In a Mile-High matchup between the final two unbeaten teams in Major League Lacrosse, the Denver Outlaws (5-0) host the Hamilton Nationals (5-0) June 8 for the top spot in the MLL.
“We expect to be playing a 5-0 team that certainly is playing well and has a lot of different weapons,” Head Coach Jim Stagnitta said. “They play a unique style of play – a little different from what we’ve seen from week to week in our first few games.”
While both squads have been impressive so far this season, the road to success has been different for each side. The Nationals have been able to find the back of the net through a variety of sources with four players putting up 10 or more points, and most of the scoring going through midfielder Kevin Crowley. Denver has had a much more evenly-spread attack, with seven players registering 10 or more points so far this season.
“They (Hamilton) are so slick and they play in tight spaces – and the pick-and-roll and getting underneath – that is something you have to prepare for,” Stagnitta said about the Hamilton offense. “The way they play offense is different from what we’ve seen from anyone in the league thus far.”
The Nationals offense has been enough to remain unbeaten, with three of their wins coming by one goal and two of those in overtime. However, they will face a determined Outlaws defense led by defending Defensive Player of the Year Lee Zink that has been especially good at shutting down offenses as of late.
In week four, Zink held Rochester Rattler’s lead-scorer attackman Ned Crotty scoreless, in a 20-7 win. Then, Denver ran the Cannons out of Sports Authority Field at Mile High May 31, and kept Boson in check with a 24-14 victory.
While the Outlaws offense will face their stiffest challenge so far this year, against six-time Defensive Player of the Year defender Brodie Merrill and the Hamilton defense, the Nationals haven’t faced an offense as dangerous as Denver’s this season.
Attackman Chris Bocklet has led the charge for Denver so far with 19 points off of 16 goals and three assists, while midfielders Drew Snider and Jeremy Sieverts and 2012 MLL MVP attackman Brendan Mundorf have all chipped in 18 points.
Denver has Hamilton’s number when it comes to regular season match ups, going 8-1 all-time versus the Nationals in the regular season, and swept them last season by a combined score of 36-18.
With home-field advantage and the odds in their favor, the Outlaws will get further help from a few rookies. Coming off a championship-caliber season with Syracuse University Brian Megill may see some time, along with defender Roger Ferguson out of Brown University, Stagnitta said.
“He (Megill) certainly gives us a little bit more of an element that wee need. He brings some real toughness down to that end of the field, and some grit,” Stagnitta said. “Roger Ferguson is the one rookie who has played for us and has really done a nice job giving us a little bit more depth in the middle of the field.”
In the final battle of the unbeatens for the 2013 MLL season, Hamilton will need an over-achieving performance on both ends of the field to beat Denver in the Mile High City. The Outlaws and Nationals will face-off at 4 p.m. EST at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.