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Digesting Major League Lacrosse: Week 7

0 - Published June 19, 2014 by in Featured, Major League Lacrosse, Pro Lacrosse

You know that scene in Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” (if you haven’t seen it, and you’re old enough to do so, go get it immediately, then get back to me and we’ll figure out everything else you’ve been doing wrong with yourself) where the poor, working class folks move on up to the fancy part of town, only to start kicking down doors and breaking up tea parties?

That’s pretty much what happened in week seven, as three of the bottom four teams rose up to take the upper-class down a peg. Of course, the Denver Outlaws were immune to the rise of the proletariat (even with the week six loss, the Outlaws aren’t rich right now, they’re wealthy, and these things often don’t affect them), but everyone was put on notice: your leads aren’t safe; this season is far from over.

Major League Lacrosse Week 7 Highlights

Ohio 18, Rochester 13

Not only did the Machine put up a franchise-record 18 goals and win their first home game of the season, but most of all, for the first time in their three-year history, they won a third game. Last year they didn’t win their second game until August; now, they’ve got three convincing wins at the halfway mark of the season.

After playing the second half in week six, Brian Phipps went the distance for the Machine, and played the entire game, and with two point-blank saves in the first four shots of goal, held off an early Rattlers charge that could have put Ohio in trouble early.

With both Mark Matthews and Dan Hardy held out of the lineup for the Rattlers, Mark Cockerton was penciled back in at midfield while Jordan Wolf made his MLL debut at attack. Wolf, who only needed 23:40 to record his first career hat trick, showed no sign of first-game jitters; when he wasn’t getting inside position on his defenders, he was just running right by them, or executing two man plays with his new teammates. When all was said and done, the MLL Rookie of the Week finished with a team-high five points on four goals and an assist.

After Peter Baum’s man-up goal tied the game at ten, John Galloway appeared to lose his mind and began intermittently yelling at the refs for about two minutes, which if you’re an offensive player, is pretty much the same as a giant green light flashing above his head. With Galloway on tilt, the Machine went on to score eight of the next ten goals, Marcus Holman personally scoring four of them.

Speaking of scoring goals, remember last year when Ohio’s offense didn’t put up double digits until their seventh game of the season? Well, in the three weeks since their 11-9 loss to the Lizards, they’ve put up 15, 16 and 18 goals, respectively, and now lead the league in total goals. In this game alone, Baum tallied a career-high five goals and six points, Steele Stanwick handed out a career-high six assists and Marcus Holman scored a career-high five goals of his own.

Along with Logan Schuss tossing in another casual four-goal game, Ohio’s offense has been absolutely merciless as of late. Who do you focus on? Who do you slide from? Good luck with that.

Charlotte 14, Florida 13

Much like their classmates in Ohio, the Hounds are trending upward as well, not only winning their second game in a row but, in the process, taking out another team with a winning record.

Maybe it’s because the first one went in, and maybe he just felt good in the morning walkthrough, but either way, Mike Sawyer started the game off chucking up shots left and right. We’re talking six shots in the first six minutes of the game, and while that pace eventually tapered off, Sawyer still finished with three goals and a season-high
four points.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s newcomers continued to produce at a high level. Mike Chanenchuk contributed four points, Justin Ward provided another one goal, three assist performance (his third in his three-game career) and their game-winning goal came to be thanks to Pat Laconi doing, without a doubt, the Pat Laconi-est thing he could have possibly done.

If you’re unfamiliar with Laconi’s work, not only did the rookie from Loyola cause two turnovers per game with the Greyhounds this spring (first in Division 1 among short-stick defensive midfielders), but he tossed in 11 goals as well. After a diving check on Kevin Crowley put the ball on the ground, Charlotte sent it the other way, Laconi joined the break and drained what proved to be the game-winner.

With an influx of young talent, an established veteran tends to take one of two paths: either the “Thanks for showing up, now head to X and chase down my shots,” or “Let’s all work together to establish the best possible outcome.”

If Saturday’s game is any indication, Matt Danowski has opted for the latter. Taking only four shots (his lowest one-game total since 2009) Danowski quietly blended in to the offensive scheme, making his presence felt with a goal and two assists, but most notably on the ride, forcing two failed clears that immediately led to Charlotte goals. If Danowski maintains a dedication to making the extra pass and contributing in ways that don’t necessarily show up in the box score, the team will greatly benefit as a whole.

Chesapeake 16, Boston 15

Saturday evening marked what’s become a typical matchup between these two teams, as for the third time in their past four meetings, the Chesapeake-Boston game was decided by just one goal. Led by Ben Hunt’s career-high eight points (including six goals on seven shots) and five goals from Brendan Mundorf, who has scored 11 of his 23 points this season in two games against the Cannons, the Bayhawks scored a season-high 16 goals, snapping their four-game losing streak in their process.

