You knew they’d win sometime, right?
Of course they would, and they’ll probably do it again. Hypothesize all you want about the problems that plagued the Boston Cannons, it’s not like Paul Rabil and Ryan Boyle forgot how to play lacrosse over the winter; they’re talented players, and they’re going to grab some wins this summer.
Did you think Stephen Berger was going to shoot .077% and Ben Rubeor was going to drop 60 goals this season? Both are still possible, but not very likely, especially if you know about the law of averages. Some people/teams start off hot and get cold, others go the other way… it happens.
It’s a little something called “regression towards the mean,” a statistical term I’m only borderline comfortable using because I don’t really know anything about statistics.
In the MLL, the mean/average/what we’ve come to expect can change at several key points throughout the season. You think Ohio expects their scoring average to stay the same after the college season is done? I doubt it. We saw a lot of things this past weekend that didn’t quite gel with what we’d seen earlier this season.
Are they the exception, or the new expectation?
While we wait to find out, here’s what went down in week 4.
Charlotte Hounds 15 Hamilton Nationals 16 (OT)
The main story coming into this game turned out to be the names not in attendance, including Matt Danowski and Ryan Young for Charlotte, and Brett Queener and Cody Jamieson for Hamilton.
Hamilton jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but Timmy Fallon got the Hounds on the board to halt Hamilton’s momentum, and we all know nothing takes the wind out your opponent’s sails like a FOGO scoring a goal, right? Glad you agree, because we’ll come back to that later.
With two-thirds of last week’s attack out of the lineup, Charlotte head coach Mike Cerino got/was forced to do some serious lineup-juggling and he tried players at different positions: Chris Schiller picking up a longstick, Mike Sawyer and Peet Poillon at both attack and midfield, etc. Much like Cerino predicted (and after some early turnovers), Sawyer seemed well suited to the role of a north-south alley dodger, finishing with a goal and two assists in his debut.
Speaking of debuts, the late NLL arrivals seemed to get along with the new teammates just fine, as Joe Walters scored five points (3g, 2a) and Stephen Keogh notched four goals, two of which were assisted by fellow attackman, and new teammate, Kevin Cunningham.
But back to the FOGO thing: after the Hounds scored two goals to tie the game up late in the fourth quarter, Hamilton’s Matt Dolente won the overtime faceoff and ended it with a goal, their second one-goal win in as many weeks. Face offs, when done right, will always matter.
New York Lizards 14 – Ohio Machine 8
Coming into Saturday’s game against the Machine, Lizards coach Joe Spallina mentioned two things the team still needed to address and improve upon:
1. Getting Tommy Palasek involved in the Gibson-Matthews new-look attack
2. Increased offensive production from David Earl.
Check both of those things off the list, because Palasek and Earl combined for six points, Stephen Berger (shooting 2-26 coming into this game, you’ll remember) scored six of his own, and those performances alone were good enough to handle the Ohio Machine and snap New York’s two-game losing streak.
Chazz Woodson, another All-Star who began the season in a shooting slump, moved up to midfield and scored two goals, the first of which halted New York’s five-goal run to start the game. The Machine clawed their way back and made it 7-5 (though I think they were robbed on a Will Harrington crease violation that should’ve been a goal), but the Lizards scored six of the next seven goals to put the game out of reach.
The Machine had no answer for Greg Gurenlian (17-26; 9-12 in the first half), and Brian Karalunas played some of his best defense of the season, rendering Steele Stanwick largely irrelevant (just one point, an extra-man goal in the fourth quarter) throughout the entirety of the game.
The Machine won the groundball battle 27-24, so there’s that, but they’re still lacking the offensive production to compete, especially when their goalie stops one shot in the first half of the game. Three of their goals were scored by a defensive midfielder, a longstick midfielder and a FOGO. Don’t get me wrong, a goal’s a goal either way, but that means only four goals were scored by offensive players, and two of those were scored by the same person. Time to get some of those rookies in Machine uniforms and hope they pan out.
Rochester Rattlers 7 – Denver Outlaws 20
Between the Rochester defense picking up four penalties (two of which led to goals) and constantly switching their assignments instead of fighting through picks (I feel like a short stick covering Brendan Mundorf is a bad idea), this game was effectively over by halftime, as the Outlaws tossed in 20 goals for the second time this season, and won their tenth consecutive regular season game.
Aided by major contributions from his wings, Anthony Kelly controlled faceoffs all day, only allowing the Rattlers to score back-to-back goals on one occasion. Kelly went 9-14 in the first half and finished the game 21-31, including winning eight of nine draws in the third quarter, when the score ballooned from 9-3 to 14-5.
With Mike Leveille out of the Rattlers’ lineup, the Outlaws used two poles to cover midfielders while putting a short-stick on Mark Millon, which, if you grew up in the “Offensive Wizardry” days, is quite possibly blowing your mind and/or making you feel pretty old right now. Millon finished with one assist.
Since we’re talking about Rochester attackmen, remember how I mentioned that keeping New Crotty at x was such a great idea? Well, maybe they should have moved him to midfield for this game, because he wouldn’t have had to spend so much time with Lee Zink. Crotty’s offensive contribution in this game? One shot. One. Shot. And it’s not like he was being face guarded and completely taken out of the play, either.
When Crotty got the ball and made a move, Zink routinely slapped it out of his hands like he was trying to a grab a cookie before dinner. When a well-timed pick did force a defensive switch, Dillon Roy put it on the ground just the same. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team neutralize Crotty that well before.
Bayhawks 14, Cannons 15 (OT)
Think about everything the Boston Cannons had been doing wrong this season. That’s what they did against Chesapeake on Saturday, except it was the exact opposite: they dominated faceoffs, cashed in on power plays, and their big names all delivered like they’ve done in years past, all on their way to the Cannons’ first win of the season.
Since it was Everybody Plays out of Position Week, the Cannons decided to drop Paul Rabil down to attack and have him go straight at (mostly) Nicky Polanco, resulting in a season-high seven points when he wasn’t busy peeling himself off the turf. I wouldn’t have guessed they’d move him to attack for such a large chunk of a Michael Simon-less Bayhawks game, but apparently the Cannons felt they needed him on the field more than his traditional midfield runs would allow.
I understand the strategy, but the rent’s pretty high on that part of the field; he had to know he was going to pay for it. Catch the ball? You’re getting checked. Pass the ball? You’re getting checked. Stand around minding your business? Oh, you’re definitely getting checked for that. Maybe some bigger arm pads, and Rabil could start wearing shoulders? It’s a thought.
Boston’s Chris Eck, who came into the game winning only 42% of his draws, won 20 of 30, including the first seven of the game. Meanwhile, it’s fair to say the Cannons still don’t have an answer for John Grant Jr., who finished with five goals and an assist. If you saw Junior play against the Cannons last year, chances are you already know how those goals generally went: drive from x, smash into Mitch Belisle, face dodge to dive, or go behind the back, do it again a few times. Grant had a chance to win the game with five seconds left (he chose “drive-smash-face dodge”), but the shot wouldn’t fall, and Boyle put it away early in OT.
The league takes off for Memorial Day weekend, but there’s one game before the break, on Thursday, so check back soon for the preview of that one!