MLL: Week two hijinks

CHARLOTTE, NC - JUNE 05: Brendan Fowler #3 of the Charlotte Hounds wins a face-off against Greg Puskuldjian #94 of the Ohio Machine during their game at American Legion Memorial Stadium on June 5, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ohio won 14-12. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC – JUNE 05: Brendan Fowler #3 of the Charlotte Hounds wins a face-off against Greg Puskuldjian #94 of the Ohio Machine during their game at American Legion Memorial Stadium on June 5, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ohio won 14-12. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The second week of Major League Lacrosse proved just as exciting and unpredictable as week one because many teams are still missing core players due to indoor or coaching commitments. This overlap makes the first four weeks of the league’s season important as no team wants to start 0-4 and battle uphill. Wiley veterans or players relatively new to the league use this opportunity to display their skills while many stars fulfill non-MLL obligations. Teams showed signs of a long off-season as offenses and defenses struggled to gel and figure out what works. Denver and Ohio, the teams in last year’s championship game, improved to 2-0 while Atlanta and Florida gained their first wins of the season to end up tied with Boston and New York at 1-1. Chesapeake and Rochester find themselves 0-1 and join 0-2 Charlotte in searching for their first win of the season.


Ohio 15 @ Charlotte 12

Despite the absence of Tom Schreiber, Kyle Harrison and Steele Stanwick, the Ohio Machine played their “faceless-man defense” and scored 15 goals to defeat the Charlotte Hounds 15-12. The Hounds came out ready to play, managed a 4-4 tie at the end of the first quarter, and even led by one at halftime.  The second half proved a different story as the Machine’s defense clamped down and held the Hounds to three goals in the third and one in the fourth. Leading the defense, Scott Rodgers finished the game with 12 saves, four of them coming in the fourth quarter. Despite the notable absences, Ohio’s offense doubled Charlotte’s output eight goals to four. Mark Cockerton led the scoring with four goals and three assists followed by Marcus Holman with three goals and one assist. Ohio got other scores from Kevin Cunningham with three goals, Patrick Kelly with two, Peter Baum with two goals and an assist and Jake Bernhardt with one goal and three assists. Charlotte played Ohio close in the first half and had a 17-32 advantage in face-offs, but failed to score any points on three extra-man opportunities. Ten of the Hounds’ goals came from four players: Mike Chanenchuk (2), Ryan Brown (2), Joey Sankey (2) and John Haus (4). Charlotte’s offense disappeared in the second half. In goal, Charlie Cipriano started just as hot as Rodgers and made 11 saves. Ohio returns home to face 0-1 Rochester while Charlotte travels to face defending champions Denver.


Denver 13 @ New York 7

In a battle of recent champions, Denver shocked many by dismantling the New York 13-7 on the Lizards’ home turf. The Outlaws only scored three assisted goals during the game which highlighted the Lizards’ defensive woes. Mike Bocklet scored four goals to lead Denver while Tim Barber and Matt Kavanagh chipped in a pair each. Noah Molnar, Ryan Ambler and Eric Law rounded out the Outlaws’ scoring. Jack Kelly continued where he left off last season with 15 saves. Tommy Palasek drew first blood for the Lizards early in the first quarter and led the team in scoring with two goals. New York’s offense appeared to come to life in the second quarter with a four goal output, pulling within five of the Outlaws. Kyle Hartzell provided a spark with a two-point goal, but the Lizards’ offense fell silent in the third with no goals. The Outlaws took cues from the Machine and have a majority of new defensive faces that stymied the Lizards. Despite both teams possessing a plethora of prolific offensive stars, neither team scored on a man-up opportunity. Another uncharacteristic statistic: Denver took a 12 for 22 advantage on face-offs and nullified New York’s usual advantage in that facet of the game. The Lizards fall to 1-1 and get a bye week to address their issues while 2-0 Denver goes back home to face a winless Charlotte team.


Boston 10 @ Atlanta 13

Boston traveled to Atlanta looking to douse the Blaze and found themselves burned by a fourth quarter run from the home team and lost 13-10. Both teams played tight in the first half and found themselves tied at six. Even at the end of the third quarter, Boston only trailed by one goal. Face-offs and penalties played a key factor as Boston lacked a serious threat at the X, going eight for 26 on face-offs while providing Atlanta with eight man-up opportunities. Atlanta took advantage and scored on three of those. Cannons goalie Tyler Fiorito did his best to keep the Cannons in the game with 15 saves, but his counterpart Adam Ghitelman proved formidable, posting 17 saves. Greg Coholan led the Blaze offense with four goals and Matt Mackrides followed him with three goals. The majority of Atlanta’s goals were assisted (9 of 13) while Boston had five of its nine goals assisted. For the second week, Boston allowed double-digit goals and highlights the need for Brodie Merrill and Mitch Belisle to return. Boston returns home to Harvard Stadium to take on 0-1 Chesapeake while Atlanta is off until May 13 when they host fellow 1-1 team New York.


Rochester 10 @ Florida 12

Florida won its first game of the season as they defeated Rochester 12-10 in a close hard fought contest. Many critics point to the absence of John Galloway in goal for Rochester and Mike Manley on defense, but the Launch were without their main offensive threat in Kieran McArdle and defensive captain Tucker Durkin. The Rattlers dressed Jordan Wolf, Ned Crotty and Kyle Denhoff and they led Rochester in scoring. Since taking over, Launch coach Tom Mariano has stressed building a team of players that do the little things right and play for each other and it seems to be working. Even though the Launch lost last week to Boston in overtime, they scored 17 goals, appearing more balanced and focused than last season. Rochester dominated face-offs 20 for 26 as the Launch missed Chris Mattes who was coaching the University of Maryland. Despite the face-off dominance, the scoring was tight as the Rattlers led by one at the end of the first and second quarter. It was not until the end of the third that the Launch were able to tie the game. The Rattlers made a move in the fourth quarter to seal a victory, but Florida scored four goals in the bottom of the quarter to secure its first victory of the season. Both goalies not named Galloway played well as Kristian Alleyne made 15 saves for Rochester and Austin Kaut made 17 for the Launch. Kaut made six saves in the third and five in the fourth quarter on his way to earning MVP honours. Rochester travels to Ohio to face the 2-0 Machine while Florida is off until the 13th when they take on the defending champion Denver Outlaws.


Denver and Ohio played for the championship last season and it is not surprising that they’re leading the league. Both squads are confident and looking to prove their ranking as top tier teams. There exists a four-way tie for third as Atlanta, Boston, Florida and New York all show promise. Chesapeake, Rochester, and Charlotte are still searching for their first wins. If the MLL is anything, it is entertaining throughout the course of the season and the race for the championship will not be clear until the end of summer. Buckle up and get ready for some traditional league powers to take some bruises while newer teams flex their muscle to get recognition and compete for the Steinfeld Cup.