Here’s what we know for sure: after this weekend, the Denver Outlaws will still be in first place. Likewise, the Ohio Machine will still be in eighth, and last, place. And… that’s about it. Everything else is still up in the air.
The Bayhawks could be in second place, or they could be clinging to fourth place. The Rattlers could go from sixth place to defending a playoff spot. If you’re looking to make a big move, this is the week to do it. Here’s what to look for in week eight:
New York Lizards (3-4) vs Boston Cannons (2-5)
The Lizards head up to Boston this Friday, and somewhat surprisingly, both teams looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
While the Lizards have long been a group of great players, last week’s win against Hamilton featured several signs of a great team, most notably demonstrated by the ball movement of their Gibson-Palasek-Pannell attack line. Putting Gibson and Palasek (two of the very few offensive Lizards who played together last year) paid off immediately; now it’s time for the midfield to step up and contribute as well.
Spallina has called out David Earl in recent weeks for lack of productivity, Max Seibald has one point in the two games since his return, and Stephen Berger hasn’t scored a point in a month. The Cannons have had problems defending midfielders and giving up outside shots this season, so if the Lizards are going to turn this problem around, now’s a great time to start.
The Lizards offensive midfielders are going to be tested defensively as well, because once the Cannons’ poles scoop a GB, they’re gone, often going arc to arc faster than their short-stick counterparts. Head coach John Tucker has stated that getting the poles involved offensively has been a point of focus since he took over, and both Kyle Sweeney and Brian Farrell are on pace for career-best offensive seasons.
The faceoff battle’s going to be one to keep an eye on. While it’s not entirely accurate to call it a comeback, seeing as that he’s been here for years, Chris Eck has staged a tremendous rebound from his sub-par performances earlier this season, winning 63% of his draws over the past four games. Will Eck’s success continue when put up against reigning Defensive Player of the Week Greg Gurenlian?
Rochester Rattlers (3-4) vs Hamilton Nationals (5-2)
This Saturday the Rattlers and Nationals will meet in Boca Raton, Florida, thus concluding the league’s regular season “Gee, it sure is warmer than Rochester, wouldn’t you guys rather be down here?” summer tour. The Rattlers are having some offensive problems as of late (two single-digit performances in the past four games), and having Brodie Merrill back in the Hamilton lineup certainly won’t make things easier. Kevin Leveille was held scoreless for the second time this season, and was shuffled out of the lineup to make way for Stephen Boyle for a significant chunk of last week’s game against the Machine, so the Ratz’ attack line still seems to be a work in progress.
Speaking of offensive problems, the Nationals are currently dealing with a few of their own. In Hamilton’s past two games, Kevin Crowley has scored nine of team’s 19 goals, which in and of itself, is a ridiculously impressive accomplishment. Unfortunately, those games constitute both of the National’s losses this season, and they’re also the squad’s two lowest point totals.
Since they hardly had the ball against the Outlaws in week six, and week seven was played in the pouring New York rain, it’s too early to throw the word “slump” around (especially considering their strong offensive performances against the Bayhawks), but their two-man game hasn’t been clicking quite like it used to, and the Nationals need increased overall production if they’re looking to beat John Galloway and the Rattlers defense.
Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-3) vs Charlotte Hounds (3-4)
Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle has stated that if you go to Charlotte and you don’t play well, you’re going to come home with a loss, something he knows first-hand; as the Hounds defeating the then first-place Bayhawks 13-12 last year, courtesy of a Matt Danowski two-pointer with 22 seconds remaining. The Bayhawks return having lost three of their last four games, and the Hounds look to swap positions with them in the standings.
The offensive and defensive battles are a Lizards family reunion, with Matt Danowski and Ryan Young lining up against Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco. While Eric Lusby completes the Charlotte attack, the third Chesapeake defender is currently up in the air. Mike Evans was injured in last week’s game against the Outlaws, and Cottle was unsure of his status as of Wednesday. The Bayhawks twitter account listed him as IR-bound on Thursday morning, only to announce him active two hours later, so Evans definitely will, or will not, be playing. That’s right folks, you heard it here first.
(Update: The good folks on Twitter at @TheBayhawks have stated that Evans is NOT on the 2-game IR; it should be noted, however, that that doesn’t mean he’s starting, or playing, against Charlotte.)
The game’s faceoff battle has quite the backstory to it, as Chesapeake’s Adam Rand and Charlotte’s Tim Fallon were NCAA America East Conference (Stony Brook and Hartford, respectively) rivals for four years prior to joining the MLL. In case you were wondering, Fallon won 16-24 faceoffs as Hartford won the conference championship 11-10 back in 2011. Last year, however, Rand won 15-22 faceoffs against Fallon, then with the Rattlers.
Ohio Machine (1-6) vs Denver Outlaws (7-0)
Look, anything’s possible. The Ohio Machine halted their losing streak last week, they’re developing offensive familiarity and they held the Outlaws to only 13 points earlier this season (the rosters will look considerably different this time, but Denver still had Mundorf, Bocklet, Snider, etc in the lineup back then).
Sure, the Outlaws have scored more than twice as many goals as the Machine this season, and gameday will mark 364 days since they last lost a regular season game, but none of those things matter to this particular matchup; they’re just ridiculously ridiculous stats.
If you ask Ohio head coach Ted Garber, the key is picking your poison and hoping your goalie can make some of the saves, and while there’s plenty poison to choose from, the Machine have been able to keep most games fairly low-scoring this season.
Anthony Kelly’s squaring off against the team that shipped him out west (even though that whole thing’s worked out pretty well for him), so don’t be surprised if he makes it a point to put a couple shots on goal to show them what they’re missing.
Considering it’s most likely Steele Stanwick’s turn to hang out with Lee Zink while his teammates play in a lacrosse game, Ohio will have to rely on Connor Martin and Joe Cummings to pick up where they left off last week, Marcus Holman to initiate from the wing, and Kyle Hartzell (coming off of his most complete game of the season) to run the point without forcing shots.
Can the Nationals bounce back, or have opposing defenses figured them out? Will the Cannons take the next step to their comeback? Can the Ohio Machine do what no team has done in a year?
Good luck to your squad, and check back here next week for the recap.