Last weekend we were treated to the MLL All-Star game (ASG gear post!), where the Old School beat the Young Guns 18-17 in Florida, and on the 4th of July, the Denver Outlaws beat the Ohio Machine 17-13 in Denver in front of a huge 30,000+ person crowd, which set a new MLL attendance record (the previous record was held by Denver as well at 27,000 fans in attendance last July 3rd).
Denver and Ohio are done for the week with the above result, but this weekend offers up 4 more excellent games, and the first leg of a home and away series between Long Island and Rochester kicks off on Friday night at the home of the Rattlers. We’re getting to the meat of the schedule here, and with only 4 of the 8 teams making the playoffs, big dreams are already on the line!
LI Lizards @ Rochester Rattlers
The first leg of this home-and-away, back-to-backweekend night series kicks off on Friday at 7PM in Rochester, and pits the 3rd place Lizards (5-2) against the 5th place Rattlers (3-4). On paper, this game goes to Long Island as the Lizards have won five straight and are gelling nicely, but I think Rochester can keep it really tight, at the very least, as they are 2-0 at home this year, and riding a little streak of their own.
Another reason I like Rochester to do well in this game is that the Rattlers won last week, but they were able to do so without Ned Crotty. The Rattlers exploded for goals, and players like Jordan MacIntosh, Matt Striebel, Steven Boyle and Kevin Leveille all produced electrifying efforts.
Hopefully for Rochester, the return of Nedwick Shropshire Crotty VIII means just another super potent weapon has been added to the arsenal. If the Rattlers can play team ball on O, they can score, and that alone makes them extremely dangerous.
But good team offense won’t be enough to beat Long Island. Rochester will also need to control Greg Gurenlian at the face off X, limit Max Seibald and Peyser from the midfield, and lock down on Grant Catalino outside and Langtry and Gibson inside. Those are all tough assignments, and even tougher to do all at once, but these guys are Pros. It’s what we expect.
I still like Long Island to win this game, so I’m picking Rochester. I’ve picked against my gut with Rochester and done well. When I’ve gone with my gut, I’ve been wrong. Rochester wins another game at home, this time by 2.
Rochester Rattlers @ LI Lizards
And here is where the “picking against Rochester thing” gets tough. My gut says Long Island all the way here as they will be at home AND I actually picked them to lose on Friday night in Rochester… I just can’t see Long Island losing two games straight right now, and definitely not on back to back nights. So for my Saturday night pick, I like Long Island to right the ship, win the game, and blow my Rochester prediction jinx out of the water. Long Island wins by 4.
Boston Cannons @ Hamilton Nationals
The Nationals got lit up by Rochester last week, and now rumor and opinion is swirling that the team might not be long for Ontario! Boston, on the other hand, is coming off a tough one goal loss to the league’s current number 1 team, the Chesapeake Bayhawks, also on the road.
Hamilton will definitely put up a fight in this game, and the fact that they are sitting at 2-5, and in sixth place, will only make that push stronger. Boston, at 5-3, is in a better position standings-wise, but the Cannons are also a team with extremely high expectations for themselves. In that sense, it’s easy for both teams to look at each game left on their schedule as a must-win opportunity, and no real edge can be given there.
The winning edge will simply have to come from the teams themselves, and this week, I think Boston’s winning edge is Mitch Belisle. Belisle has been quietly dominating attack men all season long, and if he can disrupt Casey Powell or shut out Stephen Keogh, or make a big impact on a high scoring midfielder like Kevin Crowley or Joe Walters, Boston wins.
Since Belisle has been “on” all season, I have no reason to doubt he’ll play well on Saturday. Cannons win by 3.
Chesapeake Bayhawks @ Charlotte Hounds
The Hounds got their second win of the season last week in Ohio, just barely topping the Machine, 17-16, on the road. The Machine have made big strides as of late, and it’s always good to get a win away from home, and it should energize the Hounds for their game with the Bayhawks back in Charlotte.
They’ll need all the energy they can get in this one because the Bayhawks are rolling and show no signs of slowing down. Chesapeake can beat you up, beat you at face offs, finish inside, and then sling 2-pointers on your keeper all night long. Defensive foot speed is the ONLY weakness I can find in their team, and teams can only counter that point if they’re willing to take a severe beating.
Billy Bitter, Matt Danowski and Jeremy Boltus can put points up this weekend if they move the rock, dodge hard and are willing to pay the price. They’ve all shown that willingness before, and with their win last week, I like their chances to pull of the upset this weekend.
And for that reason, I’m calling the impossible. Charlotte beats Chesapeake 14-13 on the road! There are a million reasons why this won’t happen, but sometimes you just have to go out on a limb and pick the underdogs because you believe that they believe. As the season goes on, Charlotte players are beginning to embrace their roles more, and if it all comes together Saturday, they can definitely make me look really smart. Or not.
So who do you have this weekend in the Long Island – Rochester, Rochester – Long Island, Boston – Hamilton, and Chesapeake – Charlotte games? Make your MLL game predictions now or forever hold your peace!