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New York Lizards vs. Florida Launch Credit: Casey Kermes
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Digesting Major League Lacrosse: Week 10

Photo Credit: Casey Kermes

Although you’ve probably shifted into more of an international lacrosse mindset for the time being, let’s take a quick look at everything that just went down in Major League Lacrosse.

After all, week ten was the final turn before the straightaway, with every team jockeying for position before the playoff-clinching (or eliminating) games kick in. In case you missed anything, here’s a closer look at week ten:

Machine 16, Bayhawks 14

You’ve probably heard this before, but Jake Bernhardt is the Robert Horry of regular season Ohio lacrosse. During his 18-game tenure with the Machine, Bernhardt has been responsible for 50% of the team’s game-winning goals, which is not bad at all, especially when you consider he has a total of 12 goals to his name.

Bernhardt’s second-half heroics, along with key contributions from usual suspects Marcus Holman and Peter Baum, were enough to hold off Joe Walters and the Bayhawks, leaving the defending champs the lone inhabitants of the league basement.

Walters led all scorers with four goals and four assists (his second eight-point performance in as many weeks) in a losing effort, and much like in week nine, he got off to an early start, scoring or assisting on three of Chesapeake’s four first-quarter goals. With Drew Westervelt and Ben Hunt (two goals, two assists each) contributing as well, the Bayhawks went toe to toe with the league’s top offense in a game that was tied on six occasions.

However, as we all know, when a game is winding down, it’s Bernhardt time. First, he closed out the third quarter with a buzzer-beating dive that cut Chesapeake’s lead to just one goal. A few minutes later, he harassed Matt Mackrides into a turnover and grabbed the ensuing ground ball, starting the run that directly led to a Holman goal. Finally, he closed things out with the game-winner, taking Jeff Reynolds to the goal and finishing with a righty sweep down the alley.

For the Machine, their win, coupled with Charlotte and Florida’s losses, propelled them from seventh to fifth place in the standings. As for the Bayhawks, who have no choice but to win out and keep their fingers crossed, they refuse to go out quietly, trading Steven Brooks, Jon Hayes and David Earl to the Launch in exchange for Kevin Crowley and a fourth-round draft pick. Even if they miss the playoffs this year, reuniting Walters and Crowley (along with getting one of the draft picks sacrificed to their win-now mentality) is a move that sets them up nicely for the future.

Cannons 17, Outlaws 13

The Boston Cannons have participated in Denver’s “Fireworks Game” on three occasions, and for the third time, they, not unlike that freeloading uncle of yours, waltzed right in, made themselves at home and proceeded to ruin the Fourth of July for everyone involved. For the Outlaws, it’s not only their second loss in a row, but their first home loss in 15 games, their last home loss, oddly enough, being the start of their last two-game losing streak, which took place back in May of 2012.

In addition to a four points from Will Manny (25 points over the last five games, by the way) and three assists from Ryan Boyle, the Cannons most received their most notable performance from rookie midfielder Rob Emery, who tossed in a career-high four goals on the evening. Furthermore, while they managed a paltry 16 ground balls during their week nine loss in Charlotte, the Cannons grabbed 31 against the Outlaws, Brodie Merrill scooping ten (along with a goal) by himself.

Meanwhile, concerns continue to mount for the Denver Outlaws, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. In the first five games of the season, the Outlaws defense gave up an impressive ten goals per game. In their latest five (one of those being Jesse Schwartzman’s tremendous 28-save performance in week eight, in which the Bayhawks managed only six goals), they’ve allowed 14.2. Speaking of Schwartzman, he didn’t record a save until the second quarter, the Cannons scoring on their first five shots on goal.

Thanks in part to their recent history of regular season success, the Outlaws are providing observers with a sense of anxiety generally reserved for teams that have lost far more than, say, three out of ten games. After all, they’re tied for first place, and, barring an epic collapse, are still most likely on their way to a ninth consecutive playoff appearance. The question that remains, however, is exactly how panicked Denver should be regarding this recent slide, after all, nobody wants to back their way into the playoffs.

Lizards 20, Launch 11

Last Thursday’s game was your classic case of two teams passing in the night: the Lizards emerging with a three-game winning streak, the Launch losing their fourth game in a row and continuing their horrific decent into playoff irrelevance.

