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Rattlers’ Playoff Hopes Alive, Lizards Eliminated

The Rochester Rattlers kept their playoff hopes alive on Saturday by defeating the New York Lizards 13-12 in Hempstead, NY. Not only did the loss signify the official end of the Lizards’ 2013 playoff aspirations, but they’ve now lost five games in a row and must win their two remaining games (they host the Outlaws this weekend, by the way) to avoid finishing the season with the worst winning percentage in this original franchise’s lengthy history.

Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo

The Rattlers offense immediately set the tempo last weekend with a John Ranagan goal in the game’s first minute, and John Galloway frustrated the Lizards early on (ten of his eleven saves came in the first half) with numerous point blank stops on the likes of proven scorers Steve Mock and Tommy Palasek. Thanks in large part to David Earl (we’ll come back to him later), however, New York managed to keep things close, and were only down 6-4 at halftime.

Exactly like in their week 11 loss against the Hounds, the Lizards offense emerged from the locker room having regained the ability to score goals, and they tossed in eight second-half tallies. Tommy Palasek’s goal with just under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter gave New York their first lead of the game, but it was short-lived, as Dave Lawson and Steve DeNapoli tied and regained the lead, respectively, only three minutes later.

In addition to key contributions from usual suspects Rob Pannell (3g, 1a, but only put 3 of 11 shots on goal) and Greg Gurenlian (21-29 on faceoffs, a game-high 12 gbs), David Earl tossed in three goals on four shots for the Lizards. After his lack of production was openly called out in the past by head coach Joe Spallina, Earl’s shot has started to fall as of late, and he’s scored as many goals in the past two games as he did in the previous seven combined.

With keeping a pole on John Ranagan apparently the Lizards’ top priority, Dave Lawson (5g) turned in his most dominant performance since, well, since the last time he played the Lizards (five points back then as well). Going north-south with an overhand finish, or east-west and sidearmed, twelve yards out against David Earl or on GLE against Brian Karalunas, Lawson found ways to score regardless of situation or matchup.

On the other side of the ball, it was a particularly forgettable outing for a previously-heralded New York defensive midfield unit. Between getting spun around like the guy in Barry Sanders highlight clips who isn’t Barry Sanders and sliding too late (or not at all) to open shooters, New York’s shorties simply had no answer for Lawson, Kyle Denhoff, and the rest of the Rattlers’ midfield.

Time will tell, but maybe we’re seeing a changing of the guard in Rochester, shifting the focus from their veteran attack (Rochester’s lineup was Leveille-less for the first time all season) to a middie-centric youth movement. Of Rochester’s top five scorers from last season, only one registered a goal (and just one goal) in Saturday’s game, which, provided they build around their young talent, could point to a bright future for the Rattlers.

But first things first; this season’s far from over…

Sitting only one game behind the Charlotte Hounds for that fourth playoff spot, the 5-7 Rattlers head to Annapolis this weekend to face the 7-5 Chesapeake Bayhawks, who are still working on securing a playoff berth of their own. With a win this weekend, the Rattlers could be one step closer to returning to Championship Weekend for the first time since they won the Steinfeld Cup in 2008.