June 4, 2014

MLL Weekly: Lizards Own Tewaaraton Squad Impresses

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

On the weekend the Tewaaraton went to Albany's Lyle and Miles Thompson (and Miles debuted with Rochester), New York's former winners Rob Pannell, Ned Crotty and Max Seibald all had big games in a win over Boston. (Peyton Williams)

On Thursday, the 2014 Tewaaraton Trophy winners were announced and one of the recipients - newly minted Rochester Rattler Miles Thompson - made his MLL debut on Sunday. Between those two events, however, the New York Lizards had former winners of the award step up in a big way in their tough 11-10 victory over the Boston Cannons.

Max Seibald (2009) had two goals, Rob Pannell (2013) scored two goals and tallied an assist and Ned Crotty (2010) won the game's MVP honors with three goals – including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter—and two assists.

"We stuck to our game plan, made sure we were moving the ball. One of the biggest things is the amount of talent we have," Crotty said in a postgame interview posted on the league's website. "Up until this game, really, it's been trying to figure out our chemistry. I think tonight we definitely took a big step in that direction and it showed up on the scoreboard."

Chemistry has been the big buzz word surrounding the Lizards going back to last season when they underwent massive roster changes. Things didn't work out as expected in 2013, so Crotty – amongst others – was brought in to improve the team on the field and in the locker room.

In games number two through four, Crotty (who didn't play in the season opener) and Pannell hadn't quite gelled. In the game against the Cannons, however, both players were able to post big numbers and help the team to victory.

Both assisted on one of the other's goals as well.

"Rob and Ned are both world class players and we'll continue to see them evolve together," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said. "I think the one thing you see with Ned is, I don't want him deferring as much. I said to him in the second to last TV timeout, 'Look you gotta' take this over.'"

Getting those two on the same page is an important key to the Lizards success this season. If this is the start of a brewing chemistry between the two, opposing coaches will be put in a difficult position.

"They sure are a handful to defend," said Boston head coach John Tucker, who saw first-hand the damage they can do together. "Since they are of different styles it is a difficult chore to match up effectively. Sort of pick your poison."

Spallina said it can't just be Crotty and Pannell doing all the work. He wants to see the supporting cast now take a big step forward, especially third-year attackman Tommy Palasek.

He said he believes that Palasek is the key to continued improvement from the dynamic duo of Crotty and Pannell.

"Pally has been the glue for those guys," Spallina said. "He's like the fifth Beatle. No one really talks about him."

Maybe not as popular as Pannell or Crotty, Palasek brings a lot to the table for the Lizards' offense.

In 29 career MLL games, Palasek has 46 goals. This season he has seven goals in four games, scoring in all except for the 12-11 overtime loss to Chesapeake in the second game of the season. He didn't play in the team's 15-9 loss to Rochester the following week but bounced back strong in the team's 11-9 win over Ohio, scoring four goals, two of which came off assists from Crotty.

"Everyone wants to talk about Ned, Rob and Max and I get it," Spallina said, "but those other guys can be contributing more."

More games like the past two for Crotty, Pannell and Palasek should help alleviate any lingering chemistry issues, however.

"It's amazing what wins do to the locker room. It builds confidence and makes problems go away," Spallina said. "Everyone is a little happier after a W."

MILES THOMPSON DEBUTS

After months of anticipation and three days after being announced as the 2014 Tewaaraton Trophy co-winner along with his brother, Lyle, Miles Thompson made his MLL debut in a Rattlers 18-11 victory over the Florida Launch.

Thompson scored his first MLL goal in the win. He also moved well off-ball and helped get Mark Matthews (one goal, two assists) and Kevin Leveille (three goals, two assists) open.

Rochester head coach Tim Soudan was pleased.

"Everybody knows how dangerous he is and [Florida] played him really tight, especially since he had a nice goal early," he said. "Miles is a very exciting player and as he gets more comfortable we are gonna' see some amazing things out of him. People have to respect him and I know his teammates are very excited to play with him."

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS MAKE MORE MOVES

After acquiring C.J. Costabile earlier in the season and after losing to the Ohio Machine, 15-11, to fall to 1-4, the Bayhawks made a pair of trades to try and shore up what the organization feels are some weaker areas.

Last in the league in face-off winning percentage, Chesapeake sent midfielder Cam Holding and a 2015 seventh round collegiate draft pick to Denver in exchange for Stephen Robarge and defenseman James Connelly.

The team then acquired Jason Noble from the Florida Launch for a 2015 third round collegiate draft pick.

"All faceoff guys will be out [against Rochester] and we were down to four poles," Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle said.

Robarge is 3-for-5 on face-offs this year and has won 48 percent of his face-offs in seven games over three seasons. Noble, a second-year player, has played in three games for the Launch this season.

ANTHONY KELLY HITS FACE-OFF MILESTONE

Kelly is already the league's all-time leader in face-off victories and face-off attempts. He is also in the Top 10 in league history in ground ball pickups. Saturday, in the Denver Outlaws 13-11 victory over the Charlotte Hounds, Kelly went 16-26 at the face-off X. His fifth win of the night gave him 1,300 for his career.

"He had a great night and we've come to expect that from him," said Outlaws head coach B.J. O'Hara. "He's a tremendous leader and is great in the locker room. "


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