June 14, 2012

MLL Weekly: Expansion Ohio, Charlotte Seek Boosts

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

What will Steele Stanwick's impact be on the Ohio Machine's half-field offense? We'll begin to find out Saturday when Stanwick makes his MLL debut against Long Island.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The Charlotte Hounds are looking for their field-goal kicker, and the Ohio Machine will have Steele Stanwick in uniform but aren't expecting him to be Superman.

Those were two analogies used by the coaches of Major League Lacrosse's two expansion teams this week. In any case, both the Hounds and Machine are seeking boosts to their inaugural seasons.

Ohio is 1-4 and has scored the league's second fewest goals per game (11.2), trailing only inconsistent Rochester (9.0), while allowing the second most goals (15.4). Charlotte is 1-5, scoring 11.6 goals while allowing an MLL-worst 15.6, and has won only 36.2 percent of faceoffs as a team.

Both first-year teams have earned one home win in front of their new fans, but are winless on the road and sit in the bottom two spots of the eight-team league standings.

A general thought in MLL circles about expansion teams is that there are so many good players available and so few teams that it wouldn't take long for the new squads to get up to speed. Some preseason observers pegged Charlotte to be competitive immediately, and they have in some cases, twice losing one-goal games to Long Island and Hamilton.

But there's certainly room for improvement.

Ohio drafted Stanwick with the thought that any team that had him on its roster would: he's a game-changing attackman who can make everyone around him better. It's time to see what impact he'll have in the MLL. The Machine has struggled at times to find quality shots in half-field sets.

Stanwick will start on Saturday against Long Island and wear No. 66. He'll run on attack alongside Woodson and Jim Connolly, both recently named all-stars, after taking a few weeks to recover from Virginia's college season and what coach Ted Garber described a slight hernia strain.

Stanwick won't be with the team at practice Friday, as he attends services in New York for Adam Pomper, the younger brother of former Virginia midfielders Max and Brian Pomper, but Stanwick will be with the Machine for its Saturday walkthrough.

"He's real anxious about playing, but I told Steele, 'You don't have to be the best player, just do what you do best,'" Garber said this week. "And I told the guys, 'Superman is not arriving to save the day.' ... [But] I think having Steele back there, and having Woody and Connolly work off-ball more will open up some things for them, and it will open up some things for our middies as well. Steele's got great vision. I'm sure if guys are open, he's going to get them the ball."

Stanwick's injury history is a concern, but Garber said there's not much the team will do to protect the 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner from typically bigger, stronger and more physical pro defenseman. (Can you imagine Stanwick in a few weeks going against Chesapeake's Brian Spallina or Nicky Polanco?)

"I kept him out for two weeks just to make sure he felt comfortable enough going in," Garber said of Stanwick not playing the last two games. "He's seen the games on TV and he has friends that play in the league. I think he's fully ready to play physically and mentally. You're always going to get hit. ... He knows that. Guys are going to whack you. He's a big boy and he's played against some tough teams in college. He's excited about the opportunity and helping us."

In Charlotte, the Hounds' faceoff woes and goaltending-by-committee situation (that likely will change this week) are two places the team is looking for some help.

Charlotte took Denver's Andrew Hennessey in the expansion draft with the hope he'd be its primary faceoff specialist, but he played in just two games. Next up was Corey Bulken, formerly a stud Division II faceoff guy at Le Moyne, but he won just 38 percent over the last four games and was waived this week. He won just seven draws and Charlotte took only 20 shots in a 15-7 loss to Chesapeake last Saturday.

Enter Jim Carroll, a 2011 Colgate graduate, who will make his first MLL start Saturday at home against Boston (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

MLL Week 7

SATURDAY (All times Eastern)

Boston (4-2) at Charlotte (1-5), 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Hamilton (2-3) at Chesapeake (5-1), 7 p.m., ESPN3

Long Island (3-2) at Ohio (1-4), 7 p.m., ESPN3

Rochester (2-3) at Denver (4-2), 9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Visit LaxMagazine.com/MLL for coverage all season long.

"We're trying to do everything we can to solve issues at the faceoff X," Hounds coach Mike Cerino said. "You give teams in this league 10, 12, 15 extra possessions you're going to have some pretty lopsided scores. The fact that we were in a couple of one-goal games and we're facing off at a 30-percent clip is probably a testament to how hard the guys have been battling. Because we were literally giving up 10-12 more possessions a game.

Carroll was with the Hounds at practice last week, but did not dress against the Bayhawks.

"This is a bit like finding field goal kickers," Cerino said. "When you go back to the college ranks, you're looking to see who's still in shape and wants to get into it. Jim's a St. Anthony's (N.Y.) kid. He's a battler. He came in an worked out with us last week and he's ready to try to help us improve, because we are struggling."

So few possessions have led to struggles in the clearing game, Cerino said, where guys can play tight because every try is now crucial.

One hopeful source of help in that category will be second-year pro Adam Ghitelman starting in goal. He's entered in relief of veteran Joe Marra and rookie Mark Manos in week's past, but Ghitelman will get the nod this week.

Marra has had trouble making it physically through games and was put on the practice squad this week. Manos will be Ghitelman's backup.

