Is it me, or is it chilly in here? Feels a little chilly. Where’s that draft coming from? Oh, that’s it, the Cannons left a window open. Your move, Hounds and Rattlers…
Denver Outlaws (10-0) vs Rochester Rattlers (4-6)
Today’s action begins at 1:00pm EST on CBS Sports, as the Rattlers play their final game in Rochester. What’s that? Oh, yeah – I meant their final game in Rochester this season, since the rest of their games are on the road. I mean, what else could I have possibly meant? Ahem. Anyway, where were we?
If they have plans for a trip to Philly next month, the Rattlers need to start winning immediately, something that’s far easier said than done: they’ve have lost three of their last four games, they’re coming off of a six-goal performance against Hamilton in week ten, and they were on the receiving end of one of the most lop-sided beatings of the year when these teams met in Denver back in week four.
At this point in the season, it seems the Outlaws’ toughest opponent is sheer complacency; it’s easy to overlook a 4-6 opponent when you haven’t lost a regular season game in over a year. Luckily they have that historic winning streak (you know, the one they pretend doesn’t really matter when you put them in front of a camera and ask about), to help maintain their focus.
Rochester’s defense has the most significant challenge ahead of them, as Bocklet, Boltus and Mundorf combined for 15 goals in their last meeting, and adding Eric Law into the lineup has made matters even more complicated. Speaking of production from the attack position, should the Rattlers even bother putting Ned Crotty (held to just one shot against Denver in their last meeting) at x, or would his talents be best served running in through the box all game? Let’s be honest here: Lee Zink is trouble you just don’t need.
New York Lizards (3-7) vs Charlotte Hounds (4-6)
There’s still a chance the Lizards can make it to championship weekend, but first they’ll need to win their remaining games (won’t be easy – they haven’t won two in a row this season), beginning with their matchup this afternoon in Charlotte (also won’t be easy – they’re 1-5 on the road this year).
The Hounds are looking to bounce back after an overtime loss to Boston that not only left them “bitter and disappointed” (according to head coach Mike Cerino), but knocked the team out of playoff position for the time being. Considering they held the Lizards to only two second-half goals during their first meeting of the season (a 14-12 Charlotte victory), and that Cerino constantly stresses that his team’s success is based upon its defense, a formula may have been established for the Hounds’ return to the win column.
Lizards head coach Joe Spallina spoke very highly of newcomer Steve Mock in this week’s coaches’ conference call, and it seems likely that’s he poised to enjoy a more heavily featured role as the season progresses. This year at Cornell, Rob Pannell assisted on 46% of Mock’s goals, whereas none of Pannell’s ten Lizards assists have gone to incumbent lefty finisher Mark Matthews. With Mock’s increasing familiarity with the league, Maybe Pannell (who leads the team in shots despite playing in only six games), will be inclined to a little more distributing and little less calling his own number, which could prove beneficial for a team that hasn’t scored more than 12 goals in a game since May.
Ohio Machine (1-9) vs Hamilton Nationals (7-3)
It’s the time of year where a lot of teams become Ohio Machine fans, and this weekend the Machine try to stop the Nationals from grabbing that coveted eighth win, generally assumed to lock in a trip to championship weekend.
Ohio’s produced back-to-back double-digit point totals for the first time this season, and came this close to upsetting the defending champs in week ten, but it remains to be seen if the Machine have it in them to turn the corner, fully embrace the spoiler role and win a few of their remaining games. While they’re playing for spots on next year’s roster (especially with a new coach in place who didn’t ask for any of these guys), you’d have to imagine it’s considerably tougher to maintain mid-season enthusiasm once you’re the only team eliminated.
For the Nationals, All-Star game MVP Kevin Crowley and his top plays co-star Joe Walters (a combined 13 points when these teams met earlier this season) look to once again to be a serious problem for Ohio’s defensive midfield; don’t be surprised if, much like in week ten against Chesapeake, Ohio bumps a defenseman up to join Kyle Hartzell to slow down a midfielder.
We’ve got three crucial matchups this Saturday (strategically placed throughout the day so you can watch every second of the action), and the table’s been set for some major developments in the standings. Can anyone step up and take advantage?