Major League Lacrosse only has games on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Lots of action, and the play off race heats up. Let’s get right to it!
Boston Cannons (3-5) vs Ohio Machine (1-7)
Thanks to a new head coach, and back-to-back wins, there’s suddenly much less room on the Boston Cannons’ bandwagon. The Ohio Machine are hoping for similar results from their own coaching change (Ohio native and former Robert Morris head coach Bear Davis makes his MLL debut), but their offense faces a tough challenge from Boston’s Jordan Burke.
Much like teammate Chris Eck, Burke started off slow and has turned things around as the season has progressed. Take a look at his save percentages in the six games in which he played (remember, he missed two games with a broken thumb)
First three games: 48%, 47%, 43%
Last three games: 58%, 57%, 59%
If the Machine are going to halt Boston’s momentum, they’ll need to capitalize on unsettled situations, especially if Cannons defenders like Kyle Sweeney and Brian Farrell get caught trying to get back after crossing midfield.
Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-4) vs Hamilton Nationals (6-2)
Last week against the Rochester Rattlers, the Hamilton Nationals put up the most points they’ve scored all season. At the same time, in Charlotte, NC, the Chesapeake Bayhawks were giving up the most points they’ve allowed all season.
When these teams last met (week five at Chesapeake – Hamilton’s Jordan Hall scored the overtime game-winner), Stephen Keogh scored a career-high five goals, three of which were assisted by Kevin Cunningham. According to head coach Dave Huntley, Cunningham is just starting to understand how to play with Keogh and Cody Jamieson, which could amount to a serious problem if the injured Michael Evans is out for a second week.
If the Bayhawks are to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since 2010, they’ll need to improve in several areas that cost them during last week’s game in Charlotte, namely limiting turnovers, and giving up goals in transition. Equally important, they’ll need to take advantage of Hamilton’s penalties (Chesapeake went 1-6 on extra-man opportunities in their first meeting) while avoiding penalties of their own, as Hamilton’s man-up unit is converting 50% of their chances this season.
Charlotte Hounds (4-4) vs Denver Outlaws (8-0)
For the Outlaws, it’s their chance to join the 2005 Bayhawks as the only franchises to start a season 9-0. For the Hounds, it’s another shot at going above .500 for the first time in franchise history, their previous attempt dashed in week seven by the resurgent Boston Cannons. One way or another, we’re going to see something big once the clock runs out.
Scoring goals hasn’t been a problem for the Hounds this season, even against the top-ranked Outlaws defense (while there’s been some roster overhaul on both sides since, Denver gave up 16 goals to the Hounds in week one, the most they’ve allowed all season); if you want to beat the Outlaws, you absolutely can’t afford to give their offense any second chances.
Charlotte head coach Mike Cerino focused the Hounds’ team defense and clearing games leading up to the matchup in Denver, and Tim Fallon has to stop Anthony Kelly and the Denver offense from getting the ball back immediately following their goals.
New York Lizards (3-5) vs Rochester Rattlers (3-5)
The Lizards head to Rochester on Sunday, and New York head coach Joe Spallina says his team needs to approach this as a playoff game, and for good reason: depending on how the rest of the weekend plays out, a 4-5 record could easily last you within striking distance of a playoff spot.
For the Rattlers, sharing the ball and putting others in scoring positions is the key to snapping their two-game skid. Setting up teammates has been a huge problem for the Rattlers, who have registered a grand total of two assists in the past two games. Mark Millon is third on the team in assists, and he’s been out of the league for over a month. This becomes particularly true if Kevin Unterstein and the Lizards defensive midfield can find a way to slow John Ranagan down.
While the Lizards (especially Rob Pannell, who has six assists in the last two games) has been for more willing to share the ball, you’re still looking at an offense that, despite its star power, is only averaging ten goals per game. Max Seibald is coming off of his most productive game since his injury, and several midfielders recently returned to the scoring column as well; if the attack and midfield can produce on the same day, the Lizards could begin to turn things around.
Will it be a historic night for the Outlaws or Hounds? Can the Nationals beat the Bayhawks twice in a month? Will a coaching change turn things around for the Ohio Machine?
Good luck to your squad, and be sure to check back next week for the recap.