We couldn’t have imagined a better opening weekend for the 2017 Major League Lacrosse season. Those with subscriptions to Lax Sports Network were able to tune in for a front row seat to four absolute barnburners. Each one of the games, featuring 8 of the League’s 9 teams, came down to a single goal. Two of which were decided with a little under four minutes left in the final frame and the others needed overtime to make a decision.
There’s four more games on the horizon this weekend, with the debut of Rattlers on the way. Before we get there, let’s look back at the first weekend of the summer season.
Denver 13, Charlotte 12
If we’re going to start anywhere, it’’s going to be the Denver Outlaws’ trip to Charlotte to meet the Hounds. Why? Powell athlete Mike Bocklet fired into the season like a madman and pinned 4 goals and 1 assist against goaltender Charlie Cipriano and the Hounds. In one of the the highlight performances of the weekend, Bocklet led the Outlaws on the scoresheet through a consistent effort all game long. He got his first of the season in the opening quarter to make it 2-0, then another in the second to push the score to 7-2. A late rally from the Hounds, led by Ryan Brown and Mike Chanenchuk, would steal the lead away from Denver. Bocklet would come up huge in the fourth quarter, scoring the tying goal after a three goal leak. With about four minutes left, Bocklet did it again. Fellow Powell athlete Tim Barber dodged from up top, pressed off his defender to get space, threw a beautiful face dodge, and let it rip. Cipriano sniffed out the shot, but it took him to the ground with a loose ball in front of the crease. Bocklet was there to scoop it cleanly and bury the rock behind his back for what would result as the game-winning goal.
The Hounds were off to a fairly sluggish start, but showed why they’re pros by digging out of a 5 goal deficit. Ryan Brown stuck 5 times, including a 2-pointer, and was on course to be the man of the night. Chanenchuk was right there with a hat trick along with a pair from Joey Sankey, but the rest of the Charlotte bench failed to generate any momentum against Denver. On the other side, Matt Kavanagh got to work early with a hat trick of his own in the first quarter. Kavanagh was just one of six Outlaws to find twine on Saturday. Charlotte only had four didn’t scorers find a goal while under strong pressure from the Denver defense early on. The Outlaws will stay on the road, heading to Long Island to meet the Lizards (1-0), while the Hounds will get another home game, hosting the Machine (1-0). Both games are on Saturday.
Ohio 10, Atlanta 9
Another Bocklet got to work this weekend, in an all new uniform after five seasons. Playing in his first game with the Blaze, Chris Bocklet got on the board for the first time in the second quarter and again in the third, both from Kevin Rice. Bocklet’s former Virginia teammate, James Pannell, was the only other Atlanta shooter to strike twice, successful on two of his three shots on goal. The Machine’s Scott Rodgers (.636) came into the game already in midseason form, only letting 8 balls into the net on 22 shots on target. In the opposite crease, the Blaze played the 50/50 game with perennial drifters Johnny Rodriguez (.636) and Adam Fullerton (.571) splitting time.
This would come as Ohio’s first-ever win over the Atlanta franchise, with the key offensive production coming through two almost unlikely sticks. Without a rehabbing Kyle Harrison in the lineup, Tom Schreiber away in the NLL, and John Grant Jr. recently bowing out for retirement, the Machine had three major scoring voids to fill. That’s where Jake Bernhardt and rookie Mike Rooney, undrafted Stony Brook grad, stepped in. Bernhardt led the way by opening the book and closing it, with two points in between. It took over 14 minutes for someone to find the back of the net and it was Bernhardt going first for Ohio. With about 4 minutes left, he would seal the deal with the game-winner, his hattrick. Rooney is now a marked man after his breakout debut, burying a hat trick and a potential game-winner in the fourth. In all, only four shooters from Ohio were able light up the scoreboard, but it would be enough to take the win. On Saturday, Atlanta will get another shot at their first home win against the Cannons (1-0) and Ohio will stay on the road, this time heading to Charlotte (0-1).
