Five games were knocked out over the past week, and while we aren’t going to dive deep into each of the matchups, we want to shine a light on a few key stories. Only three weeks remain, no one has clenched and no one is eliminated from playoff contention quite yet. That could all change this weekend, but before hopes are shattered, let’s figure out where we are at.
Shootout in Ohio
The Outlaws rolled in to Central Ohio for the first re-match of the 2016 MLL Champion’s Cup. A healthy crowd lined the bleachers at Fortress Obetz, sporting much more red, white, and blue than Machine colors. Why? Before and after the game, the local lacrosse community came together for the third annual Shootout for Soldiers. This year, the event was moved from a local high school to the brand new, state of the art facilities used by the Machine. The opportunity to play on the newly laid, perfectly plush turf used by the MLL is appealing enough, but couple the event with a chance to support a variety of nonprofits dedicated to supporting military families, active duty and veterans, then taking in a pro lacrosse game is too sweet to pass up.
For those of you that don’t know, the Shootout for Soldiers (SFS) is a travelling 24-hour lacrosse game that is focused on collecting resources and building awareness for a variety of charities focused on improving the lives of soldiers and veterans. Although this is the third year for the Ohio event, 2017 will feature 12 different locations, from Boston to California, and plenty in between. In the full day of lacrosse, a different game will kick off every hour, each time slot focused on different ages and genders, even supporting a veteran game in the peak hours.
This year, the Ohio Machine stepped in to take their local event to the next level by hosting a home game with the Denver Outlaws smack dab in the middle of the action. The appeal of catching an MLL game before, or after, your time slot and being one of the first to play in the recently completed Fortress Obetz helped build a lot of interest for the event and brought a solid spike in attendance.
For the hundreds of fans rocking their SFS pinnies, all numbered 1776, a bond was formed on the field and in the stadium as they cheered on their local heros. Powell Pathfinder Mike Bocklet opened the night up, scoring on his first touch of the game for the Outlaws. The favor was returned by a nice effort from the Machine’s Mark Cockerton, but Bocklet had to circle back around for his second a few minutes later. Although the teams became familiar with each other in 2016, the current lineups were slightly revised and the new faces were making a large impact. To the crowd’s delight, the score was in favor of Ohio at the end of the first quarter and they maintained a, 7-6, lead at the halftime break.
The Machine were without the crafty prowess of Marcus Holman and were missing a deceptive attackman to charge from X. They supplemented by keeping the ball high and initiating dodges from the midfield. Cockerton and rookie Connor Cannizzaro focused their efforts on supporting from the wings and it paid off with a hat trick from both shooters. Yet, while the Machine were wasting half of their attempts by plugging the ball right into the stick of young goaltender Jack Kelly, the Outlaws were picking their spots and pinning the ball accurately past Kyle Bernlohr. Ohio seemed to be shooting the ball with power, but the placement of the Denver shooters helped them pull away in the second half.
The fourth quarter kicked off with an absolute shake and bake from up top, rookie Romar Dennis making the extremely athletic Dom Alexander look completely stuck in the mud. Shaking his defender beyond the arc, the lengthy Dennis reared back and let one soar, sticking his first career two-pointer. Canadian standout Wes Berg punched in his third of the night after Dennis and suddenly the Outlaws owned a three goal lead. The home team would come up with the ball time after time, but only Kevin Cunningham could find twine, the majority of shots coming in like popcorn to Kelly.
Having Kyle Harrison back at the midfield is huge for leadership and offensive firepower, but one of the big voids the Machine are facing is at both Xs. Rookie Kevin Reisman took every face-off attempt, but continued to fall short of .500, causing Ohio to call in a veteran. After helping to launch the Machine’s move to Ohio, local product Anthony Kelly bounced to Denver, Atlanta, and Chesapeake before sitting out in 2017. This weekend, Kelly will make his return to the Machine, calling up the seasoned all-pro to help bring leadership and possessions to the squad. They also should expect to have Marcus Holman back in the lineup, away last week for a wedding, to bring a scoring and feeding threat most teams struggle with.
