August 6, 2012

Denver Makes Playoffs, Final Two Spots Up for Grabs

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com

Denver's win Saturday over Rochester made the Outlaws the second team to qualify for MLL championship weekend later this month. Boston, Long Island and the Rattlers will play for the final two berths this weekend, while Chesapeake and Denver face each other Saturday with the No. 1 playoff seed on the line.
© Trevor Brown

With two games remaining the Denver Outlaws were sitting pretty, tied for first place in the league and rolling. But without a clinched spot for sure, the team would not take the rest of the season for granted.

"It's funny at 9-3 it just shows you how competitive the league is this year. At 9-3 with two weeks left and tied for first that we don't even have a guaranteed playoff spot," defender Matt Bocklet said ahead of Saturday's game against Rochester. "So our focus right now is to make the playoffs and to do that we need to beat Rochester."

The Outlaws (10-3) may not have moved up in the standings, but with their 17-12 win over the Rochester Rattlers (7-6) they have become the second team to clinch a playoff berth this season.

Denver (10-3) rode four Peet Poillon goals (one a two-pointer) and an assist and three goals from Brendan Mundorf, who also tallied an assist, to victory.

The Rattlers jumped on the board first thanks to a Steven Boyle goal off a Matt Striebel feed, but the Outlaws would score four of the next five goals, all from different scorers, to take a lead they would never relinquish.

It was Denver's third consecutive win on the road.

"I think the road games are a ton of fun. It's exciting to go to new places I haven't been," Chris Bocklet said Monday.

The Outlaws outscored the Rattlers in every single quarter except the fourth quarter, but by then it was too late.

Ned Crotty, who was forced to leave the previous game against Denver early due to injury, registered two assists for Rochester but did not score. It was only the second time this season Crotty went goal-less, the other time being in the first meeting against Denver.

Rochester was not eliminated from playoff contention, however, due to the Long Island Lizards loss.

Boston continues winning

The Cannons (8-5) got a huge boost to their title defense when they defeated the Ohio Machine 19-13. The win put Boston in a much more comfortable position heading into the league's final week, vaulting from a tie for fourth to a tie for third.

"We understand that we have to win this game to maintain a chance at the postseason," Boston head coach Steve Duffy said on the weekly MLL coaches' conference call.

Boston got a big performance from face-off specialist Chris Eck.

Eck won 24 of 32 face-offs (75-percent) and picked up a season-high 13 ground balls. All those extra possessions meant more time on offense to showcase Boston's skill.

Kevin Buchanan led all scorers with four goals, Paul Rabil had a game-high seven points, Ryan Boyle had a goal and five assists and Matt Poskay added three goals.

The Machine (2-11) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and went into the second quarter with a 5-4 lead. The Cannons, however, used an 8-3 second quarter—keyed by two-point goals from Rabil and defender Brian Farrell—to jump ahead of the Machine for good.

It was the first time this season the Cannons won back-to-back games since their 4-0 start.

Chesapeake wins one for Cottle

The Bayhawks (10-3) bounced back from last week's loss to the Cannons with a strong 13-6 victory over the Lizards (8-5). The win matched a franchise record for victories in a season, previously done by the team in 2001, 2002 and 2005.

Chesapeake's victory was even more impressive because it was without head coach Dave Cottle, who missed the game because his son needed emergency surgery. Cottle later said the surgery was successful and his son would be ok. Team owner Brendan Kelly served as interim head coach.

Ben Hunt led the Bayhawks in goals (three including one two-pointer) and points (four). All three of Hunt's goals were responses to a Lizards tally and his two-pointer came in the fourth quarter after the Lizards had scored two consecutive goals and closed the deficit to five, finally putting the game out of reach for good.

Hunt, who had just one goal in his three previous games, earned Player of the Game honors.

Bayhawks goalie Kip Turner made 10 saves on the night and the Bayhawks defense—including former Lizards Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco—held the Lizards offense to just 5-for-36 shooting.

Player of the Week

Adam Ghitelman, G, Charlotte

Ghitelman earned Player of the Game honors in the Hounds' (4-9) 11-9 victory over the Nationals (3-10) thanks to an 18 save, eight goals allowed, complete game performance. The eight goals against were the fewest Ghitelman has surrendered this season when he plays the entire 60 minutes between the pipes.

Surprise of the Week

Long Island Lizards

It's not a surprise the Lizards lost; Chesapeake is obviously a very good team. It's just how poorly they played with the playoffs around the corner that's surprising. The Lizards have been a good success story with so much roster turnover and many rookies, but to score only six goals and lose by seven is disappointing. The Lizards are 3-5 against teams still in the playoff hunt, so if they even make it to Championship Weekend they may face an early exit with another performance like this.

What to Watch For

The last week of regular season games is always high in drama and this season is no different. The Denver Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks will play against each other with the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs on the line. What's key about the No. 1 position is that team will play in the earlier Saturday semifinal, which means more rest for the victor heading into Sunday afternoon's championship tilt.

Boston, Long Island and Rochester will be fighting for the final two playoff spots, leaving one team out. If Boston can beat the Ohio Machine for the second consecutive week, the Cannons are in. A Long Island win, or Rochester loss, would also give Boston a playoff spot.

The Lizards will travel to Canada to take on the Nationals and will also get in with a victory. They will also get if either Rochester or Boston loses.

The Rattlers, in fifth place currently, are in the worst shape. They will need to beat the Hounds in Charlotte and they also need the Lizards to lose.

Who will be the No. 1 seed? Who else will join the Bayhawks and Outlaws in the playoffs?


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