The New York Lizards entered the 2015 as the preeminent favorite to be 2015 MLL Champions. Last night, in front over 8,000 fans in Atlanta, they did just that, by beating the Rochester Rattlers, 15-12, in a tight and exciting championship game. Both squads brought their A-games to the contest, and while Rochester was looking dominant early on, New York made good on a couple of goal-scoring runs, and the Lizards escaped with the 3-goal win!
[fvplayer src=”https://youtube.com/watch?v=qYm1C3XGNVw” splash=”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/qYm1C3XGNVw/hqdefault.jpg” caption=”2015 MLL Championship: New York vs Rochester Highlights”]
I watched the game with my girlfriend, and she was positive that this one was going to overtime… she’s usually right about this kind of stuff, but New York clearly had other plans, and the Brooklyn-based OT Swami’s streak was broken. I picked NY as my winner though, and I got that right, upping my playoff prediction record to 1-2. At least I picked the finals correctly… Of course I wasn’t feeling that good about my pick early on this game!
Evan Washburn was a little wishy-washy in his predictions, but I think he picked Rochester. He took a risk, I like that, and his reasoning was solid!
2015 MLL Champions – How’d It Happen?
Kyle Denhoff opened up the scoring in the game for Rochester less than a minute into the game, and this D3 product had a great season, really showing off his speed and scoring touch. Jordan Wold followed this up with a goal of his own before Ned Crotty broke the ice with a man up snipe that found top shelf. No one scored for about 2.5 minutes, and then the last 5 minutes of the first quarter saw a number of goals get dropped, and Rochester was up 6-2 after 15 minutes.
At this point in the game, 8 different players had scored a single goal in the game, and Paul Rabil was the only player with more than one point on the field as he had scored a goal AND an assist. Talk about a balance first quarter of scoring!
The second quarter would see a very similar spread of scoring as the next five goals were ALSO scored by players registering their first goal of the night. Gibson, Palasek, Marasco, and Pannell all notched goals for NY, and Dave Lawson notched a marker for Rochester. This brought the score to 7-6, in favor of Rochester. Rob Pannell notched a second beauty of a goal to tie the games at 7s, and then Jack Near scored a goal in a chaotic substitution run for both teams, and Rochester was back up by 1, before the half.
At this point in the game, New York was 1-2 on the man up, and Rochester was 1-3. Drew Adams had made 6 solid saves for New York, but John Galloway had made 9 saves for Rochester, with some of them being on the spectacular side. Both teams did spend some time visiting pipe city, and early on in the game, the goalies were both playing unreal lacrosse.
In the second half, Greg Gurenlian started to do a better job of winning draws forward, and creating pressure. Early on, Mike Poppleton and the Rochester wing players had done a great job of turning face offs into loose ball situations, but as the game wore on, Gurenlian definitely regained the clear upper hand. The Beast was in full form last night, winning (according to the MLL) 16 of 23 face offs, and even scored a goal in the third quarter to help keep NY in the game.
Above, I add in “according to the MLL” because they also have Poppleton as winning 5 face offs, which adds up 21 total. So how were there 23 face offs? Maybe 2 of them just disappeared? It’s nitpicky, but has me wondering where those draws went! On an even deeper level, with 27 goals scored total, and 4 additional face offs (one to start each quarter), there should have been 29 draws in the game, right? It’s all very confusing from a statistical point of view. What DO we know? Gurenlian was a monster. And that’s all we really need to know, but still, accurate stats would be nice!
With Rochester up by 1, the third quarter kicked off, and Rob Pannell tied the game at 8 about 2.5 minutes into the second half. Mark Matthews answered for Rochester with two goals of his own, and all of a sudden, both Matthews and Pannell had hat tricks in the game, and were looking like their team’s go to guys the rest of the way. Both got great chances later, but started to miss, and others on their teams had to step up. Unfortunately for Rochester, most of the stepping up was done by Lizards players.
Gurnelian’s goal, scored after carrying the ball down the field in the back of his stick, provided a boost for NY, but when Kyle Denhoff dropped his second goal of the game for Rochester to go up 11-9, I thought the Rattlers still had a chance. New York proceeded to “bring IT”, whatever IT is, for the rest of the game, and Paul Rabil came to life, and took over when he needed to.
The Lizards outscored Rochester 6-1 to end the game, and with about 4 minutes left in the game, you saw New York start to realize that they were actually going to win. Expressions on the players and coaches’ faces changed, you saw more smiles, and New York did their best to let time run out, while now allowing Rochester to get many quality looks. In Major League Lacrosse, that is a hard thing to do, but NY held on to their 3 goal lead, and iced the game.
2015 MLL Finals MVP
Paul Rabil was named MVP of the game, and I thought it was a good choice. For those arguing that Pannell, Gurenlian, and Adams should won it… I can’t disagree! All four of those guys, plus a number of other players like Joe Fletcher and Steve DeNapoli all played very well, but the league is going with Rabil here. You know it. I know it. And honestly, Paul deserved it. 3 goals and 3 assists, with two of those goals coming in crunch time? Sounds good to me.
Lacrosse in ATLANTA?
This game was a lot of fun to watch. Both teams came in prepared, with plenty of talent, and put on a superb show for the fans. Atlanta, despite some of my doubts, came out in FORCE to watch the game live, so that fan base has converted me to a large degree into a believer. How many well-attended MLL games in Atlanta do I need to see to buy in? This many, I guess! I’m fully invested in GA lacrosse now.
The Playoffs MLL Needed!
For Major League Lacrosse, these playoffs were a godsend. They got THREE fantastic games, had all three broadcast live on CBS Sports, and had two top level teams give it their all in the finals. The superstars showed up to play, 3 different nations (USA, Canada, Iroquois) were represented on the field, and a new D3 rising star (Kyle Denhoff) made a name for himself. The players played, the refs kept it clean, the coaches let the players play, and the end result was a fantastic game of lacrosse, which could definitely help the league with long-term growth and sustainability.
And on top of all that, Major League Lacrosse got a highlight video up the very next day. Well done, all around, MLL! Keep it up. Excited for 2016 already.
My One Complaint
This isn’t a legitimate complaint, but I’m going to make it anyways. And it’s not really even a complaint at all, more just a point of order…
I don’t care what ANYONE says, there is only ONE world champion in lacrosse, and that is the nation that wins the FIL World Lacrosse Championship every four years. Until at least 2018, that is Canada. This takes NOTHING away from the New York Lizards, or any MLL Champion ever, it’s just stating a difference. The NY Lizards are the best professional field lacrosse team in the world right now, maybe even ever, but Canada is still world champs. Sorry, but it’s true. Trust me, I’d like to knock those guys off the pedestal as much as the next person, but THAT opportunity only comes around once every four years. Just saying!
Make 2018 count, fellas.