MLL Rookies During Championship Weekend

The 2013 MLL season has ended with the crowning of the Chesapeake Bayhawks as the league’s champion for the second straight year. That makes it the Bayhawks fifth championship which leads all MLL franchises. How do teams make up a championship squad? Easy, they do it through the draft and the rookies were in full force this weekend at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Rookies such as Tucker Durkin, Eric Law, Jake Tripucka, Mike Sawyer and Jesse Burnhardt all had big weekends for their respective teams. The future is bright for the MLL with this year’s rookie class and here is how all of them fared this weekend.

Charlotte Hounds

The Hounds were easily the youngest team at championship weekend but it didn’t show. The highly influential rookie class continued to contribute big time for the Hounds as they upset the undefeated Denver Outlaws and played the Bayhawks to a close 10-9 game. Mike Sawyer had four points and was named player of the game in the semifinal game. His two point shot at the beginning, along with Matt Danowski’s two point goal, helped set the tone for the Hounds upset of Denver. He also had two goals in the championship game but didn’t have much of an impact until late. Fellow linemate Jake Tripucka was held in check in the championship game but had three big goals in the upset over the Outlaws. They seemed to have no answer for him at midfield as he was able to go dodge effectively from up top, especially with his quick split dodge.

Defensively, Mason Poli, Josh Hawkins and Michael McCormack all played big roles. McCormack and Poli were both used on the faceoff as the Hounds neutralized any faceoff advantage the other team had by going double dragons. They both had multiple ground balls and helped push the ball in transition. Hawkins provided toughness and great transition play as well. He had four groundballs and some notable hits on some Outlaw players. He also had an assist in the Denver game. He did have a little trouble in the championship game, getting taken to school by Casey Powell from X on the Bayhawks second goal of the game.

On attack, John Haus and Matt White were viable threats as well for the Hounds. White had a huge four point performance against the Outlaws including doing some fine work at goal line extended. Haus had an assist in the win over the Outlaws but had a couple of turnovers against the Bayhawks in the championship game.

Denver Outlaws

Eric Law had the best performance of really anybody this weekend. At one point it was Charlotte 13 and Eric Law seven. Denver and its fans should thank Law for his nine goal effort as he was the only player who came ready to play and was instrumental in keeping the Outlaws in the game. He had a huge season for the Outlaws and will be one of the best attackmen in the league for years to come.

Defensively, Roger Ferguson had a solid game for the Outlaws and had a couple of nice runs at long pole defense when spelling fellow rookie Brian Megill. Both players are athletic and rangy on defense but didn’t have much of an impact this weekend.

Hamilton Nationals

The Nationals had a number of rookies play important roles this season and it didn’t stop this weekend. Mike Poppleton had a great day at the faceoff X for the Nationals going 16-28 against Adam Rand and the Bayhawks. Poppleton was .500 this season when he finally took over at the ‘X” for the Nationals and should be one of the better faceoff men in the league next season.

Defensively, Jason Noble and Tucker Durkin will be key parts for the team for the foreseeable future. Durkin was named to the All-MLL team before this weekend and was the only rookie to garner that type of recognition. He backed it up this week by playing great defense and laying the lumber on any Bayhawk he was matched up with. Noble actually got some run at SSDM this weekend but will also play big minutes at long pole as well for the Nationals.

Finally, Garrett Thul was uncharacteristically quiet in the team’s semifinal loss to the Bayhawks. Thul got off seven shots but was never able to find the back of the net. In the future, Thul should do well, especially from the two point arch as he has a big shot from deep and will be able to stretch defenses.

Chesapeake Bayhawks

Jesse Burnhardt played a large role in helping the Bayhawks win back-to-back titles this weekend. He did everything on the defensive end as he played up top at long pole defense as well as down low. He had eight ground balls, four in each game, especially a couple of key ones to spark some breaks in the Hamilton game. He was also used to matchup with former Maryland teammate Ryan Young  in the championship game and did better than the others against him, although Young did have seven points on the day.