America celebrated Independence Day and fireworks were in full affect in the MLL as the race for the playoffs tightens. New York returned to its winning ways and secured a playoff berth as well as its one hundredth win in franchise history against rival Chesapeake 15-13. Since the Lizards never fell out of first place with their two losses it points to reports of their collapse were greatly exaggerated. New York is loaded with players who want to win championships to cement their legacy and cap off their careers. Paul Rabil returned to the lineup and it seemed to revitalize the Lizards offense as they fought back from a four goal first quarter deficit to pull within one at halftime. The Bayhawks came to play as Ben Rubeor, Matt Danowski, and Joe Walters flocked to the goal and gave Chesapeake the lead. Drew Adams made 20 saves including a crucial man down period when Steve DeNapoli tried to catch up to Brian Spallina in penalty minutes which resulted in his ejection from the game. Adams stoned the Bayhawks on multiple shots and his heroics sparked New York’s Kevin Unterstein shorthanded goal, with a long stick. Still think that New York players do not want to win a championship? Greg Gurenlian returned to (Super?) Beast status and won 24-30 draws and went an incredible 80% after flirting with a mere superhuman 66% last week. Chesapeake’s offense could only score two second half goals and continues to struggle at the X. Neither man up nor man down team for New York or Chesapeake was impressive, but the Lizards are in the playoffs while the Bayhawks find themselves on the bubble.
In a matchup of the two teams that are most likely out of the playoffs, the Florida Launch defeated the Charlotte Hounds 19-9 to even up both teams at 3-8. Florida has been scoring at a high rate the past few games, but many were questioning Lyle Thompson’s adjustment to the pro game, especially after the Launch defeated the first place Lizards without the Thompsons. The doubters and critics were silenced by a 7 goal and 1 assist performance. Thompson’s performance garnered an MVP award as well. P.T. Ricci, Pat Frazier and Casey Ikeda continue to scoop up ground balls like there were lottery tickets and Chris Mattes went 19-30 at the X to give the offense more opportunities to score. Kieran McArdle and Steven Brooks both scored hat tricks while Casey Powell added two and rookie Connor Buczek scored another two point goal. Austin Kaut earned the win while starting in place of Brett Queener in goal. Kaut made 18 saves and looked sharp while filling in for the injured Queener. When Charlotte had the ball, the Tucker Durkin led defense frustrated and dogged the Hounds; keeping them under double digits. The Hounds get another crack at the Launch next week and will expect a better result. Both teams are very dangerous and have the potential to derail the playoff hopes of other teams.
As impressive as Florida’s offense looked, Boston traveled to Denver and hogtied the Outlaws 22-9. David Emala scored a sock trick and Ryan Tucker scored three goals, three two point goals! Denver looked to be in good shape for this game as Anthony Kelly returned to the X for Denver and went 19-30 at the X. The Outlaws came out firing and went up 3-0 until Scott Ratliff assisted on a Will Manny goal and then scored himself 16 seconds later to make the score 3-2. After Ratliff’s heroics, the Cannons began to pick up the pace and pour on the goals to go up 13-7. Ryan Tucker scored two of his two point goals at the end of the first quarter and like Thompson earlier, silenced many critics with his performance. Boston’s balance of rookies and veterans is paying dividends while injuries have caused many of Denver’s stars to miss crucial games this season. When last season’s championship lineup has been intact, Denver has look like a champion, but those games have been few and far between. Eric Law, a mainstay of the Denver offense last season has missed most this season with injury. The Outlaws only scored two goals in the second half, both in the fourth quarter. With the Fourth of July win, the Cannons move into sole position of second place while Denver and Chesapeake are currently tied for fifth place.
In a revenge game, the Rochester Rattlers defeated the Ohio Machine 16-15 as they came back from a five goal half time deficit. Rochester won 75% of the face offs and John Galloway made 14 saves. This combined with a second half offensive output that doubled that of Ohio were contributed to the win. Rochester exploited these advantages and the Ohio offense simply could not score without the ball. Brian Phipps was solid in goal with eighteen saves, but he faced a barrage of shots from the Rattlers in the second half as the Ohio defense could not stop Rochester’s offense. Dave Lawson, Mark Mathews, and Kevin Rice continued to find the back of the net in the second half to come from behind and seal the victory. Despite the loss, Ohio and Rochester are tied for third. The Machine faces Boston next week in a clash of two playoff contenders. At this point in the season, it looks as though Denver and Chesapeake will be staying home unless some of the typical MLL unpredictability rears its head. The pressure of these final games is so palpable that one can sense it emanating from the field. I can’t wait for next week!