August 21, 2009

Cannons Sweat Small Stuff in Hopes of Upset

by Daniel Sherbun | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

ANNAPOLIS, Md. --  The margin separating the teams playing Saturday in the first of two Major League Lacrosse semifinals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is paper thin. The two-game season series between the fourth-seeded Boston Cannons and top-seeded Denver Outlaws is tied at one game and 31 points apiece.

In the first clash between the two teams, Denver came out on top, defeating Boston in one of their six one-goal losses.

“Denver is very good in transition -- that is something that we need to do a better job at," said Cannons head coach Bill Daye. "There is no doubt about it, we need to make sure we’re not taking it right to the box, try to get a few middies on who can back up first and foremost, and then get off the field with their defensive midfielders."

Despite earning the win in the teams' last meeting, Daye saw area in which his team must improve.

"Last time we played Denver, we were in the penalty box the whole game, and we didn’t do so well man up, and that’s key,” Daye said.

In the July 4 clash, both teams were penalized eight times each, but Denver outscored Boston 3-0 on power plays. The Cannons were held scoreless in all seven of their power plays.

One area of the game in which the Cannons will have the clear advantage is in faceoffs.  Second-year Colgate graduate Chris Eck has been nothing short of outstanding for the Cannons this season.

In the regular season, Eck was second in the league in faceoffs won (196) and faceoff percentage (54.6). Eck has been a spark for the offense all season.

“Faceoffs are extremely important; you can’t score unless you have the ball," Daye said. "Chris has done a remarkable job all year long at battling for it and giving it to us.”

To avoid another one-goal loss, the Cannons know what they must do. During Friday's walkthrough (the Cannons and Outlaws practiced at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium; the Long Island Lizards and Toronto Nationals practiced at Severn School), Daye stressed the nuances of the game that can lead to those one-goal deficits.

“It’s little things the right way," he said. "It’s just making sure we’re focused for 60 minutes, that’s what we stress. It’s a four-quarter game for 15 minutes until that final whistle. Guys are aware, this is the dance.”

Greer to Play

The Lizards, who struggled offensively and backed into the postseason with a 2-4 mark in their final six games, will get a boost with the return of rookie attackman Zack Greer. After bursting onto the scene with 12 goals in his first five games reuniting with former Duke line mate Matt Danowski, Greer has been out with a hand injury since July 4. He has been cleared to play Saturday, team officials said Friday. He will wear a cast on his hand.


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