July 4, 2013

MLL Week 10: Denver Hoping to Set Two Records This Week

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com

The Denver Outlaws host Long Island tonight and hope to break the league's attendance record while also breaking Chesapeake's record for best start at 10-0.
© John Strohsacker 

The Independence Day festivities at Mile High Stadium have become the talk of Major League Lacrosse and one of the premier events of the season. The 2013 game between the Denver Outlaws and New York Lizards has plenty of intrigue and reason to be hyped.

"It's a phenomenal lacrosse atmosphere," said Outlaws head coach Jim Stagnitta, who will coach his second Fourth of July contest. "I've coached at big lacrosse stadiums. I've played in front of big crowds. It's one of the best atmospheres and one of the best nights I've been around in lacrosse."

Last year's game between the Denver Outlaws and Ohio Machine set an MLL attendance record of 30,128 fans. The Outlaws defeated the Machine 17-13.

This year, the Outlaws' organization is hopking to break 31,000 fans and tweets from the team account and players like Jeremy Sieverts and Eric Law have been promoting the game.

"Are YOU in? #31k" the team's account (@DenverOutlaws) tweeted on June 25.

The Lizards players and head coach Joe Spallina will not be intimidated, despite the large crowd and their 3-6 record.

"I think Rob Pannell has played in front of a big crowd of two. I think Tommy Palasek has played in front of a big crowd or two. I think Mark Matthews has played in that stadium once or twice," Spallina said. "I'm wrapped up on New York playing better lacrosse."

The Lizards have not met expectations this seasons but the team still has several All-Stars and former top college players that should make them competitive and impervious to the crowd factor. Players like Drew Adams, Greg Gurenlian, Jack Reid, Max Seibald, C.J. Costabile and Pannell and Palasek have all played in high stakes games. Matthews played for Denver in last season's record-breaking game.

But those stars will have to be on top of their game against the undefeated Outlaws. With a victory against New York, Denver will break the record for best start in a single MLL season.

The Outlaws will be treating it like business as usual however.

"We approach every game the same exact way," Stagnitta said. "To be honest with you, we didn't play very well last Saturday night. It wasn't our usual effort we've become accustomed to."

While Stagnitta played down the team's early success, Spallina did no such thing.

"[Denver is] arguably the best team in the history of MLL," he said. "At this point, who are we? They're fantastic, they share the ball. They play a great team offense."

After the game there will, per annual tradition, be a lavish fireworks display.

Combine the crowd, All-Star caliber lineups for both teams, the potential for multiple league records being broken and post-game fireworks this game is a special event that both teams are privileged to be a part of.

"All the guys look forward to playing in this game," Stagnitta said. "There's only a couple times as a lacrosse player you're able to play in front of 30,000 plus people."

Editor's Note: Denver won Thursday's game in front of a record crowd of over 31,000. Read More

Stephen Berger biggest name to move at trade deadline

Of the six trades made on deadline day, the biggest was the last to be announced.

The New York Lizards traded veteran midfielder and former All-Star Stephen Berger and 2015 MLL Collegiate Draft second and sixth round picks to the Boston Cannons in exchange for rookie attackman Steve Mock and a 2014 first round MLL Collegiate Draft selection.

"I've had the good fortune of being around Stephen since he's been in the fourth grade. I know he's a high character young man," said Boston Cannons head coach John Tucker. "Everything he undertakes he does it with extreme enthusiasm"

It was the second time in the past two years that Berger has been traded by the Lizards. He was initially sent to the Charlotte Hounds at the expansion draft before the 2012 season before being acquired by the Lizards this past offseason.

"If we are 6-3, Berger is probably still in our uniform," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said. "We're in a position where we're sellers. We had to try and trade some assets."

"Stephen is somebody who is a family friend. He's a great person. He's been great to my kids. ... It's something that's not an easy thing," Spallina added.

In nine games this season, Berger has 10 goals and three assists.

A tale of two Rochesters

The Rochester Rattlers have seen some great individual play from their guys this season. John Galloway was named Defensive Player of the Week twice this season, Ned Crotty and Kevin Leveille have been named Offensive Players of the Week. Matt Striebel and Mike Manley are All-Stars and John Ranagan and Dave Lawson have been impressive in their rookie campaigns.

Yet despite the individual efforts the Rattlers are 4-5, in a three-way tie for fourth in the league. They have only won back-to-back games once this season.

Consistency seems to be the biggest issue the Rattlers face.

"It's the little things that matter when you're trying to get on a run," Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan said.

What Soudan wants to see more of from his team down the stretch, in an effort to put together some wins and qualify for the playoffs, is to see the offense move the ball around more.

"You need to make sure you're sharing the ball. The more people you get involved in the offense [the better]. They're all All-Americans," he said. "We're stressing the team play and being unpredictable and dodging from different spots."

The play from the high-scoring rookies Ranagan and Lawson seems to be opening things up for Rochester offensively.

"We have a lot of young middies able to run by guys and when the slide comes, [Kevin Leveille] can get in front of the cage," Soudan said.

Which Rattlers team will show up Sunday against the Nationals?

Week 10 Preview

Chesapeake Bayhawks (5-4) at Ohio Machine (1-8), 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: YouTube.com/MLL

They might be 5-4 and only third in the league standings, but the Chesapeake Bayhawks – the defending MLL champions – may finally be hitting their stride and playing to their potential.

Last week the Bayhawks defeated the second place Hamilton Nationals, 17-10.

Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle is pleased with the direction his team, who has lost three games in overtime this season, is heading in.

"I thought the last two games offensively we played much better. I think we turned the corner," he said. "Watching practice last night it was a good as we've seen them. We haven't played well offensively and defensively at the same time. For about three and a half quarters we played well offensively and defensively. I think this was a great step to getting to be where we want to go."

Adding to the Bayhawks good fortune will be the return of veteran defender Michael Evans.

Charlotte Hounds (4-5) at Boston Cannons (4-5), 8 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: ESPN2

The Charlotte Hounds are tied for fourth in the league standings and are enjoying success playing a lot of rookies. Mike Sawyer, Matt White, Mason Poli, Jake Tripucka and Michael McCormack have all seen significant playing time this season as first-year players.

The Hounds have added another rookie to the mix, trading Josh Amidon and a 2015 first round Collegiate Draft pick to the Hamilton Nationals for midfielder Josh Hawkins, the third player from Loyola's 2012 National Championship winning team the Hounds will have on the roster.

"He's a great lacrosse player," Hounds head coach Mike Cerino said. "Adding a young player like Josh Hawkins doesn't put all the pressure on him. We're looking for him to be a piece of the puzzle."

Hawkins will join Kevin Drew and Casey Cittadino as defensive midfielders for the Hounds. Drew and Cittadino have drawn praise from Cerino and opposing coaches all season, meaning Hawkins won't have to be the number one guy, making his transition to the team easier.

Hamilton Nationals (6-3) at Rochester Rattlers (4-5), 3 p.m. Sunday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

When the Nationals jumped out to a 5-0 start to the season, they surprised many MLL followers. But from his hiring, head coach Dave Huntley has preached the importance of a strong team game, both on offense and defense.

Every week on the coaches call, the coach playing against the Nationals praises them for their unique offensive style, which is a lot of two-man game and moving the ball around.

Hamilton's 69 assists is second in the league only to Denver's 77. Joe Walters and Kevin Cunningham are first and second respectively in the league in assists and Kevin Crowley, who is second in the league points, is tied for 12th in assists.

"Kevin Crowley is a leader for us. Joe is a leader for us," Nationals GM Stuart Brown said. "A guy like Kevin Cunningham has been a great surprise for us. We knew he was good but you never know what guys are going to be like on the field."

New York Lizards (3-6) at Denver Outlaws (9-0), 9 p.m. Thursday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

One reason Joe Spallina says his Lizards squad has underperformed is because of a lack of cohesion on offense. The team, despite players like Pannell, Palasek, Matthews, Matt Gibson and Stephen Peyser, is second-to-last in the league in goals scored.

Things will only get tougher against the Denver Outlaws in Week 10.

Denver has allowed the fewest goals in the league and have Week 9 Defensive Player of the Week and 2013 All-Star Jesse Schwartzman between the pipes.

Last week he made a career-high 27 saves and helped lift Denver to a 17-11 victory.

"Guys like Jesse give us the balance, the leadership, the experience," Outlaws head coach Jim Stagnitta said. "Every game someone different steps up for us but he's been consistent all year."

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