New York 15, Chesapeake 14
A twelve goal first quarter broke open what turned out to be a thrilling matchup on all ends. Before barely two minutes had ticked off of the clock, the Lizards were already up 3-0, thanks two dual strikes from the craft Matt Gibson and a sling from superstar Paul Rabil. Albany product Matt Bertrams was able to put a dent in the run, before Rob Pannell would punch in his first of the season for New York. Making his MLL debut, Nate Lewnes registered his first goal of the game to get the Bayhawks back in the loop. Dave Lawson would strike next in an attempt to quiet things down for the Zards, but it actually opened the gates for a four goal run by Chesapeake. Different Hawks took turns putting shots into the back of the net, eventually stealing the lead away from New York. To complete his hat trick, Gibson would come back around to plug the leak and knot the game at 6 before the second quarter.
Despite a quieter period of play, Matt Gibson would net yet another goal. The strike would be his last of the game and the only other Lizard score in the first half. The Bayhawks would steal away the lead with three goals of their own and get to halftime with a 9-7 lead. Just like the first quarter, goals came early and often for both side in the third. Tommy Palasek hit twice, while Rabil and Lawson knocked down solo shots. For Chesapeake, it was the awakening of the Freak. In his first game as a Bayhawk, Myles Jones racked up 4 points, all in the third. Two unassisted goals tell as he dodged and danced his way to time and room. Then Jones fired a rocket from beyond the arc to ring up the only 2-pointer of the game. Rolling into the final frame up by two, the Bayhawks let the Lizards strike first again. Palasek quickly completed his hat trick before former Bayhawk pinned in his first tally wearing New York digs. Lewnes would come back around to complete a hat trick of his own and to re-take the lead. In the final minutes, Rob Pannell would show us why he’s an all-star with an absolute clutch finish to force the extra minutes.
Both goaltenders were standing on their heads in the final 15 minutes. It would be New York’s Drew Adams getting the best of the Hawks to only allow 1 of 5 potentially lethal shots and force overtime. Somewhere around 20 seconds were left when Adams made his biggest save of the night, right on the doorstep he turned away Carlson after a perfect feed from Jones. The extra period didn’t take long with Dave Lawson finishing the job and his hat trick barely thirty seconds in. Kicking off his final tour, Greg Gurenlian finished with 20 wins on 31 attempts at the face-off X, the highest win percentage of the weekend. The Lizards return to Long Island on Saturday to host the Outlaws (1-0), while the Bayhawks get a bye to prepare for Boston the following weekend.
Boston 18, Florida 17
Right around the first minute of the game, the lacrosse world found out that the electrifying Chazz Woodson has still got it. Chasing down an endline shot, Woodson took the ball from the corner to the goal with lightning-quick speed for the first score of the game. It was a back and forth flurry of shots and goals until eventually 35 points would eventually show up in lights. The highest-scoring game of the weekend took an hour of playtime plus another 39 seconds seconds to decide a winner. An attack on both of the goalies resulted in a less than positive performance in the creases. Boston’s Tyler Fiorito (.467) and Florida’s Austin Kaut (.500) were peppered all game against 30 and 36 shots on goal respectively.
A slashing penalty at the very end of the fourth quarter would help the Cannons capture the win. Will Manny would send a perfect arcing skip pass to the backside for Kylor Bellestri wide open with his hands free and the long sweep for the goalie wouldn’t get there in time. This came a little over a minute after Manny buried the tying goal himself to force overtime. It was the stable performance from Davey Emala that helped get Boston to this point in the first place. Emala was successful on 4 of his 6 shots, all on goal. A hat trick and an assist from Bellestri would put him hip to him with Emala with 4 points a piece. It was a team effort for the New Englanders, Joe LoCascio, Mike Begley, Scott Bieda, David Earl, and Will Manny all chipped in a pair. Face-off man Joe Nardella cleaned up a respectable 20 of 35 draws and registered a goal of his own. The Launch will stay home against the Rattlers (0-0) while the Cannons head to Atlanta to duel the Blaze (0-1).
Saturday, April 29th
Rattlers @ Launch – 1 pm, Spec Martin Stadium, Deland, FL
Outlaws @ Lizards – 6 pm, Hofstra Stadium, Hempstead, NY
Cannons @ Blaze – 7 pm, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennseaw, GA
Machine @ Hounds – 7 pm, American Legion Memorial Stadium, Charlotte, NC