Whoa, we’re halfway there! The 2017 Major League Lacrosse season is at the midpoint, but somehow it feels like things are just getting started. Maybe it’s because the NLL season wrapped up last weekend and we can now welcome figures like the Thompsons, Mark Matthews, Randy Staats, Mitch Belisle, and a few others back into the fold. When the MLL is at full-strength with college kids and box guys added to the roster, it’s really worth going out of your way to watch the action. Obviously it’s not always that easy, that’s what we’re here for.
Blaze 12, Hounds 18
Last week’s shootout between Atlanta and Charlotte finished with the Blaze squeaking by, 19-18. Saturday night told a much different story. The Hounds left it all on the field from the opening whistle of the rematch and found a way to register five-consecutive scores in the first twelve minutes without letting the Blaze find success. Eventually Kevin Rice would connect to get Atlanta on the board, but three stops from Charlie Cipriano backed Charlotte to a, 5-1, lead after the first quarter.
The story of the second quarter wouldn’t stray far from the first. After five different shooters connected in round one, Ryan Brown and Mike Chanenchuk came back for seconds, while John Haus took a break from assists to bury one of his own. Coming in hot from another excellent NLL run, Callum Crawford stepped up for the Blaze and punched in his first goal of the season with the new squad.
On the other end, Crawford’s backstopper from the Colorado Mammoth joined him on the Blaze this weekend, but had a tougher time adjusting to the outdoor game. Dillon Ward got the call over their staple, Adam Ghitelman, and answered with a .392 average, looking out of form at times, allowing the Hounds scoring to swell in bunches. Cipriano would actually see more heat, but was able to turn away over 62% of what he saw.
The second half was a much different story, with the teams exchanging six goals each in the third, and four in the fourth. Atlanta responded to the first half struggles with a balanced attack, Powell athlete Chris Bocklet and Kevin Rice both racking up hat tricks in the next thirty minutes. It was answered with another three goals for Brown, a completed hat trick for Haus, a 2-pointer for defenseman Mike Ehrhardt, and some extra change tossed in by the support staff. The Blaze could hang their hats on the incoming of Ohio State grad, Jake Withers. Withers took over the face-off duties from veteran Anthony Kelly and cleaned up by winning 24 of all 32 attempts, toppling Brendan Fowler (.277) and Kevin Massa (.300) with near ease. Atlanta was shooting accurately, but Charlotte shot often and the sheer volume of rubber thrown at Ward would likely be a biggest factor in moving to 3-5. Now at 2-4, Atlanta is also 3 games back from Denver, and will head to Florida on Friday, an hour ahead of Charlotte’s start at Chesapeake.
Lizards 14, Launch 15 OT
After coming out out of the gates swinging, this game quickly became the Lizards’ to lose. Midfielder Kevin Unterstein got the show started just 32 seconds in, followed not long after by a strike from Dave Lawson and New York was quickly up by two. Tim Edwards snuck one past goalie Drew Adams to get the Launch on the board, only to be trailed by tallies from Joe Walters and Matt Gibson. At 4-1, New York was rolling hot into the second quarter and although 2016 Tewaaraton winner Dylan Molloy was first to get on the board, the Zards weren’t giving up the lead that early. The response to Molloy’s first connection was two quick ones from Paul Rabil, followed by Rabil’s hat trick finisher some minutes later. Always ready for a timely goal, Chazz Woodson took the ball to the rack for the Launch to cut the deficit to four, but the visitors were still maintaining a quality 7-3 lead at the break.
Here’s where the tables began to turn. Tom Mariano lit some sort of fire under his team’s rear ends during halftime and it started with the first career goal for midfielder Mark McNeil just 8 seconds in. Tommy Palasek would respond with another goal for New York to stretch the gap again, but Molloy would circle back around to cancel things out by punching in his second just a minute later. Woodson would sling in his second to cut the difference to two, before the game would pull the reigns back a bit. Seven minutes later we were welcomed to more career firsts, Towson grad Ryan Drenner burying his first goal in his MLL debut. With the Launch now trailing by one, the comeback was looking more than doable. Joe Walters snuck back in right before the close of the quarter to register the ninth goal for New York, the sixth unassisted goal of the third.
The final frame didn’t start with the same excitement, but it didn’t take long Chazz Woodson to comeback with another clutch goal to get the game within one. From there it was time for Mike Unterstein to make an impact. It started with a slashing call that sat Unterstein in the box for a minute. Coming out of the box, Florida’s Unterstein found his way to the ball, turned momentum up field and buried the tying goal. With momentum in their corner, the Launch didn’t waste time rewriting the story. Drenner showed his ability to be a difference maker, punching in his second goal, third point of the game to steal away the lead. Halfway through the quarter, all-star Connor Buczek showed up to extend the lead to two. If there’s one thing we know, you can’t count your chips in the MLL before you cash them. New York came roaring back, starting with a quick face-off win, turned goal for Greg Gurenlian (.757) to start the roll. Looking to be a hero, Joe Walters completed his hat trick with a nearly immediate goal coming from Curtis “Superman” Dickson just moments later. Once again, New York had the lead and was stealing the thunder back. It’s never over until the clock reads 0:00 and Molloy rolled in just in time to remind his team and knot things back up. Less than a minute later, Kieran McArdle ripped one past Adams to go ahead by one. With 90 seconds left, Dickson showed the MLL why he’s so valuable, taking the ball to the rack to lock things up again. The Zards came up with a timely possession and the ball landed in a falling Matt Gibson stick from Rabil with just 15 seconds left, burying the attempt mid-fall and grabbing a one goal lead with little time remaining.
Well, enough time for Florida to win the draw, push the rock down the field and run a possession. Drenner took it upon himself once again, dodging full speed from X and taking the ball straight to the house. With three seconds left, Drenner turns and fires on cage and brings the score up to a 14 goal gridlock. Molloy and Drenner were clearly two big names the Launch knew they could count on in the long run, but heroes can come out of seemingly nowhere once overtime hits. For Florida, it was defenseman Alec Tulett, playing in his second-ever game out of Brown, strapping up the backpack and going clutch deep into the extra minutes. The long pole cut straight to the crease while his former Brown teammate, Dylan Molloy, was driving, caught sight of Tulett, and fired a behind the back pass right at the goal. Tulett saw it all the way in, changed the plane, and beat the goalie on the doorstep to win the game on his first-career goal. The win completes the Launch sweep of the Lizards for 2017, winning their second and final meeting of the season coming in as many weeks. Both squads will look to defend their home fields this Friday, the Launch hosting the Blaze at 6, Lizards welcoming the Rattlers at 7.
Cannons 12, Machine 13 OT
Okay, we know the Launch/Lizards finish was insane, but it wasn’t the only thriller of the weekend. The first goal in the Cannons/Machine game was buried just 25 seconds in, and the overtime forcer came with 25 seconds left. Twenty-five goals, bonus action, and a win for Fortress Obetz sent the Central Ohio crowd home happy, but it almost didn’t workout that way. Boston got on the board first, coming out hot and looking to build on their mistake in Denver a weekend before. With a goal in the early seconds from Davey Emala, the Cannons looked ready to ball, fortunately for Ohio, the legendary Kyle Harrison was too. Missing the first leg of the season due to surgery rehabilitation, Harrison quickly made his impact with the first tally of the game for Ohio, knotting the score up at one. Shots were held down by both defensive groups and the goalies weren’t forced to make big saves, until Mike Begley rounded the corner and stung the second Cannons’ goal past Kyle Bernlohr (.476). Minutes would tick by before Will Manny would capitalize on his fellow Utah assistant coach’s mistake. The Machine were caught offsides and Marcus Holman sat for 30 seconds, meanwhile Brodie Merrill was working the ball down to the crafty Manny, making sure to finish and take a, 3-1, lead to end the quarter.
If you thought the Machine offense was going to settle for back to back one goal quarters, you aren’t watching enough MLL. Ohio came back the next round with a quick connection from Peter Baum and Kevin Cunningham to tie the game at three. A slash by Ohio’s Matt McMahon was caught by the stripes and sent off for a minute. Capitalizing on their second powerplay of the game, Max Seibald let one rip past Bernlohr to take the power back. Cunningham wasn’t done yet, and took a pass from Baum and turned it back on Tyler Fiorito (.500), finding twine and evening things back out. The door open for anyone to take control, Mark Cockerton worked in his first goal of the game to close out the first half with a one goal lead over the Cannons.
Now with the crowd behind them, Ohio stormed out in the second half behind a quick score from Jake Bernhardt. The Cannons would then sit for a 30 second illegal procedure, where Baum would sniff out Holman wide open in the middle of the field for a spin and score. Next up: Tom Schreiber. Schreiber dodged from the top left, got separation, then let one sail from inside the 2-point line, connecting to grab a 8-4 lead. Not happy with how things were going, Seibald retaliated with a goal of his own, but it would be the only goal of the third for the Cannons, and last for either team in the frame. Almost ten minutes past before Bernhardt jumped back in the ring for his second. Speaking of seconds, Harrison was ready to test out his leg strength by absolutely breaking the ankles of Begley, leaving him in open water and ripping a heater from range to make it 10-5. Not laying down, the Cannons kept chugging and it was powered by Will Manny. Manny punched in the first Boston score in over a quarter, then matched the effort by hooking up his boys. From outside the box, Manny found Josh Hawkins cutting to the goal on a pretty box-influenced move. Manny led Hawkins perfectly, turning the pass around on cage to cut the deficit. Ohio would go down a man, but instead of giving up another man-down goal, Holman made lemonade and registered another goal to keep the Machine up by four, 10-6. A four goal spread with less than five minutes left looked like a recipe for the Machine to just cruise things out. Well, Boston had other plans. First, Kevin Buchanan reared back from behind the arc and mailed in a two-pointer to wake up his bench. Riding the flow, Scott Bieda stepped up ninety seconds later and the game moved within one. Just seconds later, Seibald came back around to prove his dominance and hammered in his third goal of the game to tie things up with just over two minutes left. The Cannons came back up with the ball and Justin Turri took it upon himself to be the man of the night, hurling in what we all assumed would be the game-winner with 1:46 left. You know that’s obviously not the case, Schreiber got the ball from defensive specialist Dom Alexander and let a prayer fly at the cage. Beating Fiorito, Schreiber propelled the game into overtime through his connection with 25 seconds remaining. In OT, it was Schreiber, again, dodging up the wing this time and catching a glimpse of a wide-open Cockerton. Without a stick on him, Cockerton redirected the pass straight into the back of the net to seal the deal for the Machine. The win puts Ohio just a half-game back from the Outlaws, while Boston plummets to the bottom of the pack, three and a half games back. Not getting a chance to recover, the Cannons head out to Denver this weekend, before returning home to square off with the Machine the following weekend. Ohio will now get a chance to breathe and figure out where they almost blew it in their bye weekend.
Bayhawks 16, Rattlers 17 OT
It’s like there was a competition for who could pull off the most thrilling game of the the weekend. Until the second half, this match-up wasn’t much to write home over. Myles Jones started the show, burying the first goal of the game just a minute or so in. But from there, the Bayhawks really struggled to keep flying. Nothing really happened for a good chunk of time, until Ty Thompson and Jeremy Boltus got Rochester on the board and the lead. At that point, a pair of first-timers decided to hear their names called over the big speaker. Ohio State’s Eric Fannell went first, with a connection from UVA’s Zed Williams right behind him. Jordan Wolf had to get one of his own before the first quarter could come to close, pushing the Ratz up, 5-1.
Fannell opened the act in the second quarter with another successful attempt, which was followed up with a goal from Ned Crotty, taking a break after hooking up two apples. After twenty two minutes, Chesapeake was ready to get back in the game, starting with a stinger from veteran Matt Abbott. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but Rochester starter John Galloway was 10 saves deep by halftime, 6 coming in the second quarter. One rookie was able to beat the veteran netminder in the first half, Josh Byrne making his debut and raking his his first career point by finishing a pass from Matt Danowski while man-up to find the Bayhawks third goal. We should know from the other games, being down, 7-3, at the midpoint is no big deal in the MLL.
Trying to pull his weight, the Hofstra grad, Byrne, returned to the scoreboard with another connection in the first minute of the half. Killing their vibes, Army veteran Jeremy Boltus jumped back into the spotlight with two consecutive goals, pushing the difference back to five. To think we got this far without talking about Shawn Evans. Tearing up the MLL in his first season, the long-time Canadian box icon has been a thorn in the side of all defense he’s seen to this point. Dodging from behind, he was completely draped by his man as he continued up field and squeezed a no-looker back-hand shovel shot through his defender and inside the far pipe. The SportsCenter worthy play put some new air into Chesapeake and the effort was matched by a quick follow up from Danowski’s first. Former Marquette Golden Eagle Ryan McNamara broke up the Hawks run with his very first MLL goal, coming in the attackman’s debut. Back to Byrne. The youngster polished off a hat trick by turning a pass from Jones around on Galloway to chip away at the gap. But we wasn’t done yet. Next possession Byrnes backs down his man from the top of the arc, takes repeated cross checks to the head, spins and rips of a powerful one-handed rocket that landed perfectly on target. Midfielder Jake Frocarro scooped the loosies off the face and moved it quickly to CJ Costabile. A man-up from the check to Byrne, the defense couldn’t match Costabile quick enough and the big man registered another for the Hawks, bringing his team within one. Bad, bad Myles Jones took it upon himself to lock the game up at 10s and suddenly this became anyone’s game. Not settling with just a hat trick, Boltus stole the lead back for the home team, but Byrne had to one-up him by slinging in his fourth of the quarter, fifth of the game. Tied up at 11 before the quarter could expire, the home crowd started to stress over the situation.
Ty Thompson stepped up early and punched in the go-ahead goal with nearly a minute missing from the fourth. It didn’t last long, with Evans coming back with his second score to negate Thompson’s effort. Next it was Jordan Wolf for the Rattlers, but Byrne seemed to have an answer for that just a few minutes later. Tired of Byrne stealing the spotlight, Boltus roared back with yet another and face-off specialist Drew Simoneau tried to finish the job by winning the next draw and taking the ball straight down Main Street, beating Brian Phipps to steal away a two-goal lead. But, you know, Josh Byrne. The rookie showed back up again to throw down his seventh, yes, seventh, goal of the game. This is the first time since 2010 a rookie has racked up seven goals in a debut and with six minutes left, the game was within one again. Cue Shawn Evans on the doorstep, catching the ball, throwing a flurry of fakes, and finishing past Galloway to knot it all up again. Looking to take out some National Championship anger, Fannell came back to the dance with under two minutes left and hammered in the final nail of his hat trick, putting the Ratz up by one. Yet, it didn’t last long. The former Syracuse face-off athlete, Ben Williams, cleaned up on the next attempt, secured the ball, and put it into the stick of Matt Danowski. Knowing what to do with it, Dano ripped twine with a bit over a minute left. No one could make anything happen in the final moments and knotted at 16, we were getting out third OT of the weekend. Rookies were the talk of this game, so it was only appropriate for one of the newcomers to finish the job. Crotty dodged down the wing with his head up and as soon as he crossed GLE, he placed one over the cage and directly into the mesh of Zed Williams, wide-open in the middle of the defense. Forgetting anything flashy, Williams saw twine and placed the ball exactly where he wanted it to call it a game.
While Ben Williams (.487) came up clutch for the Rattlers at the end, the college lacrosse phenom struggled against the talents of Drew Simoneau (.540). In just his second game in the MLL, Williams fell below .500 for the first time, while former D3 star Simoneau remains one of the top forces in the business, sitting at .534 over his second season. Both squads will get back to work on Friday, Rochester heading across the state to meet the Lizards and Chesapeake opening their doors to Charlotte.
Friday, June 16th
Blaze @ Launch – 6 pm, FAU Stadium
Rattlers @ Lizards – 7 pm, Shuart Stadium
Hounds @ Bayhawks – 7:30 pm, Navy-Marine Memorial Stadium
Saturday, June 17th
Cannons @ Outlaws – 11:30 pm, Sports Authority Field