With the exception of the league’s top two teams, every squad did the opposite of what they’d done the week before. Lost in week six? Congrats, things are turning around. Coming off a big week six win? Guess what – it’s back to the drawing board. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, parity shows up, invites itself in, and starts stomping around on your couch with its mud stained boots. In case you missed anything, here’s what went down in week seven:
Hamilton Nationals 10, New York Lizards 12
Regardless of opponent, situation, or pretty much anything, when Greg Gurenlian is on (as he tends to be), the New York Lizards have a shot at winning the game. Thursday’s game was no exception, and the seemingly endless opportunities were too much for rookie goalie Dillon Ward and the Nationals’ (Brodie Merrill-less) defense to handle.
After Matt Dolente’s 13-32 performance last week against Anthony Kelly and the Denver Outlaws, Mike Poppleton was given the assignment of stopping Gurenlian, a.k.a the only guy in the league with a better faceoff percentage than Kelly. This did not go well for Hamilton; Poppleton finished 9-32, including 3-14 in the first half.
Joe Spallina shook up his attack line in the second quarter, switching out Mark Matthews for Matt Gibson, and sending Matthews out of the box for the remainder of the game. The result? Of Tommy Palasek’s game-high four goals, Gibson and Pannell had two assists each.
Time will tell if the lineup remains the same, but this appears to be the best fit for the Lizards attack. Granted he did pretty well for himself when he played attack in college, but Matthews demonstrated an ability to produce out of the box when Jim Stagnitta started playing him in this manner last season with the Outlaws. Let Pannell run things from x, have Palasek and Gibson on the wings, and send Matthews out the box, north-south, on a dead sprint. Imagine you have Seibald and Matthews on the same midfield line: which guy gets the short stick, the small one?
Ward settled in nicely and made several clutch saves in the later stages of the game, but why was he there to begin with? Brett Queener’s been saving almost 60% of the shots that come his way, and although his last outing wasn’t stellar (note: the Outlaws put 28 shots on goal in Queener’s three quarters in net, also, they’re the Outlaws), his numbers are still amongst the top of his class. Are the Nationals are headed for another timeshare situation in goal? Since Huntley tiptoes around roster disclosure like lasers in a heist movie, we may never know until it’s been done. Or not done.
Denver Outlaws 13, Chesapeake Bayhawks 9
If the Chesapeake Bayhawks sat down and made a list of tasks they needed to accomplish in order to beat the Denver Outlaws, chances are it would go something like this:
1. Hold them to fewer than 20 goals (coach Dave Cottle stated this one earlier in the week)
2. Minimize the damage done by Brendan Mundorf.
3. Keep the faceoff battle close.
Well, the Outlaws tied their lowest point total of the season, Mundorf was held to his lowest point total of the season and the teams split the faceoffs 50-50. Check, check and check, and yet they still couldn’t snap Denver’s winning streak.
Chesapeake’s chances looked good early, as they held Denver to only two goals in the first quarter (their lowest-scoring quarter in over a month). Ultimately, they failed to capitalize on their offensive opportunities, and while only one point from Lee Zink’s assignment (in this case, John Grant Jr) is par for the course, Junior’s supporting attackmen each only chipped in one goal as well.
Denver head coach Jim Stagnitta went 2-2 on coaches’ challenges, as a Michael Kimmel goal was waived off (crease violation) in the second quarter, and Brendan Mundorf goal was, umm, waived on (initially ruled a no-goal, replay indicated the ball did, in fact, cross the plane) a few minutes later. While Kimmel’s goal would have given the Bayhawks a 3-2 lead, Denver’s Eric Law broke the tie, giving the Outlaws a lead they’d never give back.
And while we’re on the subject, it’s fair to say Eric Law officially has our complete attention. Mixing crafty off-ball work and quickness off the whistle, finishing on the crease or from ten yards out, Law has definitely earned the two rookie of the week awards he’s picked up in his two weeks in the league. And speaking of 100%, if you haven’t heard, he’s scored nine goals on his nine shots as a pro. Not absurd enough for you? How about this: dating back to the first round of the NCAA tournament, Eric Law has scored on 19 of his last 20 shots. 19. Of. 20. There’s nowhere to go from there. Paragraph over. Story over. NEXT GAME!
Boston Cannons 15, Charlotte Hounds 13
Not only did Saturday mark Will Manny’s second two-goal performance in as many games, but he seemed to possess the ball more than in his first two games combined, even occasionally relegating Ryan Boyle to wing duties and initiating the offense from X himself.
While Paul Rabil took a total of four shots (his fewest since June 4, 2010, also his last game without a point) Mike Stone took eight (tying his career-high) and scored on four, including three consecutive goals during the Cannons’ second-quarter comeback. Although Rabil leads the Cannons with 16 goals this season, Stone is only two goals behind, and he’s scored them while taking half as many shots.
Nobody’s going to say the key to a Boston turnaround is keeping the ball away from Boyle and making sure Rabil never shoots again, but if this game was any indication, the Cannons’ success throughout the remainder of the season may hinge upon head coach John Tucker’s ability to spread out the offensive duties a little more than they’ve grown accustomed to in the last two years.
Rochester Rattlers 11, Ohio Machine 13
DOUBLE DIGITS Y’ALL!
That’s right, for the first time this season, the Ohio Machine put more than nine goals on the board in a single game. Even more importantly, they snapped an 11-game losing streak thanks in part to Joe Cummings (career-high five goals) and Connor Martin, who tied a career-high five points in his triumphant return from the IR.
Martin’s return to the lineup was like your teacher coming back after you had a substitute and screwed around all week: order was restored amongst the youngsters, and it was finally time to get back to work. He scored off the invert or up top, hit cutters in stride and picked up a hockey assist or two, by which you can correctly assume the Ohio offense is starting to run smoothly enough that three people could be directly involved in one scoring play, which seemed crazy not so long ago.
Although John Ranagan turned in another solid performance (his second hat trick in as many games), this was by no means Rochester’s finest performance – they were plagued by unforced turnovers, poor offensive cohesion (Mike Leveille registered the team’s lone assist) and questionable decision-making all over the place. But Ohio won this game; the Rattlers didn’t give it away. Frankly, the game could’ve gotten out of hand were it not for another solid performance (25 saves, including nine in the first quarter) from John Galloway. Between point-blank saves and 70 yard outlet passes, Galloway was quite possibly only three goals away from earning defensive player of the week honors for the third consecutive week.
View From 30,000 Feet
Denver stays on top as the undisputed champ for another week, but what did we learn? Anything? It seems like the week left us with far more questions than answers, but one thing’s for sure: reports of your favorite team’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated, albeit for perfectly good reasons. As week seven proved, no team’s season is over quite yet, and if they are going down eventually, they are all going down swinging.