Out of Contention: New York Lizards

When the Lizards drafted Rob Pannell last year, it was the talk of the league, especially when he decided to stay at Cornell an extra year. This seasons draft proved even more interesting when New York traded for Mark Matthews. Adding Matthews to a big attack unit made up of Tommy Palasek, Matt Gibson, and eventually Pannell, made it seem as if they were going to be one of the most dominant teams in the league.


Things looked great heading into the first game of the season as Coach Joe Spallina’s team took down the Boston Cannons 14-11. Greg Gurenlian went 21-28 at the face-off X, Palasek recorded five points and Drew Adams made 15 saves. Following the game, Langtry shocked the lacrosse world with his immediate retirement. He played attack last year, giving his squad a bunch of wins because he could clean up the crease and due to his leadership. In their game against Boston, he ran midfield and said, “I played that first game with the Lizards, running up and down the field and I felt like I didn’t have it physically,” Langtry said. “Mentally I figured I could get away with things given my experience, but the body only goes so far and running up and down the field against guys in their twenties was kind of a wake-up call.” The loss of his leadership impacted the Lizards greatly in their next game, as the offense only recorded three goals against Chesapeake.


In their first game against Hamilton, the offense clicked but came up one short in the end. Finally, the team played as a unit and came up victorious against Ohio 14-8. Pannell joined his squad on May 31, just before the Charlotte game, giving a hopeful boost to a mediocre team. They would go on to lose two in a row at the hands of Charlotte and a 21-8 thrashing by the Bayhawks, before their next win over the Nationals. The next six games were crucial for the Lizards to win if they had any hopes of making the playoffs standing at 3-4. Sadly, Spallina’s Lizards fell short losing six in a row and making the playoffs a distant memory.


There is a lot of talent on this Lizards squad, which gave everyone hope at the beginning of 2013. Unfortunately, talent cannot beat chemistry. Pannell tallied at least two points every game, and recording five points, three games in a row. Palasek averaged four points in the teams three wins, and has scored 17 goals with six assists just this season. The third attack man was a mystery this season for the Lizards as they split time between Matthews and Gibson, running them at midfield as well. After the points Gibson put up last year, it was surprising to see him being up at midfield, not that I don’t agree with giving him some runs from up top, but he did better damage down low. Gibson and Matthews didn’t make as much of an impact this year as they had in past, with Matt only picking up nine points in six games (last game vs Rochester on 6/30) and Mark recording 17 points in eight games (last game vs Denver on July 4). There was a surprising trade after the Rochester game that sent midfielder Stephen Berger to Boston for attack man Stephen Mock, Pannell’s line mate in college. When this trade first happened, I was in awe due to the fact that the Lizards would go after another attack man. Mock has recorded two goals every game since joining the Lizards, except for his one goal performance in the Denver game.


An injury to Max Seibald really limited his participation this season, giving a hit to the midfield units. Berger was having a sub par season, only having two big games for the Lizards, with his last coming against Rochester where he tallied three goals before being traded. David Earl and Stephen Peyser are the two top point producing midfielders for the Lizards. Earl has 17 points in his eleven games with New York and Peyser has put up 15 in the twelve games he’s been a part of. Rookie Jo-jo Morasco was a dud after a stellar college season until recently when he went off for three goals against Denver. His future looks bright in the MLL. The Unterstein brothers are two of the most ferocious midfielders in the league and can play some offense as they combined for seven points so far.


Goaltender Drew Adams controls things on the backside of the field for New York, letting up 161 goals, seven two point goals, averaging 12.45 goals per game, making 193 saves to produce a save percentage of .545. This is the first time since Adams took over in net, that the Lizards have gone into double digits for loses. Good notes from this season for Adams are that he’s made the most saves of his career and also has focused on not letting up two-point goals (7). However, he has let in more goals on average. Also, Drew will more than likely let in the most goals of his career come this weekend, which is currently at 161 and the most at 165 (2012). Even though he will let up the most goals in his career this season, Drew has played on his head and hasn’t lost his composure.


In front of Adams are long poles Brian Karalunas, CJ Costabile, Steven Waldeck, Jack Reid, Mark Mullen and Michael Skudin. They have shown spurts of greatness, but at times, did not play the full sixty minutes which hurts. Reid was acquired before the season started from Boston and decently helped out the defensive unit. Karalunas has played well this season, Costabile and Waldeck were decent on both ends of the field, and Mullen and Skudin helped out as well. If it weren’t for Adams, the games would have gotten out of control. Biggest problems for them were off ball defense and slides. Going into next season, they’ll need to find a stronger general for defense, someone, besides Adams, that can take control out there and not let their teammates get lost.


Overall, the Lizards need some work. Gurenlian has been a godsend for the Lizards this season, leading the league in face-offs and is one of the other huge reasons the Lizards had any chance at winning a game. The attack is set with Pannell and Palasek leading the way. It’s that third attack man that is a little fuzzy, whether it be Gibson, Matthews or Mock. The midfield will be the main focus offensively for the Lizards heading into 2014, as they only had two main producers in Peyser and Earl. The extra man unit for the Lizards was the least productive in the league, scoring only nine goals, giving them a 17.65 percent rate. As for the man down, they’ve let up the most goals with 22.


The Lizards final regular season game will be at home versus Ohio at 7 P.M. on August 10. Hopefully they can go out on a good note. Preparing for 2014 started as soon as they were out of the playoff hunt, so let’s hope they have started their homework.