June 13, 2013

MLL Week 7: Hounds Finding Success in Year Two

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com

Second-year franchise Charlotte has won two games in a row and sits fourth in the MLL standings.
© Lee Weissman

The Denver Outlaws have taken the league by storm thus far, starting off an impressive 6-0. The team they got their first victory over, however, is seeing a nice run of form now as well.

After starting the season 1-3, the Hounds have seen a recent rise in performance, winning two consecutive games to get back to .500, and currently are tied for fourth-place in the standings.

It's potentially the best lacrosse the Hounds have played in the franchise's short two-year existence.

"Our worst game was probably the first game against Denver," Hounds faceoff specialist Tim Fallon said. "We're playing more of a team game."

Before the team's Week 5 contest against the New York Lizards. several coaches, including Lizards head coach Joe Spallina and Chesapeake Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle pointed out that the Hounds were only a couple goals away from being 3-1 as opposed to 1-3.

The Hounds had lost two consecutive games by a total of four goals.

An away game at New York was the turning point for the Hounds.

"We felt it was make or break. We could lose this game and fight Ohio for the cellar the rest of the season or we can win this game and start heading in the right direction," Hounds GM Wade Leaphart said. "Winning on the road in New York, it was a big statement game. I feel like that point we turned the corner."

A big reason for the turnaround is personnel.

At different points in the first few weeks of the season the Hounds were missing Adam Ghitelman, Matt Danowski, Joe Cinosky, Ryan Flanagan and Ryan Young.

Fallon and Leaphart both said that certain absences were not excuses for a lack of results. All teams go through it, but now with a more complete lineup the Hounds are really showing what this team is made of.

"Obviously we're much stronger than we were earlier in the season," Fallon said. "Since all those guys are back we're playing a good brand of lacrosse. It's enjoyable to watch."

The team has also added some impressive rookies this season. Mike Sawyer (four goals and three assists in three games), Matt White, Mason Poli, Michael McCormack and John Haus all have made an impact in the few games they've played.

The team has also activated midfielder Jake Tripucka, who recently won a national championship with Duke.

"It's a huge difference having everybody. The guys that have played a while get perked up seeing the talent around them," Leaphart said. "We were really stoked for those guys to join us and make the impact that they already have."

The win streak and place in the standings are promising signs for this team, but to really make an impact they're going to have to beat the top teams. Charlotte is currently 0-2 against the teams with a winning record heading into Week 7.

That won't deter the team's confidence.

"Any of these games on any given day you can sneak one out. It's a testament to these guys with the grit and grind," Leaphart said. "When we get the chance to go head-to-head we're always ready to go. We'll bring it any given night, hope for the best and hope that we match up well."

The Hounds are running full steam ahead, looking to make their mark as a potential playoff contender.

"We were pretty confident we were a lot better than 1-3," Fallon said. "We stuck together. It's a great group of guys. We trust each other and keep getting better."

Boston Cannons' coaching change

As the Hounds are trending upwards, their Week 7 opponent, the Boston Cannons, are headed in the opposite direction.

Sitting at 1-5, the worst start in team history since going 1-6 in 2002, Boston decided a change was necessary.

The team fired head coach Steve Duffy and named consultant John Tucker the new head coach.

"Each year we have high expectations, especially with this group," Cannons GM Kevin Barney said. "Our expectations are to be fighting for the championship. The results just weren't happening. We came to the point that we needed a change, to hopefully spark the team."

Tucker has enjoyed a lot of success in the sport of lacrosse. He was a member of the undefeated NCAA champion Johns Hopkins team in 1984, won three gold medals with Team USA and won two Major Indoor Lacrosse League championships.

As a coach in Major League Lacrosse, Tucker led the now-defunct Los Angeles Riptide from 2006-2008, winning Coach of the Year in 2007 and taking the team to the championship game. He also coached the Bayhawks in 2009 and 2010.

"The ship is rocking a little," Tucker said about the current situation of the Cannons. "It's my job to calm the waters."

It seems like a daunting task but Tucker says the key to turning things around — which both he and Barney believe the Cannons can do — is the clichéd taking it one game at a time.

"Our goal every year is to win the championship. Sometimes when you look too far ahead, though, it clouds your vision," Tucker said. "Our only job is to beat Charlotte this weekend."

This is not just a short-term fix either. Barney said the organization has Tucker in its future plans as well.

"He is our full-time coach. We signed him to a longer term contract beyond this season," he said. "We wanted to show him our confidence and how our organization is about long-term in building this team, brand and sport. We wanted that commitment from him and he wanted it from us."

Barney admits, however, that the current state of the franchise is not solely Duffy's fault and any turnaround will not come solely because of Tucker's coaching.

"It wasn't all on Coach Duffy. From me down, every one of us has to be accountable. We have to play better we have to execute better," he said. "We still have the core of guys that won a championship two years ago. We need them to play and execute better."

