August 23, 2012

Veteran Bayhawks Head to Defending Champs' Home Turf

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Kip Turner will look to pick up his first MLL postseason win against his former team in Saturday's second semifinal at Harvard Stadium.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Semifinal Game 2:
No. 2 Chesapeake Bayhawks (10-4) vs. No. 3 Boston Cannons (9-5)
4 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, Mass.

The Bayhawks and Cannons split their two-game regular season series with each home team winning. Chesapeake won 14-13 on June 23 and Boston beat the Bayhawks 16-13 on July 28 to start a three-game win streak that the defending champion Cannons needed to qualify for the four-team postseason.

In the Chesapeake win, the Bayhawks held off a Cannons' fourth-quarter rally. In the Boston win, Chris Eck won 19 of 31 faceoffs and Chesapeake found itself in foul trouble for much of the second half, committing 10 penalties in the third and fourth quarters. Boston's more unheralded offensive players, Kevin Buchanan and Ari Sussman, each had hat tricks.

"The two games [this season] have been extremely competitive and hard-fought," Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said. "There's a great rivalry that's happened over the years between Boston and Chesapeake."

This is the third straight year these teams will meet in an MLL semifinal. The last two winners hoisted the Steinfeld Trophy. And last year, in the first of two "Hurricane Games," in Annapolis, Md., former Boston attackman Max Quinzani scored the winner at the fourth-quarter buzzer.

Boston Welcomes Back Turner

Finally, Kip Turner will stand between the pipes during a Major League Lacrosse championship weekend in Boston. Except it's not as a member of the Cannons, with whom he spent the previous five seasons. It's with the Bayhawks.

Turner, who backed up current Boston goalie Jordan Burke last season, was left off the Cannons protected roster for the expansion draft prior to this season. The Bayhawks picked Turner up and all he did was lead the league in goals against average and finish the regular season second in save percentage.

But Turner is 0-2 all-time in MLL playoff games with the last appearance coming in 2010 against Boston at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. Turner was pulled six minutes into the second half after allowing 10 goals and making six saves. Burke replaced him.

The pair will stand across the field from each other Saturday. Burke is the only goalie in the four-team field to have won a championship as a starter. Turner made 17 saves against Boston last time out.

"We know he's a good teammate, we know he's a good player. He's got great character," Boston coach Steve Duffy said of Turner during the MLL's media teleconference this week. "Circumstances worked out last year where Jordan was just playing a little bit better. It's certainly an interesting storyline, him coming back to Boston and playing in the championship."

The Cannons are just simply happy they are back in Boston too this weekend, winning its final three games of the season to clinch a playoff berth.

They earned the right to play at home, although as the three seed the Cannons will not set up on their normal home sideline, nor will they occupy their normal locker room space. Still, with a good sized contingent of the roster from the Boston area, it will be nice to play at home, Duffy said, as they face a Bayhawks team that looked like the front-runner to win the title much of the year.

"The Bayhawks have been probably the top team most of the year," Duffy said. "They didn't finish as the No. 1 team, but they were certainly showed throughout the course of the year that they were one of the top teams. They present a significant challenge for us. We're hoping to play the way we played the last three weeks and come out with a win."

However, Duffy downplayed the possibility that the Cannons may have a home-field advantage.

"We're used to the big crowds at home. Sometimes a couple of games during the course of the year it worked against us," the coach said. "Some of the visiting teams see our crowd they get amped up for playing in front of a big crowd and they play with a lot of energy. We need to match that. We're used to having 10, 11, 12,000 people in our stadium. The other teams coming in get pretty excited. We need to match that energy that teams bring."

A question mark for Boston is on faceoffs, where Chris Eck is nursing a leg injury. Backup John Ortolani played the final game of the regular season in place of Eck, and Ortolani went 22-for-36 in a win against the Ohio Machine. Duffy said Eck's playing status will be determined at practice Friday, but that the team was also pleased with Ortolani.

"We knew John had that in him," Duffy said. "He plays with a ton of energy. He's a luxury for us to have. He was excited to play. Chris' knee is still bothering him somewhat. We'll wait to see what happens on Friday."

Eck (58.5%) is slightly behind Long Island's Greg Gurenlian (60.2%) as the most efficient faceoff taker entering the weekend. Aside from Boston's usual suspects Paul Rabil, Ryan Boyle and Matt Poskay, watch the Cannons' Buchanan, who has five goals and two assists in two games against the Bayhawks this season and 42 points overall.

The Cannons' Chris Eck was successful against Adam Rand (10) the last time Boston played Chesapeake. But Eck is nursing a leg injury and Chesapeake is considering going with Alex Smith, back from injury, as its primary faceoff taker this weekend.
© Bill Danielewski

Chesapeake Looks to Win 'Team of the Year'

Major League Lacrosse's individual awards for 2012 were announced over the last week. Three Denver Outlaws earned nods: Brendan Mundorf (MVP), Lee Zink (Defensive Player of the Year) and Jeremy Sieverts (Most Improved). Paul Rabil won another Offensive Player of the Year honor with Boston and Long Island took three awards as well: Rookie of the Year (Matt Gibson), Goalie (Drew Adams) and Coach (Joe Spallina).

What's that? No, Bayhawks among the winners?

"The goal for this team from the beginning wasn't to be the middie of the year, the goalie of the year, it was to be the team of the year," Cottle said. "That's something we're going to focus on. Maybe it will give us a little more individual motivation to play a little harder, to prove that we have some pretty good players on our team, too."

The Bayhawks have a veteran-heavy roster with the likes of Kyle Dixon, John Grant, Jr., Michael Evans, Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina, and because of salary cap issues, have had to rotate some stars in and out of the lineup each weekend. That may have set back a few players from winning individual honors, Cottle said.

The return of faceoff specialist Alex Smith from surgery has complicated that situation. Smith took 18 draws in the Bayhawks final game of the regular season, winning nine in the 15-13 loss to Denver as the team evaluated if Smith would be able to go during championship weekend. Adam Rand, the second-year pro from Stony Brook, has been the team's primary taker.

MLL playoff rules allow for teams to dress 20 players, one more than the normal 19 allowed in the regular season, but Chesapeake may still elect to dress 19 given its salary cap concerns.

A decision will be made after the Bayhawks practice Friday afternoon. If Smith dresses, the team likely can only afford to have 19 players available for the weekend. If Rand dresses, the team can squeeze 20 players in under the salary cap allotment.

"I'm not sure which way we're going to go," Cottle said. "We'll know a little bit more in practice on Friday."

Cottle said the faceoff battle will be one of the keys to the game, along with goaltending and man-up and man-down units. He mentioned Eck's prowess in last meeting.

He said the team is not concerned about facing a Boston team playing on its home turf.

"We're playing on the road against a team that is the defending champion, but one thing we have is mature and experienced players," Cottle said. "There won't be a whole lot of rookies on the field for either team. Once the game gets started, the only difference is the crowd is going to cheer louder when they score than when we score. If we have had an inexperienced team, I'd be more concerned. We need to play the game we've played our whole season, and their whole lives. It's a great environment to be a part of. Nothing would be better than making sure the crowd is quiet in the fourth."

Dixon leads the Bayhawks with 48 points and set the MLL single-season record for 2-pointers with 15, breaking his previous record. Midfielders Michael Kimmel and Steve Brooks are tied for second on the team with 36 points.


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