CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It’s been six years since the Rochester Rattlers last made it to the Major League Lacrosse playoffs.
The Rattlers are in good position to end that streak this season, especially after Saturday night’s 15-13 victory over the Charlotte Hounds at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
Three players – Justin Turri, and rookies Mark Cockerton and Jordan Wolf – had three goals each for Rochester, and goalkeeper John Galloway finished with 17 saves as the Rattlers (7-3) won their third straight game.
The win also moved Rochester into a tie with the Denver Outlaws atop the MLL standings with four games remaining. Yet it’s a late-season collapse that has Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan worried.
“We have a lot of confidence; I just hope we don’t have the complacency that comes along with it sometimes,” Soudan said. “We’re really talking it up with the guys about how important it is to bring our game each game.
“We came out of the gate really good tonight, but we kinda pulled back in the second half defensively when we should’ve stepped on the throttle a little bit more.”
Mike Sawyer scored three goals, including a 2-pointer, and rookie Justin Ward added a season-best three goals for Charlotte (4-6), which fought back from a 10-5 deficit to challenge Rochester in the second half.
“We never really got a good offensive rhythm (in the first half), and we struggled in the faceoff at times,” Hounds head coach Mike Cerino said. “We did a better job in the second half, and it showed on the scoreboard. We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole in that first half.”
The Rattlers won despite losing both the faceoff battle and struggling to keep control of the ball against Charlotte’s defense.
With starter John Ortolani a late scratch, Rochester signed James Carroll Jr., who last took faceoffs in two games for the Hounds during the 2012 season. Against Charlotte, Carroll went 13-of-30 in the X against Hounds’ FOGOs Tim Fallon and rookie Brendan Fowler.
Meanwhile, Charlotte’s defense forced the Rattlers into nine turnovers in the first half and 15 in the second, which played a big role in the Hounds’ second-half rally.
However, they also left goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman exposed at times, and Rochester made them pay. Ghitelman only had four saves in the first half and eight for the game, and the Rattlers scored at least three times after catching him out of the mouth of the goal.
“Adam was just off, and we weren’t tight on their guys,” said Charlotte defender Ryan Flanagan, who had six ground balls Saturday. “They’ve got a lot of crafty inside guys, a lot of good finishers, and we just weren’t physical enough.
“In the second half, we started to tighten up a little bit, and Adam played much better.”
The loss also put a speed bump into Charlotte’s hopes of making the Major League Lacrosse playoffs for the second straight year. The Hounds fell into a tie for fifth place with the Florida Launch and Ohio Machine, and only have one home game remaining.
“It doesn’t help our playoff hopes,” said Charlotte attacker Matt Danowski, who scored twice in the fourth quarter to key the Hounds’ comeback.
“But like we’ve said since the start of the season, we’ve got to take this one game at a time. A lot of stuff can still happen. We might not control our own destiny right now, but we control how we play each week. That’s all we can ask for.”