Four months later and we’re here, MLL Championship Weekend. It’s a rematch of last year’s fight for the Steinfeld Trophy, the Ohio Machine versus the Denver Outlaws. That game featured a monsoon-like downpour that delayed the play and completely flipped the script. The Outlaws came out of the break and scored goal after goal, morphing a 7-14 deficit to 19-18 win.
This year’s game will surely have a much different narrative. That because it’s indoors at the Dallas Cowboy’s state-of-the-art Ford Center, a 12,000-seat multi-purpose facility on the campus they refer to as The Star. This will be the Outlaws’ 7th trip to the game and the chance to win their third of the last four championships since breaking their 10 year curse. The Machine have opportunity to earn their very first title in their second-ever visit to the finals.
These two units met twice twice season, splitting the difference at 1-1. The Outlaws took the first win on the road in Columbus and the Machine returned the favor in Denver the next weekend. There’s no doubt both the Machine and Outlaws deserve to go after it one more time. It’s time to finish the series and play a full 60-minute championship unaffected by climate.
Outlaws 15, Rattlers 8
After letting in two for the Rattlers, and not scoring for nearly the entire first ten minutes, nine Outlaws packed in fifteen goals against John Galloway. The score was actually 15-4, but in a desperate attempt, Rochester nailed back-to-back two-pointers on back-up Mike Nugent, in to relieve Jack Kelly after an incredible 80% night.
Eric Law led the team with 3 goals, 1 assist, but fellow attackmen Wes Berg and Powell Pathfinder Mike Bocklet had two goals each. The midfielders came up with five and long poles had three goals adding to the effort.
Across the board, Denver looked impressive. The showed weakness in the face-off game, losing 72% of the draws to Drew Simoneau. Ohio has historically come in hot at the X, but the Outlaws always seem to counter with dialed in midfield play, on both sides of the ball.
The frontline of Law, Bocklet, Berg, and Kavanagh, who had six apples on Saturday, is gelling like never before. Ohio’s lockdown defense will have their hands full with these four, leaving the midfield of Snider, Dennis, Currier, and Sieverts to have one-on-one looks at dodging to goal. Playing cleanly has been working out well for the well-conditioned Outlaws, only taking one technical against Rochester made things that much easier for themselves.
Machine 18, Launch 13
Unlike Saturday’s first semifinal, Central Ohio was treated to a more thrilling affair. Tom Schreiber found the back of the net in the first minute, before Brian Karalunas could sink one for the long-sticks, and Mark Cockerton good drive up a 3-0 start. With the crowd working to keep the momentum, Powell Pathfinder Tim Barber fought back to knock the wind from their sails. Kieran McArdle found a way to fight through the defensive stronghold and cut the deficit to one by the end of the first.
Off the next whistle, face-off man Greg Puskuldjian took the ball straight to the rack and Marcus Holman kept the quick scoring going off the next draw. Without panic, Florida lowered their heads and got to work. Four different Launch shooters found twine and over eight minutes they worked to take the lead, while holding off any Ohio advances. Working quickly again, Connor Cannizzaro and Cockerton punched in two goals in twenty seconds to take the one goal lead right back. With seconds left, McArdle would answer the call once more, making it a hat trick, and a tie, before the break.
From there, the game was fairly well controlled by the Machine to the very end. Peter Baum got the half rolling with a pair of goals, eventually completing a hat trick. Cannizzaro would also bury his second and third, as would Schreiber. Marcus Holman had another strong showing, orchestrating the offense from the front with two goals, three assists. Schreiber would lead the team from the midfield, racking up six points through equal goals and assists.
The Machine and the Outlaws are that match made in lacrosse heaven. They’re incredibly balanced on all sides of the ball and stack up so perfectly. Ohio is looking to have the edge at the face-off X, Puskuldjian returning to duty with an above .500 effort. Young Kyler Bernlohr is having an incredible sophomore season, but Denver is also riding high on the play of Jack Kelly.
Tune In to the Grand Finale
Saturday night the season wraps up in Frisco, Texas. The two best teams, for two straight years, will show off what the pinnacle of lacrosse looks like. This is the second time the MLL has visited Texas in the last three years, taking the All-Star Game south to Houston in 2015. In case you haven’t got the picture, this game is going to be awesome. It’s not a fluke that the Machine and Outlaws are meeting, it’s a product of a lot of little things done the right way.
This isn’t just a game, but also a chance for Major League Lacrosse to test the waters in North Texas. The game in the greater-Dallas area continues to boom and expanding a team to Texas seems like a smart move. Folks will be coming in from all over the South to watch the rematch, reinforcing that the region is hungry for high level lacrosse. If you’re within driving distance, get there. If not, don’t miss what could be the best lacrosse game of the gear on CBS Sports Network.
The MLL will also host the inaugural MLL Honors on the Friday before at Verona Villa in Frisco. The formal award show will honor the winners of the season awards. So far, Jack Kelly (Denver), Kyle Bernlohr (Ohio), and John Galloway (Rochester) have been nominated for Goalie of the Year. B.J. O’Hara (Denver), Bear Davis (Ohio), and Tom Mariano (Florida) are up for Coach of the Year. Teammates Mark Cockerton (Ohio) and Bernlohr face Kylor Bellestri (Boston) for Most Improved. The final category announced to this point is Rookie of the Year, featuring Josh Byrne (Chesapeake), Dylan Molloy (Florida), and Zach Currier (Denver).
MLL Honors: 7:00 p.m. ET
Lax Sports Network, MLL YouTube
Pre-Game: 6:00 p.m. ET
Lax Sports Network
2017 MLL Championship: 7:00 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Post-Game: 9:30 p.m. ET
Lax Sports Network
Saturday, August 12th
● Rattlers 8, Outlaws 15
● Launch 13, Machine 18