The Denver Outlaws (8-3) can clinch a playoff spot on Saturday with a win against the Hamilton Nationals (3-8) and a loss by either the Boston Cannons or Rochester Rattlers. The Nationalsâ€”eliminated from playoff contentionâ€”have lost five of their past six games while the Outlaws have won five of the past six games. Obviously two teams are going in different directions, but how do the teams match up when they play against each other in Canada on Saturday?
Brendan Mundorf, once again, is proving he is one of the top players in the league. Heâ€™s second in the league in points (45) and goals (24) and third in assists (21). Last week he had his fifth game this season of six or more points (seven points on three goals and four assists) and earned Player of the Week honors.
Heâ€™s surrounded by a lot of talent, too. Jordan McBride has 20 goals, Josh Sims has added 16 points, and rookies Mark Matthews and Chris Bocklet have scored in bunches. Matthews has 11 goals in six games while Bocklet has 11 goals in four games. Both have won multiple Rookie of the Week awards.
Hamilton has an equally impressive attack core, but one thatâ€™s been unable to compete together in recent weeks. Stephen Keogh is an accomplished scorer, with 21 goals in eight games this season, and Garrett Billings has seven goals in his past three games (14 on the season). But Cody Jamieson missed last weekâ€™s game against Long Island and Casey Powell hasnâ€™t played since June 16. Hamilton hasnâ€™t lit up the scoreboard in recent weeks and missing pieces play a key role in that.
Another area of an abundance of talent for the Outlaws, after Mundorf the next three top scorers on the team are midfielders: Jeremy Sieverts (23 goals, 34 points), Peet Poillon (30 points) and Terry Kimener (29 points). Add in Drew Snider, who scored three goals last week against Boston, and solid transition midfielder Colin Briggs and the Oultaws have a great group of midfielders. The group is a big reason why Denver leads the league in goals for (167).
Hamilton has Joe Walters, who leads the team in scoring with 32 points. Heâ€™s sputtered in recent weeks however. He hasnâ€™t scored at least two goals in his past four games and in his last three games he has point totals of 1, 4 and 2. No surprise that in those three games the Nationals won the game he tallied four points.
Kevin Crowley (29 points) and David Earl (22 points, eight goals in his past three games) are talented young players, but after them no other midfielder has more than five points.
The Nationals have Brodie Merrill, regarded as one of the leagueâ€™s all-time best defensemen thanks to his five Defensive Player of the Year awards and the all-time record in ground balls. This season he has 78 ground balls, third in the league, to go along with eight points.
Steven Waldeck has played in 10 games this season and is third on the team in penalty minutes. Rookies Chad Wiedmaier and Matt Lovejoy are talented, but inexperienced.
For Denver, Lee Zink is an All-Star and is becoming widely recognized as one of the top poles in the league. Matt Bocklet has played in all 11 games and has been valuable both on defense and on the face-off, as he leads the team in ground balls (55). The team also recently acquired veteran Dan Cocchi from the Long Island Lizards.
Denverâ€™s Jesse Schwartzman is as good as ever as he is third in the league in goals against average (10.87) and save percentage (53.8-percent). He also is second on the team in ground balls (41).
Hamilton splits halves with Brett Queener and Scott Rodgers. Neither has lit up the league this year, especially as of late. Queener, a five-year veteran, has a career-high in goals against average (14.42) and a career-low save percentage (50.3-percent).
Rodgers is struggling even worse, with a 15.10 goals against average and a 43.0 save percentage. One week after earning the win against the Ohio Machine with only 10 goals allowed and a season-high 17 saves while playing the entire game, Rodgers allowed eight goals and made only four saves in one half of action against the Lizards.
Denver has struggled at the face-off this year, but the team may have finally found the answer. Anthony Kelly was acquired by the team from the Ohio Machine and in two games has a 59.7 face-off winning percentage. He claims he is finally healthy after a number of nagging injuries over the course of the season and he may have been Denverâ€™s missing link.
Hamiltonâ€™s Matt Dolente has had a breakout season this year, becoming an All-Star in his second-season. Heâ€™s won 56.9 percent of his face-offs and Hamilton felt comfortable enough in his abilities that they traded away Geoff Snider.