The view from the sidelines
After a disappointing 2013 season, Joe Spallina is seeing things differently this year. The much touted NY Lizards look like a different team this year, actually they are a different team. Coach Spallina has to be feeling pretty good right now, the Lizards clinched a playoff spot and home field advantage can be garnered with a win over Denver by 6 goals. If six goals seems like a lot, it is especially against a team like the Outlaws. If the Lizards want to play the next week at home they will have to play their best game of the year both offensively and defensively, a tall order for Spallina's team. The reality is it can be done, the offensive weapons are there for the Lizards but are they ready? This game will come down to the Lizards defense and can they shut down the potent offensive attack of the Outlaws, they can if they shut down Denver's philosophy of spreading the ball around. The Lizards have to force Denver to have 1 or 2 players try to beat them and not allow the team game to initiate, locking down on Sieverts, Law and Grant will shut down the top three scorers and initiators making the Outlaws play a game they're not comfortable playing.
Ohio Machine - #oilup
In a year of parity in the MLL, the Ohio Machine has made great strides to erase their first two 2-12 seasons. Filling their coffers with guys like Holeman and Schuss last year, then drafting Tom Schreiber as the first pick of the draft you can say they changed their offense but, add in two Tewaarton Award winners in Harrison and Baum and you've created an offensive juggernaut! The Machine, 7-6, leads the league with 186 goals and sits in a position of going to the MLL playoffs for the first time in their three year existence. John Algie and Coach Bear Davis have quietly assembled the best offense in the league. Logan Schuss coined the phrase #oilup and that's just what they will have to do when the travel to Florida to play the Launch in the final game of the season, win and they are in! If they lose, they will have to hope first place Rochester knocks of Boston! So the best way to keep this Machine oiled up is a win! Bear Davis has to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.
The Thompson Trophy
Last years Steinfeld Trophy winner Chesapeake finds themselves in an unfamiliar position, tied for last place with the Charlotte Hounds. Who, by the way, they beat in last years Championship game. This weekend they will be playing for another trophy of sorts, the first pick of the 2015 Collegiate draft which could be one of the most dynamic players to come out of college in a number of years, a guy named Lyle Thompson. So what incentive does either team have to win? Well an interesting twist to this plot is that Charlotte traded their first round pick to Hamilton who is now Florida. So I see the Florida Launch fans rooting for Coach Cottle and the Chesapeake Bayhawks so they will have the first pick in the 2015 Collegiate Draft. I will say, that Rochester should be speaking to both teams about a trade in order to reunite Lyle with his brother Miles and cousin Ty.
2014 has been the year of parity and offensive explosions. The MLL has had its highest offensive output in the last three years with a projected total of 1,423 goals, each team has been averaging 13 goals per game. This was another year for records with Casey Powell lighting it up with the most career points and Kieran McArdle blowing up the records for most goals and points as a rookie. The MLL rookie class can be argued as one of the best we have seen - McArdle, Fletcher, Cockerton and Schreiber have made significant impacts to their respectful teams.
At the X, The Beast has been dominate for years. Last year he broke the overall faceoff win percentage and this year he leads the MLL in win percentage. Greg Gurenlian was part of Team USA and ranked second in the world tourney with an 81% win percentage and now is leading the New York Lizards into the MLL playoffs.
I have interviewed Greg a number of times and I have to say he is a great guy but more importantly a leader amongst his peers. He understands the overall obligation of a profressinal athlete while leading by example. He works together with Jerry Ragonese and Chris Mattes in developing young face off athletes with the Faceoff Academy.
Enjoy this fun video featuring "The Beast"
The Teams are all set for the run to Atlanta
The regular season came to end in exciting fashion with the Ohio Machine needing to win to guarantee a playoff birth and the Lizards needed to win be 6 to get home field advantge. As they say 1 out of 2 ain't bad, The Machine played a tough Florida Launch team and beat them to earn their first playoff appearance in their three years in the league. Thanks to Holman, Baum and Stanwick who combined for 9 of the 14 points on offense and Dana WIlber who had the simple mission of shutting down Casey Powell and Kieren McArdle which he did very successfully, the Machine was able to come away with a 14 -10 win.. The Rattlers inihalated the Cannons 18-8 to capture first place in the regular season and to roll into the semi's with momentum thanks to some great rookies in Wolf, Cockerton and Thompson! The Ratz Rookie Trio has combined to win the rookie of the week honors 6 out of 14 times during the seaon. The Lizards needed the 10 point win that Rochester was able to pull off in order to gain home field advantage; Drew Adams ended the day with 22 saves and JoJo Kimmel, Crotty each had two goals. Rob Pannell lead the Lizards with 2 goals and 3 assists but the hero of the game was Kyle Hartzel who had the game winning goal in OT assisted by Ned Crotty - good news/bad news - the Lizards won but only by a goal in OT - good news/bad news - the Lizards will have to travel to Denver but will not have to play in Mile High as the game was moved to University of Denver.
What is interesting about the "Home Field" advantage scenerio is niether team will be playing on their home field! The games will be broadcast on CBSSports Network on Saturday with the Machine taking on the Rattlers at 3pm at Wegman's Stadium followed by the Lizards playing the Oulaws at 5:30pm at UD.