"He's the quarterback of our defense, our clearing game is better with him in there, everything is a little bit better when he's in there," Cerino said of Ghitelman, the former Virginia and Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) goalie. "We got to move forward. I appreciate his professionalism. I don't know how many games in a row he's had to come in in relief. A couple weeks in a row I gave him a 7-1, 8-1, some tough scores to walk in on and he's battled."

Chesapeake Stockpiling Goalies

What's the saying? If you have two goalies, you have none. What about if you have three, with another on the way, and another on standby? Hello, Chesapeake.

The Bayhawks are 5-1 heading into Saturday's tilt against Hamilton. Kip Turner and TC DiBartolo have played the most in goal – about 140 minutes each – and Joey Kemp has also played 75 minutes in three games, but Kemp has some other commitments later this summer. So, that's why Chesapeake traded for Rochester's Mike Gabel last week. Turns out Gabel leads the league in goals against average in his two appearances (8.57). DiBartolo (10.27) and Turner (10.70) are third and fifth, respectively. And Rookie Tyler Fiorito from Princeton is expected to join the team for the first time at practice Friday night.

Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said anyone could play and he's looking for players that are "committed to the league."

"I'm not choosing a goalie," Cottle said. "They're choosing a goalie ... but we got good goalies."

They could also have some trade bait.

Veteran attackman Brian Langtry has filled some of the leadership void on Long Island.
© Lee Weissman

Long Island's Different Leadership

For years, the Long Island Lizards' reputation and leadership was defined by a defense led by the outspoken Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina. These are guys, who, as Lizards coach Joe Spallina – Brian's brother – describes it, were the type to "punch lockers and throw garbage cans." It must be a little cleaner around the Long Island locker room this year. With Polanco and Spallina traded to Chesapeake, there's a new leadership dynamic for Long Island.

Veteran Brian Langtry has been great on the field and off, Spallina said. "He gets the guys fired up, but is loose enough where new guys don't get white knuckles." Spallina also mentioned face-off man Greg Gurenlian, goaltender Drew Adams ("smooth") and Max Seibald ("ultimate pro") as a prefect mix of leaders for a team that includes key young players like Matt Gibson, Ryan Young, CJ Costabile and Tim Henderson, among others.

Karalunas Thriving at New Position

Brian Karalunas, who made his name as a long-stick midfielder at Villanova, continues to play down low for Long Island with long-sticks CJ Costabile and Tim Henderson on the Lizards roster.

Spallina said Karalunas has played well in the last three games, against a murderers row: Billy Bitter (zero points), Chazz Woodson (two "circus" goals) and Boston's Ryan Boyle (zero points), the league's all-time assist king. Boyle was held without a point for just the second time in his nine-year MLL career. Karalunas was named defensive player of the week.

Everyone Lusby?

Eric Lusby, the grand prize in last week's waiver wire pickups of undrafted college seniors, has reported to Charlotte. But if he'll dress this week remains to be seen. Cerino said Lusby has some bumps and bruises from the college season. But if he does play, look for Billy Bitter to shift from attack and play some midfield. Charlotte is looking to provide Stephen Berger (14 goals, seven assists) with some help. They also signed former Lehigh midfielder Roman Lao-Gosney and acquired Kevin Kaminski and Gerry Reilly in a trade with Chesapeake. "We're looking to get bigger, faster and stronger in the midfield," Cerino said. "Those guys can help us right away." On Lusby, Cerino said: "He was locked in a couple weeks ago. We'd love to have that sort of production."

Rodgers on the Mend

Hamilton goaltender Scott Rodgers made a trip to the emergency room last week and was diagnosed with what was believed to be heat stroke or dehydration. He also had blood work done for possible mononucleosis, but Rodgers said on Twitter that those tests came back negative. In any event, Rodgers is not playing this week, and may be out longer. Brett Queener likely will start against Chesapeake with Brent Herbst as the backup.

Odds and Ends

The Boston Cannons acquired midfielder Martin Cahill from Rochester for middie Brad Ross. Cahill had shot 0-for-30 for Rochester this season, but Cannons coach Steve Duffy said Cahill didn't draw many short-stick matchups and figures Cahill will see more with Boston. ... Former Johns Hopkins attackman Chris Boland will travel with the Cannons to Charlotte. A decision to activate him or not will be made at Friday's practice ... Hamilton rookie defensemen Matt Lovejoy (Virginia) and Chad Wiedmaier (Princeton) played well last week, Nationals coach Regy Thorpe said, and will continue to see time. Casey Powell had a conflict last week, but the team hopes he will play Saturday. ... Stanwick isn't the only rookie that will debut for Ohio Saturday. So will Marshall Burkhart (Johns Hopkins). ... Ohio goalie Brian Phipps tore a ligament in this thumb last week, but told the Machine coaching staff he could play Saturday. ... The status of Eric Martin, whom Denver coach Jim Stagnitta said last week was done for the season, is now "up in the air." ... Peet Poillon will be back for the Outlaws. Lee Zink will guard Rochester's Ned Crotty. ... Rookie midfielder Drew Snider, from Maryland, has been a pleasant surprise, Stagnitta said, and taken some responsibility away from Justin Pennington, who had been facing off at times and played extensively in the midfield. Snider has four points in two games and can play defense. ... It's an MLL live doubleheader on CBS Sports Network on Saturday, with Boston at Charlotte at 7 p.m. Eastern and Rochester at Denver following at 9:30 p.m. from Invesco Field.

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