The Outlaws have now locked up the top spot in the league, sitting a game and a half ahead of the Machine in the standings. Neither team has punched up their ticket to the postseason quite yet, but a win this weekend for either team, and a loss by Boston, can just about get them there. The young Denver defense is looking as good as they have in recent years after losing a veteran core of Zink, O’Dougherty, Clausen, Schwartzman, and more. Relying on youngsters BJ Grill, Eddie Glazener, and Jack Kelly to fill big roles alongside veteran Mike Simon, the defense is looking like things are firing on all cylinders at this point.
Both teams should have more reinforced lineups this weekend, with other stars returning from a quick break after trying out for Team USA this week in Baltimore. Ohio will head to the Rocky Mountains this weekend, for the second and final showdown of the regular season.
Bad News Boston
A couple weeks ago, we talked about the blockbuster trade that sent all-stars Will Manny and John Locascio to New York in exchange for, well…. nobody! It turns out, Boston either didn’t do their due diligence, or they’ve got something unprecedented crazy up their sleeves, but either way, they handed over two extremely impactful players to the Lizards and in return, got two guys deciding not to report.
But hey, it’s the MLL, great players are abundant in a league with only 9 teams, it shouldn’t be that big of deal, right? Well when you give away your points leader without bringing in someone equally impactful, the recipe is actually a disaster. The Cannons have been on a long break, since breaking up with Manny and Locascio, and had the time to try to work something out. Yet, they rolled into Rochester last weekend and absolutely got smacked.
Let’s just jump to it. At the end of the first quarter, it was Jordan Wolf’s 4 to Boston’s 2. No one had a defensive answer for Wolf’s speed and aggression, while on the other end, only rookies Sergio Perkovic and Kyle Jackson, and sophomore John Uppgren could net one each. In the meantime, six other Rattlers’ pinned the rock past veteran netminder Tyler Fiorito, despite twelve saves in the first half alone.
The third quarter didn’t get much better, as only Kevin Buchanan could work a shot past John Galloway, while another five shooters continued to pick apart Fiorito and eventually Jack Murphy. Tables started to turn in the final frame, the Cannons found their pride and refused to get blown out by a 14 goal differential heading into the fourth. Boston actually beat Rochester, 5-3, in the final 15 minutes, but the final score of 21-9 wouldn’t reflect much fight out of the Boston boys.
The revamped Rochester lineup looks to have found new life through the box game. While Boston had a few NLLers, Rochester loaded up on talent from the indoor game. Eric Fannell, Blaze Riorden, Joel White, Dhane Smith, Jordan MacIntosh, John Ranagan, Don Moss, and Ty Thompson are eight guys that have spent a quality amount of time between the boards and it’s paid off huge for a team that was in the gutter last season. 14 points came out of that group alone, and considering they aren’t all shorties, that’s pretty effective numbers.
Our Great One
This weekend, Florida honored the legendary Casey Powell by retiring the number 22 from the Launch. Powell joined Florida for their inaugural season in 2014 and has since set just about every offensive standard for the team. Also residing in the area, Powell has launched his World Lacrosse Foundation and Speed Lacrosse endeavours to help the game grow in the Southeast and beyond. Due to his contributions in the local lacrosse community, four impressive seasons with the Launch, and his revolutionary play in the MLL since 2001, the Launch made the easy decision to pay tribute to one of lacrosse’s great ones by retiring #22 in honor of Casey.
Over his career, Casey has competed for five different teams, collecting 549 career points from the inaugural season to 2016, 120 for Florida. Through thirteen seasons, Powell would win three MLL Championships, two Offensive Player of the Year honors, and become the oldest league MVP, at 38, playing with Florida. It seems that it’s only a matter of time that the entire MLL retires #22, if not just for Casey, but also for the contributions his brothers, and the great Gary Gait, made to the game. Who could ever fill those shoes?
Thursday, July 13th
● Blaze 16, Lizards 14
Saturday, July 15th
● Cannons 9, Rattlers 21
● Lizards 14, Hounds 11
● Outlaws 13, Machine 11
● Bayhawks 19, Launch 20
Thursday, July 13th
● Cannons @ Lizards – 7 pm, Shuart Stadium
● Outlaws @ Rattlers – 7:30 pm, Capelli Sports Stadium
● Launch @ Bayhawks – 7:30 pm, Navy-Marine Corps Stadium
Saturday, July 15th
● Hounds @ Launch – 7 pm, FAU Stadium
● Bayhawks @ Blaze – 7 pm, Fifth Third Stadium