MLL: First weekend of 2018 a success

July 22, 2017; Boca Raton, FL, USA; Charlotte Hounds @ Florida Launch at FAU Stadium. (Photo: Major League Lacrosse)

Major League Lacrosse kicked off the 2018 season this past weekend with four games that featured some close contests and blowouts. The beginning of the regular season is important as most teams are dealing with players who are still playing indoor ball and college draft picks still in school. During the first four weeks, MLL teams must avoid falling victim to an 0-4 or 1-3 record as such starts makes it almost impossible to regain ground and make the playoffs. Some teams showed promise while others need to figure things out and rebound for the weekend.

Florida 13 Atlanta 10

The weekend kicked off with the Launch traveling to tackle the Blaze in Atlanta. Florida looked very much like a playoff team as they reeled off five straight goals against the home team. The Launch took an early 7-1 lead going into the second quarter, but Mike Begley, Tommy Palasek and Kevin Rice sparked Atlanta’s offense and cut Florida’s lead to five at halftime. The Launch came down to earth after their 9-4 halftime lead narrowed to 11-8 in the third as Matt Gibson and Deemer Class joined Kevin Rice in scoring for the Blaze. The drama picked up in the fourth quarter as Class scored a 2-point goal bringing Atlanta to within two, the closest they had been all game. Jarrod Neumann scored (who doesn’t love when a long pole scores?) a minute later to bring the Launch back up to a three-goal lead while the Blaze failed to generate any further offense in the last six minutes of the last quarter.

Dylan Molloy led Florida with two goals and two assists while Sergio Salcido scored a hat trick on his birthday week. Austin Kaut made 20 saves as he brushed off the mortar from the brick wall he constructed during the game. Florida struggled on faceoffs as they went 9-26 and committed five penalties (luckily Atlanta only capitalized on one extra man opportunity). Kevin Rice and Deemer Class led Atlanta with four points each and Adam Ghitelman made 15 saves. Brent Hiken tilted the faceoff battle to the Blaze as he went 17-25 at the X. Florida must have better performance on faceoffs and avoid taking their foot off the gas as complacency and penalties will give other teams an opportunity to get back into games. Atlanta needs to avoid a slow start and have better extra-man production.

Up next: Florida returns home to take on a 0-1 Chesapeake team while Atlanta welcomes Boston.

Denver 15 New York 19

Denver Outlaws @ New York Lizards, April 21st, 2018. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

Denver traveled to New York to face a Lizards squad looking to prove last season was a fluke. Joe LoCascio started it for the home team as he buried a 2-point goal less than three minutes into the game. New York ended up with a 6-5 first quarter lead and still held a one-goal lead going into halftime as both teams scored four goals in the second quarter. New York extended the lead to three at the end of the third as they went into the fourth up 15-12. LoCascio unleahsed another two pointer in the fourth quarter as the Lizards topped the Outlaws 19-15.

Drew Adams continued the great performance by former Penn State goalies as he made 19 saves to Jack Kelly’s nine. Rob Pannell and Will Manny combined for 15 points and served notice that the New York offense is for real this year. Jeremy Sieverts led Denver with five goals. Thomas Kelly won the faceoff battle for Denver as he went 24-36 from the X. New York needs better face off production, but if Pannell and Manny stay hot they will carry the Lizards into the postseason. Denver always seems to have a way of figuring things out during the season and ending up in the playoffs, but they cannot rely on Sieverts as their sole offensive weapon for the season.

Up next: New York travels to Ohio to take on the defending champions while Denver travels south to take on the Rattlers.

Dallas 15 Chesapeake 9

The Rattlers travelled to Chesapeake to take on the Bayhawks and looked likeir new Texan identity did not phase them in the least as they pulled away from the home team in second half. They looked every bit a team that had unfinished business from last season as they begin their quest for a championship. Chesapeake scored first, but Dallas built a 4-3 lead in the first quarter that they extended to an 8-5 lead at halftime. The Bayhawks only managed one goal in the third while the Rattlers extended the lead to 11-6. Chesapeake proved unable to close the gap even though they scored three goals in the fourth quarter.

Both goalies played incredible games as Blaze Riordan made 32 saves for Dallas that earned him defensive player of the week honors while Brian Phipps stopped 22 shots. Jordan McNamara and Jordan Wolf led Dallas with five points each as Ned Crotty finished right behind them with four. Myles Jones and Colin Heacock each scored three points to lead Chesapeake. The faceoff battle slightly favored the Bayhawks as they went 16-28 from the X.

Up next: Dallas travels to Charlotte then turns around to face Denver at the Star while Chesapeake goes down south to take on Florida.

Boston 7 Charlotte 25

Charlotte jumped on Boston as they put up six goals (including a two-point goal by Mike Chanenchuk) to lead the Cannons 7-1 at the end of the first quarter. Boston’s predicament only worsened in the second quarter as the Hounds led 16-2 at halftime. Kevin Cooper dominated the third quarter as he scored three straight goals and Charlotte ended the third with a 20-4 lead. By the fourth quarter, any kind of comeback had long since escaped Boston and the game ended with a Charlotte 25-7 victory.

Charlie Cipriano and Pierce Bassett combined for 17 saves as the latter came in after Cipriano tweaked his knee in a collision with Ryan Walsh. Benny Pugh and Jack Murphy managed as best they could and combined for eight Boston saves. Kevin Cooper led the Hounds with eight points as he earned offensive player of the week honors. Davey Emala and Kylor Bellistri led Boston with points each. The Hounds got the getter of the faceoff battle as Kevin Massa went 21-34. Adding to Boston’s woes was an 0-7 performance by the man-up unit. Boston needs to gel on offense and stop playing so much defense or the season may well be a repeat of last season. Charlotte looks like a team ready to climb out from the league cellar and make the playoffs.

Up next: Charlotte hosts Dallas while Boston goes to Atlanta