Editor’s Note: Connor Wilson has handed over the reins of the MLL Weekend Previews and Recaps to Chris Rosenthall, and we’re excited for a fresh take on pro field lacrosse, just in time for the final push and playoffs! Check out previews for all four HUGELY important Major League Lacrosse games this weekend!
The Ohio Machine is the most important team in Major League Lacrosse. No, seriously… the most important team in the league. Why? Allow me to explain!
Say you decide to count those chickens before they hatch, like Mr. Powers may have done on The Lacrosse Show, and assume Denver and Long Island are heading to championship weekend (I’m not saying they won’t be there, I’m just not saying they definitely will be; I don’t need that kind of jinx on my hands, thank you very much)…
Since the Bayhawks clinched and the Nationals, Hounds and Machine were eliminated last week, the Rattlers and Cannons (both sitting at 6-5, though Boston has the tie-breaker advantage) are left to battle for the final spot. This week? Ohio plays Rochester. The week after, and the week after that? Ohio plays Boston. The Machine can potentially dash one team’s championship dreams by winning just one of their remaining games. Will they? We’ll have to see! But it’s why the Ohio Machine are the most important team in the MLL right now.
Chesapeake Bayhawks @ Boston Cannons
When the season started, the Cannons were the team everyone was talking about. Then it was the Lizards, and now it’s the Outlaws. Meanwhile, the Bayhawks are 9-2 and nobody seems to be paying attention. They’ve got an incredibly balanced offense (six 20-point scorers, the most in the league), their defense allows 9.7 goals per game (best in the league) and they’ve held their last two opponents to just seven goals each.
Their goalie, reigning defensive player of the week (and former Cannon) Kip Turner, heads back to Boston with the opportunity to help keep his old team from repeating as champions.
If Boston expects to win, they’re going to need two things: 1) Offensive production from midfielders who aren’t named Paul Rabil, and 2) take advantage of their extra-man opportunities. No team in the league gets more power plays than the Cannons, and the Bayhawks happen to have a couple of guys who love cheating. The Cannons have lost back-to-back games, and they haven’t lost three in a row since 2003. Are they due to turn it around, or is it just not their year?
Charlotte Hounds @ LI Lizards
You guys remember when The Hounds beat the Bayhawks a few weeks ago? Those were good times, huh? Well, the clock struck midnight, and now they’ve lost their last two games by a combined score of 35-12. It’s another game with a homecoming theme, as former Lizards Matt Danowski and Stephen Berger look to beat a Long Island squad that’s rebounded nicely from their two-loss weekend against Rochester.
When it comes to Charlotte’s faceoff issue, there’s some bad news: Geoff Snider (just back from Finland after coaching the Canadian U-19 team) won’t be with the team this week.
There’s good news, though: Jerry Ragonese went 9-18 in his debut last week, and 50% definitely gets the job done, especially when the team is 33% for the season. Oh, and there’s actually a little more bad news too: Greg Gurenlian’s lining up on the other side, and he’s averaging 67% at the X his past three games.
Of course we all know Jerry will do whatever it takes.
If Long Island wins and Boston loses, the Lizards clinch a playoff spot. If the Hounds plan to stop that from happening, they’ll need to minimize the unforced turnovers that caused last week’s game at Rochester to get out of hand.
Denver Outlaws @ Hamilton Nationals
With last week’s win in Boston (their third win in a row), the Denver Outlaws have officially become the hottest team in the league. Meanwhile, the Hamilton Nationals have lost five of their last six games. There’s pretty much no other way to put it.
Hamilton’s offense is going to need to come up huge this weekend, because their defense could be in for a long night. The unit that gave up six goals to Tommy Palasek last week now has to deal with Brendan Mundorf, which seems like it could be a serious problem. Also, Denver has been running Mark Matthews from the midfield every now and then, which creates even more matchup issues. Does Brodie Merrill pick up Matthews coming out the box? If so, now you’ve got a short-stick on Peet Poillon. Good luck with that.
If Denver wins, and Boston or Rochester loses, the Outlaws will clinch their playoff spot. Since their remaining games are on the road against Rochester and Chesapeake, it’s even more important to grab this win against a struggling Hamilton squad.
Ohio Machine @ Rochester Rattlers
Despite the loss, Ohio’s defense looked pretty solid against Chesapeake last week; Brian Phipps stopped 17 shots and they held the Bayhawks to their second-lowest point total of the year. On the other hand, they only scored six goals (three from Joe Cummings), which makes you wonder if The Machine can put up more points against a Rochester team that only gave up five goals last week.
These two teams play directly opposing styles; Rochester runs the transition as well as anyone in the league, but Ohio is best when they give the ball to Steele Stanwick and let him run a settled offense. Though the power play/ penalty kill situation could be interesting (Ohio has the most efficient power play in the league, Rochester the top penalty kill), this game will likely come down to which team can set the tempo they prefer.
A slow, steady pace could keep it out of Ned Crotty’s (who’s been playing trough the midfield as well) hands and lead to a Machine victory, but get into a track meet with Rochester and you’re in trouble.
I’ll be back early next week to follow up on my previews! Make sure you check out the MLL on TV and find a way to check out a game!