MLL: Uppgren scores five as Cannons claim championship

The Boston Cannons win the 2020 MLL championship. July 26, 2020. (Photo credit: Pretty Instant/MLL)

Another victory was claimed by the City of Champions on Sunday afternoon as the Boston Cannons took the 2020 MLL championship 13-10 over the Denver Outlaws.

Boston didn’t have a great start to the MLL season, losing to Chesapeake and Connecticut, but a solid win over Denver on Friday secured them the fourth seed. The two should have faced off in a semi-final on Saturday, but the semis were cancelled after three Bayhawks’ players tested positive for COVID-19. Chesapeake and Connecticut elected to forfeit the rest of the tournament, making the Denver-Boston rematch the final.

Though Chesapeake was a legitimate contender to defend their title, you could argue that the two right teams played anyway. Both Denver-Boston games were intense, competitive battles.

Though field temperatures were a scorching 122° the Cannons seemed to thrive in the heat, opening the game with a pair of goals 48 seconds apart from John Uppgren and Ben Spencer. Denver’s Daniel Bucaro answered back with a natural hat trick in just a minute and 20 seconds. Five seconds after Bucaro’s third goal, Max Adler won the faceoff and quickly passed to John Grant Jr. who upped the Denver lead to 4-2. The Cannons then took back over with Uppgren sandwiching a Mark Cockerton goal. Boston led 5-4 after the first.

Two-pointers took centre stage in the second quarter. Pat Aslanian put Denver up 6-5 before Cockerton tied it, capitalizing on a mistake by the Denver defense to scoop up a ground ball. Christian Knight stopped a 2-point attempt by Challen Rogers to keep the game tied at six, but gave up a 2-pointer to Justin Pugal with 0.3 seconds before halftime – a backbreaker for the Outlaws.

Bryce Wasserman, MLL MVP, kisses the Steinfeld Trophy. The Boston Cannons win the 2020 MLL championship. July 26, 2020. (Photo credit: Pretty Instant/MLL)

Bryce Wasserman, named the league’s MVP after the game, gave Boston a 9-6 lead to start the third. Wasserman was an all-star for the Cannons, leading the team with 14 goals and five assists over the course of the week.

Boston kept adding to their score; Uppgren kept up his great day with a behind-the-back pass to Cockerton, who spun around to score. Uppgren then put one through Nick Washuta’s legs.

Denver head coach Tony Seaman had Knight play the first half of each game this season with Washuta taking the second half. After Washuta gave up three goals early in his tenure on Sunday, Seaman put Knight back in.

The goalie switch gave Denver some energy with Chris Aslanian scoring two quick goals to get them back in it. He missed out on a 2-pointer by inches with his first shot, and finished off a behind-the-net pass from Grant for his second. Adler then scored off another faceoff win and Boston’s lead was cut to 11-9.

Adler had an quick recovery after being hospitalized earlier in the week for heat exhaustion. He won 14 of 25 draws.

Uppgren had the hot hand for the Cannons; his fifth of the day came as he outran a defender around the net. With the Cannons up 12-9, that’s when goaltender Nick Marrocco really started to shine, and we’d argue, become the difference in the game. Marrocco stopped John Grant Jr. point blank three times, outwaiting and outwitting him on good chances in both the third and fourth quarters.

Denver lost by three goals: those three Grant chances could have tied the game. He knows it, too; nobody will be harder on Grant than himself for those missed chances. And for the 45-year-old who had to have 100 cc’s of fluid drained from his knees before each game, it was likely his last chance for a championship as a player.

In fact several hours after I initially wrote the above paragraph, Grant posted this on Twitter:

Challen Rogers scored for Boston to make it a baker’s dozen before Aslanian completed his hat trick.

Boston’s defense really buckled down in the fourth. Shots were stopped. Shots were blocked. Shots went wide. Boston didn’t need to score again; Denver couldn’t.

This was an impressive win for the Cannons, who were without Randy Staats, Frank Brown, Bryan Cole, Matt Gilray and Jason Brewster, who elected to go home early due to the positive COVID-19 tests from the Bayhawks. Even down five men, the Cannons were resilient, and they were hungry. It was the first Steinfeld Trophy for the Cannons since 2011.

ILWT extends its congratulations to every member of the Cannons on their championship, and to the MLL for running a great week of much-needed lacrosse.