Well, it’s official: the Boston Cannons are the Michael Myers of the lacrosse world. Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger… really you can take your pick, because it’s all the same, and you know exactly how this plays out. Our protagonists (played by about half the league – no team wanted to see the Cannons anywhere near championship weekend) hit them over the head with a bat and knocked them out to the tune of a 1-5 record.
What happened next? They sat down right next to the unconscious Cannons, said “whew, glad that’s over” (because that’s what they always do), and, well, things didn’t really work out so great. The moral to the story? When you have the chance, Finish. The. Job. If you mess around and let them back up, it’s time for the second act to begin, and you’re in trouble. For the Cannons, much like horror movie villains, it is the Little Things that matter.
In case you missed anything, here’s what went down in week ten:
New York Lizards 7, Denver Outlaws 16
The conditions were perfect, and the Outlaws delivered: not only did they become the first team to start a season 10-0, but they also did so in front of the largest crowd in MLL history, by defeating the New York Lizards, the last team to beat them in the regular season.
For about 80% of the first quarter, however, this game was shaping up to be everything the Lizards hoped for: Greg Gurenlian scoring off the faceoff, Brendan Mundorf getting stripped clean by Brian Karalunas, the Outlaws settling for low-quality shots… you name it. Suddenly Eric Law scores a goal, as he tends to do (12th in the league in goals, but he’s played in exactly half the league games), Jeremy Sieverts scores from about 20 yards out, and it’s all tied up at the end of the quarter like the Lizards’ momentum had never even materialized.
You know how some games have that “Uh oh…” moment? It could be anything: a big hit, huge save, whatever it is, if your team can’t respond right away, you know you’re in trouble. Long story short, when Jesse Schwartzman is sprinting fifty yards downfield and dishing to Matt Bocklet, who then toe-drags his way past Max Seibald for the go-ahead goal, all bets are officially off. The Outlaws never looked back, scoring nine of the next ten goals and leaving very little suspense with regard to the outcome.
Chesapeake Bayhawks 13, Ohio Machine 12
Grinding their way to a seemingly inevitable second win, the Ohio Machine went toe to toe with the defending champs (and almost pulled off the upset) in a back-and-forth battle that featured eight ties (including at the end of each of the first three quarters) and a series of 30-40 second epic faceoffs (the longest bout clocked in at 63 seconds)
Much like last week, the Machine were the aggressors, jumping out to an early two-goal lead. Defensively, the difference was night and day when compared to last week’s performance against the Cannons. There’s still significant room for improvement, but they were much better at addressing their weaknesses, throwing different looks at an offense, and sliding when necessary.
With John Grant Jr out of the lineup, Matt Mackrides (2g, 2a) shared attack duties with former Terp Kevin Cooper, who, in his league debut, scored three goals on three shots in on his way to rookie of the week honors.
For the Bayhawks, their big question going forward will be who to play, and when/where to play them. Their defense has been constantly changing over the past few games – one minute it’s the classic Spallina-Polanco-Evans trio, the next it’s Evans-Spallina-Ehrmann, and Polanco is investing in a LSM timeshare with Jake Bernhardt and Michael Simon. Is a rotation like this a wave of the future, or are the Bayhawks re-evaluating their lineup in light of reduced roster space later in the season? Juggling six defenders in four spots is a dicey proposition, no matter how talented they are.
Charlotte Hounds 16, Boston Cannons 17 (OT)
After the Hounds held him without a point back in week seven, Paul Rabil had some catching up to do on Saturday night. Lance Antoine has broken the game down for you, so I’m going to take a closer look at Rabil’s performance, and the Hounds’ strategy for dealing with him.
Be it Ryan Flanagan or Mason Poli, the Hounds of week seven were determined to keep a pole on Rabil at all times. In the off chance that a shortstick accidentally found himself face to face with #99, a pole was ready to slide and take over as soon as Rabil turned his back.
Fast forward to the first quarter in week ten: Flanagan once again drew the Rabil assignment, but as soon as Rabil drove towards the alley, Flanagan passed him off to Kevin Drew, who barely made contact with him on his way to his first goal of the night. Later, Rabil found himself matched up with Mason Poli, who passed him off to Casey Cittadino. Rabil swept, Cittadino couldn’t keep up, goal Boston. Two Rabil goals later, it wouldn’t make a ton of sense for Ryan Flanagan to pass him off to Casey Cittadino once again, but it happened, and since you’re so good at sniffing out patterns, you already know what happened next.
On the other hand, maybe this wasn’t so cut and dry. Maybe there’s more to it than just questionable defensive strategy. Maybe, just maybe, this was Stephen Berger’s far less-heralded contribution to this game; Charlotte defenders kept sliding to cover him even when Paul Rabil had the ball.
If it’s someone without Berger’s resume sharing Rabil’s side of the field, perhaps Charlotte wouldn’t have been so worried. Either way, Rabil delivered, and was extremely dangerous from the midfield.
Hamilton Nationals 10, Rochester Rattlers 6
Speaking of interesting defensive strategies, the Rattlers decided to change things up by sending their short stick midfielders to cover Kevin Crowley. Guess how that worked out! Go ahead, guess. Nope, actually it worked out very poorly: Crowley scored or assisted on each of the Nationals’ first five goals.
Kevin Leveille picked up right where he left off last game, finishing a Steven Boyle feed on the crease that gave the Rattlers an early lead. Unfortunately, Tucker Durkin (we’ll get back to him later) slid to Leveille after the shot, bringing a check with him that broke Leveille’s finger. Broken finger and all, Leveille came back into the game at the start of the second quarter. Pop quiz: Where do you put one of the game’s great inside finishers once he gets his finger broken?
A) Back out on the crease, where he’s at his most effective but also his most vulnerable.
B )On the wing – he won’t initiate the offense or anything, but he’ll still command defensive attention.
The Rattlers chose “B” (It’s actually a trick question, as we would have accepted “the bench” or “a local hospital”), and he was largely ineffective for the remainder of the game, something the Nationals seemed well aware of as the game progressed.
Thanks to some tremendous John Galloway saves and several changes to Hamilton’s traditional lineup (Stephen Keogh was out, Garrett Thul was in for only the second game, etc), the Nationals were far less imposing than in their previous matchup against the Rattlers. Hamilton even gave them six extra-man opportunities, the Rattlers just let them off the hook every time. In 5.5 minutes of penalty time, the Rattlers scored zero goals, put three shots on cage, and saw multiple off-cage shots backed up by Hamilton’s Brett Queener, which definitely shouldn’t happen more than once in a game during an extra-man possession.
Anyway, back to Tucker Durkin, who was named defensive player of the week for the second time in his seven-game career. Much like their previous encounter, Durkin completely took Ned Crotty out of the equation, holding the three-time All-Star to one assist (which occurred when he slid to cover Dave Lawson, who then passed to an open Crotty) and a single shot. With both Crotty and Leveille essentially spectators, the point total, Rochester’s lowest of the season, wasn’t much of a surprise.
With the top three teams all winning in week 10, the window of opportunity is getting smaller for teams currently on the outside looking in. Depending on various game results, we could even see another championship weekend spot locked up in week 11, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Now that the week’s been recapped, it’s time to get ready for All-Star weekend.
Be sure to check out our coverage leading up to the event, look for more on the way, and we’ll see you in Charlotte.