Two late two-point goals didn’t even get the Rochester Rattlers close to overcoming the fourth quarter nine-goal run by the Denver Outlaws in Saturday’s Major League Lacrosse semi-final game. The Outlaws, 15-8 winners, will defend their 2016 Steinfeld Cup win next Saturday in Frisco, Texas at the league championship game against the Ohio Machine.
“We’re thankful were going to have the opportunity [to defend the title],” head coach B.J. O’Hara said during a LaxSportsnet interview after the game. “That was our goal at the beginning of the season. We’re just blessed to be there and it doesn’t matter who we play.”
The Outlaws defeated the Machine with an incredible comeback 19-18 win in last year’s final.
Many faces are returning to their third championship in the last four years, but the Outlaws bolstered their roster with a few rookies this season who immediately made an impact, like midfielders Zach Currier, Romar Dennis and Max Adler.
Adler has proven to be a perfect backup for Tom Kelly at the X. Dennis is a dynamic midfielder capable of long-bombs from the two-point range. And Currier, the sixth overall draft pick this year, is capable of just about anything the team needs him to be capable of. He sits 13th in midfielder scoring with 12 goals and 17 assists in his 10 games. He also picked up 32 ground balls, which was ninth for midfielders and fifth overall on the Outlaws.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Currier said of his short time in the league so far. “I just joined the league in mid-June and now I’m playing for the championship so it’s been a fun ride.”
Ned Crotty and Ty Thompson gave the Rattlers a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, both with unassisted goals. A three-goal run from Denver erased the Rattlers’ momentum; Eric Law scored on a wrap-around and Drew Snider potted a goal less than a minute later. Matt Bocklet scored at 14:15 of the first quarter.
Dhane Smith’s pass found Ty Thompson who tied the game 3-3 just 42 seconds into the second quarter but another three-goal run from Denver put them up going into the half. Michael Simon scored just his second goal of the season on a long run from his own end blasting the ball past Rattlers’ goaltender John Galloway up high. Two quick goals in the last minute of the half put the Outlaws up 6-3. Currier muscled his way past Michael Lazore at the side of the net, falling with Lazore pulling him down, but got back up and put the ball over Galloway’s right shoulder.
Snider took a shot from the circle which Galloway stopped, but Snider picked off Galloway’s exit pass for another shot. This time Law picked up the blocked shot in front and scored off a spin-move.
After an hour long weather delay, the teams reconvened on field to play the second-half in running time. Thompson completed his hat trick 6:06 into the quarter. Simon scored his second of the game at 11:02 and the Outlaws led 7-4 after three.
“The weather delay was luckily at a convenient time so it wasn’t too big of a deal,” Currier said.
It was Denver’s defensive play that dictated the pace of the low-scoring game. Noah Molnar and Nick Ossello played tough all game, setting picks and being physical with Rochester’s forwards. It was a different style of game than fans might be used to – Denver’s last regular season contest was a high-scoring 23-19 loss to Chesapeake. Rochester put up 18 against Denver earlier in the summer, so both teams are capable of big scores.
“They were fantastic,” O’Hara said to LSN about his defensemen. “I can’t say enough about the job Finn Sullivan did on Jordan Wolf (Rochester’s leading scorer) today. I don’t even think he scored today.”
Law found Greg Downing on Galloway’s doorstep at 2:43 of the fourth and the Outlaws doubled up on the Rattlers 8-4. Law followed up with a leaping tally of his own 30 seconds later. Currier then found Mike Bocklet at the side of the net at 4:57. Bocklet’s brother Matt picked up a goal of his own, his first of the season, off Thomas Kelly’s face-off win just 11 seconds later. Romar Dennis’ two goals then sandwiched a Wes Berg marker and the rout was on.
The fourth-quarter play of Jack Kelly can’t be overlooked. In the midst of the Outlaws’ nine-goal run, Kelly made great stops on Jordan MacIntosh and face-off man Drew Simoneau. Mike Nugent took over for Kelly in goal with under four minutes to play. MacIntosh almost immediately scored a two-point goal as the Rattlers looked to put some pressure on the Outlaws in the last quarter. A minute and four seconds later Lazore scored another two-pointer, but that was as close as the Outlaws allowed the Rattlers to get.
It was a good matchup for the Outlaws. Rochester defeated Ohio the week before and was on a high, feeling especially confident having won two games this season already over the Outlaws.
“Their offense is very good,” acknowledged Currier. “Our mindset was to learn from our mistakes from the first two games and make sure we had a good defensive structure to combat that.”
The Machine defeated the Florida Launch 18-13 in the league’s other semi-final.