After the Bayhawks scored three unanswered goals to give themselves a 7-4 lead in the second quarter, Nicky Polanco picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (along with a five-minute misconduct), because he is a Bayhawk, and Bayhawks like making things really, really difficult for themselves.

From that point on, Boston’s Stephen Berger stepped into the spotlight for the remainder of the game. Not sure what was said between Berger and Polanco, but there’s clearly a history there; last year, then-Lizard Berger helped kick off an altercation in which both Polanco and Kevin Unterstein were ejected.

Fast forward to Saturday, where Berger scored a goal, Polanco shoved him in the head, and Berger answered with a man-up goal just 27 seconds later. Berger went on to score two more goals during that second quarter, then picked up a three-minute illegal stick penalty in the second half, the Bayhawks converting twice during the ensuing power play. Finally, with Boston trailing by a goal and seconds remaining, Berger snuck in a diving backhanded goal to tie things up, only Chesapeake’s Dave Cottle challenged the goal, Berger’s foot was ruled in the crease, and the Bayhawks hung on to win.

After another one-goal loss, and the second consecutive week of giving up a season-high 16 goals, the big question around the Cannons pertains to the recent disappearance of their defense. Take a look at the first four games in comparison to the last three. The first four games? Only 33 goals allowed. The last three? 43. Jordan Burke is seeing two more shots per game these days, not that big a difference, but his save percentage has dropped from 61.5% to 46.3%. While Burke has reached 61.5% back in 2011, it was not only his career-high, but the third-best percentage in league history, and highest since 2006; probably best not to assume we’ll see that again.

Throughout his career, Burke’s average is actually 56%, and once you mix the early season highs with the recent lows, he’s currently sitting at 54% this year. Of course goalie numbers aren’t all about the goalie himself (what kind of shots are being given up, how often the team is killing a penalty, etc. come into play), but the figures (and general common sense) indicate that Boston’s days of holding most opponents to single digits are most likely long gone.

Denver 16, New York 11

It didn’t take long for the Denver to right the ship, as the Outlaws rebounded from their week six loss in Charlotte with a dominant performance against the Lizards. With their neighbors in the top half of the standings all picking up losses this weekend, the Outlaws move another step closer to clinching a trip to the playoffs (it’s not too early to begin the playoff talk; last year they clinched after week nine), with a two game lead now separating them from their nearest competition.

Chris Bocklet was out with an injury, but even without 2013’s leading scorer in their lineup, the Denver offense did just fine. In fact, the two highest-scoring games of the Denver season have come in the past two weeks, about 75% of which has been done without Bocklet. It’s certainly not to say Bocklet’s been dragging the offense down by any means, but the attack line of Eric Law, John Grant Jr and Curtis Dickson didn’t just beat their defenders, they made them look inconsequential.

It’s always good to have a few weeks of game footage before making this an official diagnosis, but, well, it looks like Curtis Dickson’s going to be a serious problem. Every second he’s out there, Denver’s decision to keep hanging on to his rights for all these years seems increasingly logical. Between sprinting past his defenders and running the point off Anthony Kelly-led fast breaks, Dickson finished the game with four goals and three assists, at one point scoring or assisting on five goals in a six-goal Denver run in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, nobody in the league is playing from X quite like Eric Law these days, and the game’s first three goals illustrated that he’s equally dangerous as a distributor, finisher and carrier, respectively. First, he sprints upfield, draws a double and finds Drew Snider alone in the slot. Next, while the other Outlaws move the ball, Law curls from around X, past his ball-watching defenders, and Jeremy Sieverts finds him alone on the crease. Lastly, after getting Brian Karalunas hung up at the front of the goal, Law simply dives from X before Drew Adams can get near pipe and make the save.

By the end of the third quarter, the Outlaws were up 16-5; the final looked far more respectable, but for the majority of this game, nobody was exactly biting their nails. That having been said, after Jesse Schwartzman checked out with a ten-goal lead, giving up six unanswered goals is nothing to be proud of, regardless of the score or time left on the clock. Furthermore, New York’s late run meant that the Outlaws and Lizards ended up scoring eight goals apiece in the second half. It’s something we discussed just a few weeks ago; letting teams crawl back into games, or taking their collective feet off the gas, remains a red flag with this Denver team.

With home playoff games at stake this year, something like point differential can’t be taken lightly, especially if the Outlaws are going to drop any more games this season.

Quick: Which Major League Lacrosse teams are the league’s easy matchups? Seems a bit more difficult to say that it did a few weeks ago.

When you’ve got the bottom two teams combining for 30 points, both in winning efforts, all bets are off (assuming you were foolish enough to place your bets). Consistency is key, but if you’ve been waiting for those who struggled early to shake things off and begin to climb the ladder, you may very well be in luck.

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