Di Miller, Correspondent Denver Outlaws
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Di Miller
The 2019 MLL Championship Weekend is set to kick off tomorrow Friday October 4, 2019. This is the first time in the history of Major League Lacrosse that the championship game will be held here in Denver, CO. The playoff games will be held on the campus of Denver University at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium; and the Championship game will be played on Sunday October 6 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
The teams were decided after several changes between the top seeded teams with the Chesapeake Bayhawks ending up on top; the Denver Outlaws with the No. 2 seed; the Boston Cannons with the No. 3 seed; and the Atlanta Blaze with the No. 4 seed, the first time in franchise history the team has clinched a playoff berth.
It’s time to compare the teams who will play in game two, the winner will move onto Sunday for the Championship title. The Denver Outlaws the No. 2 seed will face off against the Boston Cannons the No. 3 seed and game time is set for 10:00 p.m. EST. It can also be seen on ESPNNews.
Now some will say that the Outlaws have home-field advantage because the games are being played in Denver. But let’s break it down. Its football season and everyone knows that once the Denver Broncos start to play people in Denver say “There’s professional lacrosse in Denver?” We’ve got college football going on too. So, it’s not a given that there will be a huge crowd of Denver fans in the stadium, in fact just the opposite. We could see more fans here for the other teams combined than Outlaws fans. According to the statisticians at Major League Lacrosse “This season, the Home Team Winning Percentage has been only at 41.7% this season with the Home Team winning 20 of the 48 games played this season. This is the lowest Home Team Winning Percentage since the 2011 season. This is the lowest over the past 8 seasons, as all of these previous seasons had the Home Teams winning over 50% of the season’s games. Denver is the only team with a winning record at home this season (5-3).”
Let’s break it down on the regular season match ups between the two. The Outlaws won the series against the Cannons 2-1. The first time the two teams met was in Boston on June 29 defeating the Cannons by a narrow one goal margin 17-16. The next two meetings were in Denver. The first on August 3 when Boston would defeat Denver 16-13; and the final time on August 31 when the Outlaws would obliterate the Cannons 22-9.
This is Denver’s 13th postseason appearance in their 14 year history. They have never had a losing season and played in a league-record eight championship games including consecutive years 2016, 2017 and 2018. Their expected roster for Championship Weekend includes eight players with MLL postseason experience: Attackman John Grant, Jr. the Championship MVP in 2014 with 15 career postseason games played; Midfielder Zach Currier and defenseman Finn Sullivan have each played in four.
Outlaws face-off specialist Max Adler is the league leader in face-off percentage at 58.31 (256 of 439); he’s ranked second in the league and first on the Outlaws with a career high 110 ground balls. Outlaws rookies/first-year players have accounted for 200 points in the regular season (goals + 2pt. goals + assists). The total includes points from 18 different players and accounted for 60.8% of the team’s total (329). Three players appeared in all 16 regular-season games for Denver—SSDM Brian Begley, SSDM Charlie Hayes and D Michael Rexrode.
The Outlaws hold a 12-13 all-time record against Boston including a 1-0 mark in the postseason.
Denver’s rookies have been stellar this season and when you put that together with the veteran players like John Grant, Jr.; and Zach Currier, you’ve got a powerful offense. They’ve got Dillon Ward in between the pipes and he’s been named NLL Goalie of the Year; been the Team Canada goalie in the FIL World Championships in 2014 and 2018; and was a member of Team Canada during the WILC2019 games who walked away with the Gold. So he’s no slouch in between the pipes. Their rookies are great too— Ryan Lee (38g, 1 2ptG, 7a); Chris Aslanian (22g, 20a); and Brendan Kavanagh (21g, 16a).
So what about Boston? They are looking to get first playoff win since 2011 and if they do, they would end Denver’s three-year streak of making the MLL Championship game. This is the Cannons’ 10th MLL Championship Weekend berth, but their first since 2015. They have gone 2-7 in nine appearances; and their lone victory in the semifinals was in 2011 when Max Quinzani’s scored the game-winning goal with 1.2 seconds left in a thrilling 14-13 win over Chesapeake. The win sent the Cannons to the 2011 MLL Championship game where they defeated the Hamilton Nationals 10-9 for their only MLL title.
This is the second time the Cannons have matched up against the Outlaws in the postseason and the first since 2009 when they lost 10-11.
As far as Boston goes with league leaders this season, Nick Marrocco sits in second in Save Percentage at 190 SV%; and third in Goals-Against Average with 12.74; they’re second in the league in Goals with 225 (14.1 goals per game) and 4 ahead of Denver at 221; they’re third in Goal Differential just behind Denver (+13) with a +9; they’re second in Shooting Percentage 31.5%; third in the league in face-offs with 50.8%; and they lead the league in Penalty Kills with 63.6%.
They’ve got four players with 20+ goals, all of whom will be suiting up this weekend: Mark Cockerton (43g, 9a); Zed Williams (32g, 1 2ptG, 11a); Connor O’Hara (28g, 4a); and Kyle Jackson (24g, 1 2ptG, 7a).
If Denver can do what they did on August 31 and keep Cockerton; O’Hara; and Jackson away from the cage and get the ball to their rookies including Ryan Lee; Mikie Schlosser; and veterans Zach Currier they’ll move on. Max Adler has been stellar at the face-off X and if he can continue against Kevin Reisman, winning possession is key to scoring goals. You’ve also got the two-point threat from both rookie defensemen Andrew Newbold (5 2ptG) and Brandon Jones (2 2ptG).
Denver has the advantage in this contest if you compare the stats and the history.
My prediction: Outlaws 19—Cannons 15.
Di Miller, Correspondent Denver Outlaws
Lacrosse is Awesome©