Last week we asked the questions: Could anyone contain Ryan Boyle? Who’d handle faceoffs for the Bayhawks? Did the Lizards have Denver’s number? Would the Outlaws finally win the big one? This weekend, we got our answers, complete with epic comebacks, dominant performances and some of the best highlights of the season.
Long Island Lizards 12 – Denver Outlaws 13
We’ve covered this already, and everybody’s been talking about it, so I won’t spend too much of your time on this one. Long story relatively short, Brendan Mundorf injures his ankle injury the night before and misses the game. Long Island dominates all aspects of the game and jumps out to a 12-3 lead.
The turning point comes shortly after the 12th goal, when Denver’s Dillon Roy flattens Brian Langtry on the crease, starting a transition play which ends with a Peet Poillon diving goal, the first of ten unanswered for the Outlaws to finish the game out. Denver takes their first lead of the game with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth, and Lee Zink and Jesse Schwartzman protect the lead the rest of the way.
Epic comeback? Monumental collapse? Little of both? Either way, the Outlaws were on to their fourth championship game in seven years, and they got there without Mundorf.
Boston Cannons 10 – Chesapeake Bayhawks 16
After giving up 16 points to the Cannons the last time they met, the Bayhawks decided to shake things up defensively. Instead of Nicky Polanco, Michael Evans was in charge of covering Ryan Boyle. Polanco spent most of the game on Ari Sussman, and Michael Simon (out of NCAA DIII Stevenson), playing in his second game of the season and third of his career, drew the Paul Rabil assignment with a little help at times from Jeff Hostetler.
Even with the defensive shuffling, the Cannons jumped out to an early lead, scoring five goals on their first five shots. Chesapeake stayed in it thanks largely in part to John Grant Jr, who picked up exactly where he left off in their last matchup – driving from X, muscling his defender off of GLE, and tossing in some mess that doesn’t make an ounce of sense to mortal human beings.
A key moment in the game took place in the second quarter when Paul Rabil was sent off for an illegal body check. Kyle Dixon scored a two-pointer, the Cannons won the face off and threw the ball away, and Dixon scored another two from almost the exact same spot. In just 48 seconds and two shots, the Bayhawks went from a two-point deficit to a two-point lead, their first of the day.
Is it possible to have a quiet, understated six goals? If so, that’s what Chesapeake’s Ben Ruebeor did on Saturday. Ruebeor put on an absolute clinic in off-ball play, scoring half a dozen times (including four goals in a row) without dodging a single time. Rubeor’s goals were part of a seven-goal run that shut the door on Boston’s title hopes.
Speaking of shutting the door, Chesapeake’s suffocating, aggressive, how can I put this… impolite defensive unit bothered Boston’s star players all day. The Cannons were checked high, checked late, and any time the ball hit the ground, it looked like one of those lumberjack shows you catch on ESPN2 from time to time.
The result? Rabil finished with two assists (none in the second half), and Ryan Boyle went the entire game without registering a single statistic: no goals, no assists, no shots, no ground balls, no nothing. Mike Stone impressed for the Cannons off the dodge, and probably should have gotten more looks, but how do you say no to a Rabil dodge?
Chesapeake Bayhawks 16 – Denver Outlaws 6
Like many of us predicted, #1 vs #2, and the league’s top offense and the league’s top defense, met up in the title game. Brendan Mundorf’s status was the big question coming into the game, and though he suited up, you could tell his mobility wasn’t where it needed to be.
In what initially looked like it could be a close, low-scoring game, the goalies took turns trading multiple saves until Denver jumped out to a 2-0 lead. After the second Outlaws goal, Steven Brooks put the Bayhawks on his back, scoring or assisting on four of the game’s next five goals, and giving Chesapeake a lead they never really came close to losing.
Mundorf chipped in a goal that stopped a seven-goal Chesapeake run, but the damage was done, both to Denver and to Mundorf himself, who hobbled around for a few more minutes before having to shut it down and watch the second half from the bench.
Without Mundorf or an answer to Chesapeake’s two man-midfield game, the Outlaws found themselves in a world of trouble. Not making things any easier was Alex Smith’s dominance at the face-off X. Smith, who handled all of Chesapeake’s face-offs during the weekend, won nine of his first 10 face-offs, ultimately finishing 17-25 against the duo of Anthony Kelly and Steven Robarge.
The second half was more of the same: The Chesapeake offense had too many weapons and opportunities, and after Saturday’s game, Denver was fresh out of miracle comebacks. The Outlaws managed only one goal in the second half, and their six goals tied the lowest total in MLL championship game history.
How did the Chesapeake Bayhawks avenge their final two losses of the season on their way to a fourth MLL championship? Everyone in the organization took what they were known for and cranked it up a notch. After giving up goals on the first five shots he faced, the unflappable Kip Turner went on to save 72% of the shots he saw the rest of the way.
Their defense committed nine penalties (well, let’s say nine penalties were called against them), and didn’t allow an opponent to cash in on a single one. From shuffling assignments to relying on players with limited experience, the coaching staff showed the confidence in their team to risk making major changes, and five-time MLL champion Brian Spallina was at his Brian Spallina-est the entire weekend (granted it’s odd to describe someone just by using their name, but if you know the name, you know exactly what that means).
Congrats to the Bayhawks for becoming the MLL franchise with the most championships. Is it too early to start talking favorites for next season? Can the Bayhawks repeat? Will next year finally be Denver’s year? What about this year’s expansion teams, will either one make the leap? You know what they say the day after your last game… The next season starts today!