August 29, 2012

McLaughlin: My Favorite MLL Championship Weekend Moments

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

The second semifinal of 2011 MLL Championship Weekend Saturday was played in the driving rain and howling wind of Hurricane Irene, ranking among the most memorable moments of MLL playoff history.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

I've been fortunate enough to cover four Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekends since 2008, including the last three. While the teams, players, coaches and circumstances change, the games never fail to disappoint in terms of storylines and great moments. Here are some of my favorites, in chronological order.

Note: This list only includes games I have attended, and not all MLL playoff games.

2008 - Queener Steals the Show as Rochester Takes Title

The Rochester Rattlers went with a first-half, second-half goalie rotation most of the season. Mike Levin played the opening half and Brett Queener would come in for the second. The trend held in the 2008 title game at Harvard Stadium, and Queener stole the show in Rochester's first ever MLL title-game win.

This was early on in my lacrosse reporting career, and I hadn't seen a goalie come out of the net that many times, much less assist on a goal, or snap a between-the-legs pass in the 16-6 win over the Denver Outlaws. Of course, had I seen Queener play in high school, Herkimer Community College, or at Albany, I would have known what to expect.

His post-game interaction with fans was almost just as exciting. Queener threw pieces of equipment into the crowd to nearly everyone who asked. He gave position-specific directions after asking kids what positions they played. He told others to friend him on Facebook, and this was 2008, before everyone and their parents were on social media. This went on for nearly an hour and he was the last to leave the field. Queener became the main subject of my feature for Lacrosse Magazine. He provides plenty to write about, even still with the Hamilton Nationals and as an assistant women's coach at Syracuse.

2010 – Bayhawks Back on Top, Goettelmann Retires?

After taking a year off from attending Championship Weekend in 2009, I was back at it Annapolis, Md., at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for 2010. The Bayhawks and Lizards met in the championship game in an old-school MLL rivalry renewed. Long Island beat Denver for the first time ever to make the final and the fourth-seeded Bayhawks ousted top-ranked Boston in an upset in the other semifinal.

It was a year of change for the Bayhawks. New team owner Brendan Kelly took over coaching duties from John Tucker in the middle of a five-game losing skid, and in the second half of the season, Kelly brought on Dave Cottle as a consultant. By championship weekend, Cottle was on the sideline, still as a consultant, for the first time since being forced out at Maryland. The Bayhawks beat Long Island 13-9 in the final.

The story for me though was more about the MLL's recently anointed all-time leading scorer, Lizards veteran Tim Goettelmann, the 10-year-pro and last remaining player from the original Lizards roster in 2001. Nicknamed the "Monster" for his 6-foot-4, 215-pound size, Goettelmann was considering retiring and, after the game, said he was leaning that way. He later changed his mind and came back for an 11th and final season. These were my first interactions with Goettelmann, who was and is one of the nicest people in lacrosse I have ever met. He ended up being Lacrosse Magazine's 2010 Person of the Year for his charitable work for sick children "Monster's Kids," along with becoming an MLL record holder and is as genuine a person as there is. Yesterday, he sent out invitations to "Monster's Kids" annual holiday fundraising party, to benefit Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York.

2011 – Quinzani's Last-Second Goal Wins First "Hurricane Game"

Lacrosse Magazine editor Matt DaSilva and I headed down from Baltimore to Annapolis, Md., despite a State of Emergency in Maryland and Hurricane Irene approaching. That cone of uncertainty you see on TV predicting where the storm will head? We were certainly in it, but Championship Weekend went on. If it didn't happen this weekend, there was a good chance it wouldn't happen at all because of scheduling and logistics.

The ride down wasn't all that bad, but it was the calm before the storm. Rain picked up during the first semifinal that Saturday between the Bayhawks and Boston Cannons. And with the outer bands of Irene serving as the backdrop, Max Quinzani sent Boston to the championship game on last-second goal. You hear play-by-play man Joe Beninati's call of the goal on many of MLL's promotional videos.

2011 – Hurricane Irene Really Gets Going for Second Semifinal

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