The Denver Outlaws kept up their winning ways on America’s favourite day with a 14-13 come-from-behind win over the Chesapeake Bayhawks during their annual Mile High Fourth of July game. It puts the Outlaws at 5-1 and in first place in Major League Lacrosse.
In front of 26,210 fans the Outlaws rallied from a 13-9 fourth quarter deficit during a game that was delayed 75 minutes and featured two further delays for storms and lightning in the area. Prior to the game large chunks of hail filled the stadium, but most of the crowd stuck around for the now-legendary post-game fireworks show.
“It’s amazing to be a part of this game,” said midfielder Zach Currier. “Our staff does such a good job organizing the event. It’s the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen.”
Lyle Thompson’s third-quarter hat trick put the Bayhawks squarely in command after the teams played to a 5-4 first half with Chesapeake holding the one-goal advantage. Thompson led the onslaught with five goals – how could the Outlaws match that?
But it was the Fourth of July game; so how could the Outlaws fall?
“Chesapeake is a very good team so I knew it would be a tough task but our team pulled together and got the job done,” said Currier, who had four goals in Denver’s rally.
Thompson opened the game’s scoring but the Outlaws led 2-1 after a hard-fought first quarter, made all the more intense because of the late start. Dillon Ward made the save of the game at the end of the quarter as Thompson came around the net and got by a defender, only to shoot low right into Ward’s stick.
Currier found John Grant Jr. at 3:55 of the second to put the hometown team up 3-1 but consecutive goals from Steele Stanwick and Nick Mariano tied the game at three. Currier’s first of the game, from a sharp angle on the run, put the Outlaws up temporarily as an early halftime was declared due to lightning. Matt Abbott and Brendan Bomberry scored less than a minute apart coming out of the delay to put the Bayhawks up 5-4.
Max Adler scored off the third quarter’s opening faceoff to tie the game, heaving the ball at the net from just inside the two-point arc as he got tripped up on the grass. It was a heroic effort, but Chesapeake then went on a three-goal run that included two from Thompson, one a no-look backhand.
On the man-up, Currier followed a goal from defenseman Matt Gilray to cut Chesapeake’s lead to 8-7. Andrew Kew and Chris Aslanian then traded goals before Thompson’s fourth, in which he went horizontal over the crease with an unprecedented amount of hang time. Aslanian then found Currier cutting to the net for Currier’s hat trick goal. Down just 10-9, the Outlaws looked to be in good shape – until the last nine seconds of the quarter. Brendan Bomberry capitalized on the man-up, and then Lyle Thompson scored his fifth, off a restart, six seconds later.
Ryan Keenan widened the gap to four to start the fourth quarter, and then it was comeback time for the Outlaws. Currier got it started with 9:53 left. Rookie Will Snider scored 29 seconds later to close the gap to 13-11. Another rookie, Charlie Hayes made it 13-12 with 5:14 left.
As much as Currier, now an MLL veteran, led the team on Thursday, the Outlaws’ rookies played an even bigger part. Aslanian led them all with a pair of goals and three assists, making important dishes to both Currier and Grant during the game – and assisting on Grant’s game-tying goal with 4:25 to play.
“Aslanian is as good as they come,” Currier said. “He’s been great for us all year and that game was no different. He dodges with his head up and can score and feed extremely well.”
Snider then found an open lane on a fortunate man-up situation with 3:50 left to play for the game winner, his second in just three games.
Dillon Ward made 12 saves for the Outlaws while Niko Amato made 15 for the Bayhawks. Max Adler absolutely dominated at the X, winning 23 of 31 draws and scooping up 13 ground balls. Currier, Gilray and Michael Rexrode also contributed to the Outlaws’ total of 43 GBs with four each. Thompson and Currier led their teams in shots with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Outlaws are off until next Thursday, July 11 when they host the Atlanta Blaze in a noon game, which can be seen on Lax Sports Network.