Millon waived by Rattlers

National Lacrosse Hall of Famer Mark Millon was waived by the Rochester Rattlers this week, per his own request, Rattlers coach Tim Soudan said on the MLL coaches' conference call Wednesday. Millon was not seeing much playing time, and wants to play for another MLL team, Soudan said.

It's a touchy situation with Soudan and Millon being good friends and former UMass and Team USA teammates. Soudan elected to give no comment initially when asked about Millon on Wednesday, but responded to a follow-up question.

"I think he saw writing on the wall," Soudan said. "I wanted to keep him on our active roster and he thought it would be best if we waived him. That's where we're at. Mark and I are good friends, and we have been for a long, long time. It's a tough situation. I don't want to comment on his ability. He's got a ton of ability, it's just there's a situation with Mike Leveille [and Ned Crotty] being in our lineup that makes it really tough for him. It ended up not being a good fit, and he wanted an opportunity, based on how hard he worked in the offseason, to play with another team. I'm wishing the best for him." — Corey McLaughlin

Goettelmann with Bayhawks Rest of Year

Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said veteran attackman Tim Goettelmann, who played his first game with Chesapeake last week in New York and scored two goals, will be with the team the rest of the year, but may not dress in every game. Matchups will determine Goettelmann's playing status each week. Cottle said he liked Goettelmann's size — he's 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds — against the Lizards' defense, and could see using the big man against teams that may not have great individual defenders en masse, Cottle said.

"I still think he can go to the goal," Cottle said. "Some games, Timmy will dress, some he won't... If we find a team that may be undersized on defense or may not play as good individual defense, I think he'll play."

Cottle also said Goettelmann's addition to the attack lineup (four players) may have spurred on Drew Westervelt's eight-goal outburst last week, saying Westervelt may have been thinking of "shared minutes if he didn't perform better, and he shot the lights out." — C.M.

MLL Week 7 Preview

Hamilton, and midfielder Joe Walters, will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season against a reeling New York Lizards team.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Hamilton Nationals (5-1) at New York Lizards (2-4), 7 p.m. Thursday
at Carl Icahn Stadium, Randall's Island, N.Y.
Broadcast: ESPN3

Before New York's game against the Bayhawks last weekend, Lizards head coach Joe Spallina suggested that the Lizards had gotten away from who they were, they had gotten away from that tough, hardnosed team they pride themselves on being on.

The past two games are case studies of Spallina's point.

Usually, the team's defense is very strong, shown partially by Drew Adams winning two consecutive Goalie of the Year awards.

Yet the Lizards surrendered five fourth quarter goals to Charlotte two weeks ago and lost after the Hounds' fourth quarter comeback. Then last week there was the 21-8 beat down at home against the Bayhawks.

If the Lizards are to live up to the preseason hype, first their defense must get back in sync. They must do so quickly with the season moving rapidly and the unique offensive styling of the Hamilton Nationals coming into town.

Denver Outlaws (6-0) at Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-2), 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

It's a rematch of the 2012 MLL Championship game. Denver earned the top seed in the playoffs, but Chesapeake took home the hardware in another case of the Outlaws coming up just short. This season Denver is storming through the league, with its smallest margin of victory being four goals and winning its last three games by double-digits. Chesapeake isn't falling too far behind though, sitting at 4-2 but with another couple of timely goals could just as easily be 6-0.

Taking on the defending champions on the road will be the team's biggest litmus test to date, with the Bayhawks looking to prove they still are the best team in the league.

Boston Cannons (1-5) at Charlotte Hounds (3-3), 7 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: ESPN3

Last season the Charlotte Hounds had five MLL All-Stars (one of which was not Matt Danowski). The team is now down to two active ones, after putting Jovan Miller on the practice squad. Miller is still a member of the Hounds team, but he hasn't dressed since May 17 and it looks unlikely that he will in the future. He is also now available for any other team to claim.

"Never thought being an MLL- All Star warranted the Practice Squad the following year, but hey 'its a business' as they say," Miller tweeted at 5:08 p.m. Monday evening.

The Hounds used the roster spot to activate rookie and NCAA champion Jake Tripucka.

Rochester Rattlers (3-3) at Ohio Machine (0-6), 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: YouTube.com/MLL

Much like the Hounds, the Rochester Rattlers have won two consecutive games.

The biggest reason for the Rattlers resurgence is the play of goalie John Galloway. Attempting to be one of the elite goalies in Major League Lacrosse, Galloway has been named MLL Defensive Player of the Week for two weeks in a row now.

He's made 39 saves in the past two games and last week he held the Boston Cannons to only one goal in the fourth quarter.

He could be in for another great performance this weekend against a Machine team that has yet to score 10 goals in a game this season thus far.

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