June 6, 2013

MLL Week 6: Last of the Unbeatens Meet

Games to be played in Atlanta, New York City too

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com

Reigning league MVP Brendan Mundorf (right) and Denver goalie Jesse Schwarzmann host fellow unbeaten Hamilton on Saturday night in Denver.

The Hamilton Nationals and Denver Outlaws are the only undefeated teams remaining in Major League Lacrosse, and they'll play each other in Week 6.

Both teams are quite balanced but have made their mark specifically on one end of the field.

The Outlaws lead the league in goals (87), 19 goals ahead of the next-best team, which happens to be Hamilton with 68.

Nationals head coach Dave Huntley has preached about the importance of improving Hamilton's team defense since he was hired in the offseason and the Nationals players have shown that improvement, currently second in the league in fewest goals allowed (50).

Looking ahead to Saturday, however, both coaches are more focused on the other sides of the ball for their respective teams.

"The way they play offense is different from what we've seen from anyone in the league thus far," Denver head coach Jim Stagnitta said. "They're going to run that two-man game. They're so slick they play in tight spaces, they have the pick-and-roll and getting underneath... They trust each other and they throw balls into spaces other teams necessarily won't."

Stagnitta will look to fortify his defense by potentially adding rookie Brian Megill, out of Syracuse, alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Lee Zink.

"Adding Megill to the lineup this weekend brings some toughness at the end of the field," Stagnitta said. "He's a ground ball guy who can get up and down the field. He's been in big games and played against great players. We have a lot of options with him."

While Denver focuses on Hamilton's offense, Nationals coach Dave Huntley was quick to talk about the strength of the Outlaws defense.

"I think defensively they have a system that's been around for a while, since Brian Reese was there," Huntley said. "They're anchored by Jesse Schwartzman, who eats up any bad shots you take."

The Week 6 matchup of unbeatens has the potential to be the best game of the season so far.

If there's pressure to remain undefeated, Huntley didn't sound like a man concerned.

"Our goal is to make the playoffs so we have a chance to [win] the championship. By my math each year you have to get at least eight wins," he said. "We're not caught up in the 5-0 thing."

Home games away from home

A common phrase heard throughout the lacrosse world is to grow the game. Major League Lacrosse and some of its teams are doing what they can to bring lacrosse to new marketplaces.

Two cities will experience MLL games for the first time ever.

The Rochester Rattlers will play their second road home game of the season, when they play the Boston Cannons in Atlanta.

Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan said he and his team are looking forward to the opportunity.

"I think it's exciting to go to a new city," he said. "The venue in Atlanta [Kennesaw State University] is fantastic. It's going to be a good setting."

Boston head coach Steve Duffy had a similar viewpoint on the game.

"We're excited to be playing in Atlanta," he said. "We're anticipating a great crowd down there."

The New York Lizards, who have played exclusively on Long Island since the team's inception in 2001, will play their first game in New York City, when they take on the Chesapeake Bayhawks on Randall's Island Thursday night. The move is part of the Lizards rebranding this season to be the state's team, not just Long Island's.

"It is really exciting to be playing in NYC representing NY," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said in an email. "It is a great honor for the entire organization to repping the great city of NY."

Defending champs struggling in overtime

After starting the season 3-0, the Bayhawks have dropped two consecutive games. It's been a dramatic turn of events for Chesapeake, as both losses came in overtime.

It's unfortunate for the Bayhawks to lose in such dramatic fashion, but head coach Dave Cottle says it isn't for a lack of trying.

"I thought we played with great effort and intensity," he said.

A frustrating couple of weeks also won't influence Cottle to make sweeping changes to a group that is still the league's defending champions.

"We believe in our guys," he said. "We're going to keep working with our guys."

The Bayhawks could find themselves in another close contest this weekend against the Lizards. New York has a goal differential of zero this season with two of their games decided by two goals or less.

Despite the Bayhawks beating the Lizards by six goals in Week 2, the Bayhawks will be challenged with an almost entirely new cast of characters from New York: Mark Matthews, Matt Gibson, Rob Pannell, David Earl, Stephen Peyser, JoJo Marasco and Max Seibald did not play in the Week 2 matchup between the two teams.

That cast of characters could close the gap between the teams, meaning the Bayhawks fans could once again be on the edge of their seats at the end of the game.

MLL Week 6 Preview

Chesapeake Bayhawks (3-2) at New York Lizards (2-3), 7 p.m. Thursday
at Carl Icahn Stadium, Randall's Island, N.Y.
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Last season, the Bayhawks featured two Lizards legends on their roster in defenders Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco. For the teams Week 6 game, New York could potentially see another former great stepping up against them.

The Bayhawks have activated Tim Goettelmann for Thursday's game. The Bayhawks signed Goettelmann from the league's player pool.

Previously, Goettelmann had retired before the 2012 season after 11 seasons with the Lizards. Goettelmann is first in league history in goals scored (268) and second in games played (132).

"Timmy is in tremendous shape," Cottle said. "He's a tremendous go-to-the-goal guy. He's a force to be reckoned with going to goal."

Boston Cannons (1-4) at Rochester Rattlers (2-3), 8 p.m. Friday
at KSU Stadium, Kennesaw, Ga.
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Despite the lopsided score the Cannons were victim to last weekend, one area they performed well in was faceoffs. Chris Eck won 24-38 faceoffs against Anthony Kelly, who is currently second in the league in winning percentage for players with more than 20 faceoffs.

"We were able to get possession of the ball and generate some offense," Cannons coach Steve Duffy said when pointing out the positives to take away from the game.

Eck will have an interesting test on Friday as he goes up against his former protégée and backup John Ortolani.

Up until this season, Ortolani had been with the Cannons since 2009. He was traded away this offseason in an effort to get more playing time. His five games this season are already one more than the total number of games he played with Boston in his career. He is the only Rattler to win a face off this season.

Whether the teacher or the student gets the upper-hand in faceoff wins on Friday could determine which team wins the game.

Ohio Machine (0-5) at Charlotte Hounds (2-3), 7 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: ESPN3

Hounds head coach Mike Cerino called this game a rivalry game, since both teams entered Major League Lacrosse in the 2012 season.

The general managers for each team take rivalry to a whole new level.

Machine GM John Algie and Hounds GM Wade Leaphart have agreed on a friendly bet for this weekend's game.

Algie agreed to wear at Matt Danowski jersey at the MLL All-Star Game in Charlotte should the Hounds win, and Leaphart said he's don a Steele Stanwick jersey if the Machine prevail. The two agreed to the bet via Twitter.

It's even more intriguing because the Hounds will host the MLL All-Star game.

Hamilton Nationals (5-0) at Denver Outlaws (5-0), 8 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: YouTube.com/MLL

The Hamilton-Denver game features six of the top 10 players in the league in scoring but the talk of the league is seeing the previous two Defenders or the Year on the same field.

Zink and Merrill won't be covering each other, but the two do have a history together. They both played for the 2005 MLL Champion Bayhawks, they are both multiple-time All-Stars and they played against each other in September's Duel in Denver.

Merrill was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year from 2006-2011 before being dethroned by Zink last season.

Huntley spoke highly of Zink.

"He's just a guy that can erase the output of pretty much any attackman he plays. He just seems to get better," he said.

It will be a treat to watch two of the best ever at their position perform on the same field.

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