If you go by last year’s final standings, the Denver Outlaws already clinched a playoff spot. Likewise, the Ohio Machine have already been eliminated, and are (very, very carefully) considering who they should take in the first round of next year’s draft.
Of course, neither team wants to interpret the above as their cue to coast through the rest of summer, nothing is set in stone as of yet, and last year’s patterns aren’t necessarily this years’ rules. In case you missed anything, here’s what went down in week eight, as the MLL enters the real playoff push!
New York Lizards 12, Boston Cannons 16
The Boston Cannons (2-0 in the John Tucker era) continue to claw their way back into the championship weekend discussion, defeating the New York Lizards, and taking their spot in the standings as well.
New York started off strong (previously called-out David Earl and Mark Matthews scored the game’s first two goals less than two minutes in), but numerous failed clears and wasted extra-man opportunities (the Lizards, the worst power-play team in the league, went 0-4; the Cannons, on the other hand, finished 3-3.) allowed the Cannons to pull away for good in the second and third quarters.
While New York’s Greg Gurenlian won less than 50% of his draws for the first time this season, Chris Eck went 17-30 (including winning seven of the game’s first eight faceoffs), scooping 10 groundballs on his way to becoming the Cannons’ all-time groundball leader (now at 353 and counting).
Although it was back to business as usual for Paul Rabil (4g, 1a), Will Manny’s role in the Cannons’ offense continues to grow. Manny scored a goal and the first four assists of his career, spending more time at x to set up Boston crease-cutters, such as Matt Poskay and Scott Ratliff (that’s right, Scott Ratliff. The Cannons were not playing around when they said they wanted to get their poles involved offensively).
Chesapeake Bayhawks 15, Charlotte Hounds 16
In hindsight, Chesapeake’s Dave Cottle may be something of a psychic, having accurately foretold the Bayhawks’ downfall during his opening statement from last week’s Coaches’ Conference Call. He warned about Ryan Young’s quickness, and Danowski’s ability to shoot the two-pointer, even though he’d only scored one this season. He said the Hounds could shoot themselves out of trouble, and down 10-4 in the second quarter, they proved him right.
Lance Antoine’s taken care of the game recap, so make sure you check it out if you haven’t done so already. And by the way, for the record, we’ve officially reached the point where calling this an “upset” qualifies as a back-handed compliment (while that statement was intended to say more about this year’s Hound than Bayhawk squad, it could be reasonably interpreted either way).
As was speculated earlier in the week, Chesapeake defenseman Michael Evans was unable to play, and his noticeable absence certainly played a role in the Bayhawks giving up the most points they have in any game this season. While his goals may have fallen regardless, it’s far less likely that Matt Danowski ties the MLL-record for shots in a game (19), as he did, while on Evans’ watch.
Rochester Rattlers 11, Hamilton Nationals 17
The Nationals snapped their two-game losing streak, the Rattlers embarked on one of their own, and 4,464 fans in Boca Raton (just barely edging out Atlanta’s 4,417 for highest test market attendance) came out to watch it happen.
The Nationals received the secondary offensive support they’d been missing in their recent losses, with Martin Cahill (in the lineup for the first time in a month) scoring four goals, (including a two-pointer) in his first appearance in a month. For the Rattlers, it was more of the same: basic throwing and catching errors, missing point men on wasted transition opportunities and limited production from the attack position.
The bright spot for the Rattlers offense continued to be rookie John Ranagan, who after scoring hat tricks in the previous two weeks, scored four goals on the afternoon. Ranagan plowed through Hamilton’s short stick defenders like the tape at a 5k finish line on his way to four goals on the afternoon, after being forced to settle for mere hat tricks in his previous two games.
Ned Crotty, however, appeared to want no part of Tucker Durkin, even abandoning those trademark “shot out of a cannon” drives from x coming off of the restart. Crotty’s lone point (he took a total of two shots) during the game came in the form of a goal he scored when subbed in as a midfielder during the fourth quarter. For those who were fortunate enough to shoot the ball, Brett Queener handled the rest, stopping a team-record 25 shots. Looks like that week off must have helped.
Ohio Machine 5, Denver Outlaws 19
The Denver Outlaws have now officially gone a full year without losing a regular season game, and they reached their landmark in convincing fashion, lighting up the Ohio Machine by two touchdowns at Mile High on Saturday evening.
The Machine were coming off of their most complete team effort (and first win) of the season, and hoped to use that momentum to pull off the upset of the decade. Unfortunately, in the words of Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and by the time the dust settled (which took a while, considering the first four shots of the game resulted in Denver goals), things had already started to get out of hand.
When you combine Ohio’s unfortunate turnovers (Chad Wiedmaier scored an own goal while attempting to toss the ball back to Brian Phipps for a clear) and questionable shot selection, along with Anthony Kelly refusing to share the ball with his former teammates (Kelly won 19 of 27 draws against three different players sent to stop him), it all adds up to what is the most lop-sided score of the season. Denver’s Jesse Schwartzman spent the entire fourth quarter watching from the bench, with Brendan Mundorf joining him about five minutes later.
Apparently this defeat (or more likely its sheer magnitude) was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because after wishing Ted Garber luck in his future endeavors, the Ohio Machine brought in former Robert Morris head coach Bear Davis to run the ship, at least for the remainder of the season
So, where are we now, big picture-wise? Same place as last week, only with more confusion! If the season ended today, losing half of your games would still earn you a spot at championship weekend. Between the Cannons winning and the Bayhawks losing, the club known as “The Pack” continues to welcome new members on a weekly basis. We’ll get this whole mess sorted out one of these days, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon.