MLL: Action filled weekend produces standings log-jam

During a time when the NCAA tournament dominates the lacrosse landscape, Major League Lacrosse again continued to play some high-level and entertaining lacrosse. The Charlotte Hounds secured their first win of the season and showed flashes of the team they will become. At this point, the league is showing some separation with Denver alone in first place while Ohio, Chesapeake and New York are now 2-1 and tied for second place. Rochester is alone at 2-2 and in sole possession of third place. Atlanta and Florida tied for fourth at 1-2 followed by Boston in fifth place at 1-3 and previously mentioned Charlotte rounds out the standings at 1-4. Already, the league has the potential for another late season logjam with multiple scenarios for teams to make the semifinals.

Charlotte 14 @ Rochester 10

As Rochester welcomed back goalie John Galloway, it appeared they would begin to get back to full strength and put themselves comfortably in the top of the standings. The Hounds had other plans as they welcomed Kevin Crowley back from the NLL. After a low scoring 2-1 first quarter, the Hounds exploded for six goals in the second quarter and took an 8-3 lead at halftime. Despite scoring three goals in the third quarter, Rochester failed to cut into the lead as Charlotte also scored three goals. Kyle Denhoff reeled off three straight goals in the fourth, but Charlotte’s lead proved insurmountable. This Thursday night game had so many great performances, especially Kevin Crowley scoring four goals in his first game back in MLL. Joey Sankey contributed three goals and sharpshooter Ryan Brown scored two goals. Dan Lomas followed Kyle Denhoff for the Rattlers with two goals and Drew Simoneau went 15-27 on face-offs. The face-off difficulties continued for the Hounds as the Rattlers wing players crashed in on Brendan Fowler as he went 12-27. Both goalies played well, posting double-digit saves (Charlie Cipriano 18 and John Galloway 16).

Rochester 13 @ Boston 10

John Locascio of the Rochester Rattlers.
John Locascio of the Rochester Rattlers.

Rochester rebounded in their second game of the week to defeat Boston after a first quarter where neither team scored. The Rattlers scored five goals in the second quarter while Boston only mustered a single score from Kevin Buchanan. Boston roared back in the third quarter and scored eight goals, six of them at the end of the period to pull within one of Rochester. The Rattlers reeled off three goals in the fourth quarter while the Cannons offense misfired and only scored a goal as Rochester pulled away from Boston. JoJo Marasco, Kip Orban, Jeremy Boltus, and Kyle Denhoff each scored two goals apiece for the Rattlers while Joe LoCascio led the Cannons with four goals and followed by Davey Emala with two goals. Face-offs were even at 11 each while John Galloway made 10 saves and Tyler Fiorito made seven. Galloway got the win and made the majority of his saves in the second half, which helped his team secure the victory. Next: Rochester hosts a Florida team looking to get back to .500 and looks to avoid a sweep by the Launch. Boston returns to Harvard Stadium to renew their rivalry with the New York Lizards. This rivalry has produced some of the closest games in recent memory of the league and Boston will go in with added incentive of getting back into the race for the cup.

Chesapeake 17 @ Charlotte 16

Charlotte lost another one-goal game, this time to Chesapeake, as the score remained tight throughout the contest. The Hounds finished the first half within two goals of the Bayhawks 8-6. After scoring six goals to their opponent’s four, the Hounds tied the game at the end of the third 12-12. Garret Thul and Nathan Lewnes each had three goals for Chesapeake. The Bayhawks had multiple players with two goals; among them were Matt Abbott, Ryan Tucker, James Carlson and Kevin Cooper. Ryan Brown led the Hounds with four goals and Mike Chanenchuk, Brendan Fowler, Kevin Crowley and Pat Young all scored two goals each. Charlie Cipriano got the win for the Hounds and made nine saves, four of them in the second half. Niko Amato took the loss with eight saves. Charlotte returned to the face-off success it had previously been accustomed to as Brendan Fowler and Kevin Massa combined to go 21-36 while Chesapeake continued searching for answers at the X. C.J. Costabile and Mike Poppleton both finished under .500 on face-offs. It appears to be a close contest, but if the Bayhawks want to make a championship run, they need to address the face-off dilemma or teams will exploit this, especially since they will be facing an Atlanta team looking to get back into the middle of the pack. Charlotte host a Florida team that is still missing stars, but is much improved over last year under new Coach Mariano.

New York 14 @ Atlanta 12

After a very interesting week of social media banter between New York and Atlanta, the two teams finally met on the field. New York’s acquisition of Joe Walters led many to expect the Lizards to emerge at the start of the season as an offensive juggernaut. When that did not occur immediately, critics began to pronounce that the roster had too many egos. That could not be further from the truth! The Lizards hung six goals on the Blaze in the first quarter while Atlanta only found the back of the net twice. The second quarter proved even worse for the Atlanta offense as they only scored one goal to New York’s three. The Blaze found their spark in the second half and outscored New York 9-5, but could not overcome the Lizards’ first-half lead. Atlanta played typical aggressive defense, but gave New York’s extra man offense four opportunities. The Lizards took advantage of this and scored three extra man goals. As expected, New York won the face off battle as neither Anthony Kelly nor Chris May had an answer for the Greg Gurenlian as “the Beast” went 18-29 against the Blaze. Drew Adams got the win and the better of the goalie battle as he made 18 saves to Adam Ghitelman’s 11. Next: The Lizards take on the Cannons at Harvard Stadium while the Blaze look to rebound against the Bayhawks.

Denver 15 @ Florida 8

Denver was the recipient of two scoreless quarters of offense by Florida to remain undefeated and alone atop the standings. Despite the difference in score, this was not the Outlaws’ best showing to date. Taking out the scoreless first and third quarters, Florida actually matched Denver’s scores 8-8 and won the face-off battle 14-25 with Will Gural seeing most of the action at the X. The Launch even won the ground ball battle 14-5. Austin Kaut made 21 saves for Florida, one more than Jack Kelly for Denver who got the win. Neither extra-man offense proved effective, as there were no points scored by either unit. Next: Denver gets a bye then hosts a Rochester team that will most likely be back to full strength. The Outlaws continue to find ways to win games, but in doing so will find themselves getting the best every team has as they look to knock off the defending champions. The Launch need to avoid breakdowns such as scoreless quarters and excessive penalties if they want to turn the corner and join the league’s top tier teams. Florida travels to Rochester and needs to sweep the Rattlers if they want to make a run for the championship. Look for every team in the league to find ways to make up ground as they look to make up or create distance from the rest. Even with all this incentive, MLL is never predictable and always fun to watch.