With a defense that gave up 18 goals in back to back weeks and Tucker Durkin out once again with a concussion, poor Niko Amato was thrown to the wolves in his first MLL debut. Amato, who gave up only 120 goals his entire senior season at Maryland, was subjected to a defense that rarely got a stick on their opponent or slid when necessary. On the opposite end of the field, Drew Adams was sharp out the gate, stopping two Kevin Crowley attempts that could have given the Launch an early lead.

Fast forward to the third quarter, where down by a cool ten goals, the Launch refused to give up, scoring four unanswered goals (Adams didn’t have any second-half saves) and beginning to crawl their way back into contention. Unfortunately, at the end of the quarter, the stadium lights went out on some bizarre “Ocean’s Eleven” mess. Considering the timer-controlled lights went off at exactly 11:00 pm (far later than one would expect an early evening game to go), there’s most likely no conspiracy theory to solve – it’s just terrible luck for the Launch, especially because the Lizards scored three in a row when the game resumed, squashing any potential comeback talk (of which there was pretty much none) for good.

Meanwhile, up in the booth, Eamon McAnaney and Paul Carcaterra teamed up to handle the game’s broadcasting duties, which, as you’ll recall from their NCAA announcing, provides for commentary that is not only insightful and opinionated, but loaded with casual banter as well. When you combine Eamon and Carc with an extensive rain delay, an additional “somebody come turn these lights back on” delay and of course, an indisputable shellacking of a lacrosse game, you get a perfect storm of tangential broadcasting, with our dynamic duo talking cheesesteak recommendations, a high school game from seven or eight years ago, and at one point, literally going 21 seconds without saying a word. Just sitting there. Two dudes, watching lacrosse. Cashing checks.

Anyway, getting (very slightly) back to the topic at hand: remember those girls who were in Destiny’s Child before they got kicked out and the group became ridiculously famous? Yeah, me neither, because the formula wasn’t quite right – once they had one star in place, they needed exactly two people talented enough to take the lead from time to time, yet savvy enough to know when they’re better off harmonizing. I assume you’ve already reached this conclusion, but this is quite obviously one of the ways Destiny’s Child is similar to New York’s attack trio of Rob Pannell, Tommy Palasek and Matt Gibson. Pass, shoot or dodge, whatever Palasek and Gibson intend to do with the ball, they know to do it quickly, and the entire roster has followed accordingly.

They’ll get their moments in the spotlight, and are more than capable of handling them, but Pannell is the lead, and when all three work together, the possibilities are endless. Granted they’ve been against the two most porous defenses in the league, but in the two games since Gibson joined the squad, he and Palasek have a combined 13 goals on 21 shots, 19 of which have been on cage. Hard to argue with those numbers.

Rattlers 15, Hounds 13

On Saturday evening, the Rochester Rattlers completed their climb to the top of the standings, keeping the Hounds just outside of the playoff picture in the process.

Rochester’s offensive game began with their midfielders testing Josh Hawkins early and often, then transitioned into a heavy reliance on the two-man game, after which Jordan Wolf remembered to sprint past everyone planning on covering him.

Trailing 10-5 at the half, the Hounds responded by bumping Matt Danowski down to attack, where he and Mike Sawyer tallied two second-half goals each (including a two-pointer from Sawyer) while chipping away at Rochester’s lead. Justin Ward mounted a solo takeover as the game ran out, first scoring two goals in 18 seconds to cut Rochester’s lead to two, then attempting a two-pointer (turned away by Jon Galloway) with seconds remaining.

While there were clearly elements of Charlotte’s performance that needed sharpening, it’s just extremely difficult to stop a Rochester team that’s simultaneously excelling in so many facets of the game. At attack, Wolf scored three goals on his way to being named game MVP for the second time in his four-game career. In the midfield, Justin Turri’s three-goal performance now gives him 30 points on the season, double his total from last year with the Outlaws.

Follow those performances up with a defensive unit that not only held Charlotte scoreless for a span of over 16 minutes in the second and third quarter, but featured three poles who recorded at least one point on the evening, and it’s no surprise that this Rattlers team is currently the most dangerous in the league.

With all teams still in contention, the league is off until July 17, the Rattlers and Bayhawks squaring off with major postseason implications hanging in the balance. Until then, enjoy the World Games, and we’ll see you back here for the playoff push.