despite this past weekend’s results, are you really comfortable saying the opposite is true? Maybe time will sort everything out, but for now, the fact remains that we still know nothing. Let’s enjoy it while we can, it’s not a bad thing at all.

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