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MLL Recap: Champs stay undefeated, Philly gets first win

The defending champion Bayhawks secure a playoff spot while the Philadelphia Barrage earn their first win of 2020.

Courtesy of Alex McIntyre/Major League Lacrosse

Philadelphia Barrage 14, Connecticut Hammerheads 10

By Issak Berky

Both Philadelphia and Connecticut hit the field Monday afternoon looking for their first victory of the season. A 6-0 run for the Barrage in the second half proved to be the difference maker, helping them pull away for their first victory since 2008.

 It took less than a minute into play for Mark Matthews to get the Barrage on the board. Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, the Hammerheads turned a pair of offsides turnovers into offense, quickly working their way back into the game cutting the lead to 4-3 at the end of the quarter. Hammerheads goalie Sean Sconone did his part in the first quarter as well, making seven saves including multiple in the last five minutes to keep the Hammerheads within one after one. 

Will Sands got the Hammerheads back even with his second of the afternoon 14 seconds into the second quarter. That goal tied the game at 4-4, capping off a 3-0 run for the Hammerheads. The Barrage’s Brendan Sunday and Hammerheads’ Bradley Voigt each picked up a pair of goals for their teams as the second quarter wrapped up, but it was Mark Matthews late goal that gave the Barrage a one-goal cushion headed to the locker room for halftime. 

A late second quarter penalty proved to be a little bit of a spark for the Hammerheads, as Noah Rak won the opening face-off and tied the game at 7-7 just six seconds in, before the Hammerheads took their first lead of the day at 8-7 thanks to Dan Lomas. 

“We capitalized on our opportunities there and did a really good job of hitting signals,” said Hammerheads goalie Sean Sconone. “We didn’t really try for that home run play during that stretch in the third quarter and we were just making good plays all around.”

Despite the early goals by Connecticut, Philadelphia controlled the rest of the third quarter going on a 3-0 run and didn’t look back or stop there. 

“The key was we didn’t panic, we were getting faceoff wins. We were playing cerebral offense, where we shared the ball,” Barrage head coach Spencer Ford said. “We were getting good shots late in the shot clock and we weren’t wasting the ball early.”

Brendan Sunday continued the run for the Barrage as they piled on six straight goals to take a 13-8 lead late in the game. Each team scored once more, but the Barrage clamped down, taking the 14-10 victory.

“The first couple of games were tough,” Ford said. “We played three really good quarters in those games and we asked our guys to come out and give us a full 60 minute effort. These guys busted through it, they played through it, and we felt like we were very complete at both ends of the field.”

Second half defense was the name of the game for the Barrage as well, only giving up four goals in the last 30 minutes of play. 

“To have a defensive effort like that, on your third straight day, of ten goals against a team that’s well rested and looking to prove something is a real tribute to our defense. It was spectacular,” Ford said. 

Sunday and Mark Matthews led the way with four goals each for the Barrage, while the Hammerheads had four different players score twice. Connecticut’s Will Sands added a pair of helpers to his two goals to give himself four points on the day. 

Aging like a fine wine

Mark Matthews was one of the more experienced players on the field, playing in his ninth MLL season. Even with so many games under his belt, it didn’t stop the Barrage attackman from muscling his way through the Hammerheads for a six point (4g, 2a) day. The four-goal outburst for Matthews was his highest scoring game since August 4, 2016 when he scored four against Rochester as a member of the Blaze. 

“We were able to get him against some short sticks and today he went at those short sticks and had some early looks,” said Ford. “I think the difference was when Mark wants to take a game over he can and we saw that today.”

Positives in defeat

Despite the loss, Hammerheads goalie Sean Sconone had another stellar performance making 16 saves. 

“Sean played a great game as he usually does,” Hammerheads head coach Bill Warder said. “A few of those goals were just right on top of him and he didn’t have too much support. Sean’s our captain, leader and he played the game he’s supposed to play. He gave us a chance to win for sure.”

The UMass product, as his coach predicted, wasn’t thrilled with the way he played, and focused his attention on improving the defense. “I think my biggest thing is trying to get those young guys acclimated out there,” Sconone said. “The biggest thing is playing good team defense as a unit. We’re still really trying to figure each other out.”

Another UMass product had a strong day facing off for the Hammerheads as Noah Rak went 13-24 against Philadelphia’s Alex Woodall, and added a pair of goals. “He takes his job very seriously and he’s always going to go and battle,” Warder said. “I think sometimes the stats lie a little bit but he did a great job and scored a few big goals for us that propelled us into a lead at 8-7.”

The Barrage will play for the fourth straight day on Tuesday as they take on the Boston Cannons in the afternoon game while the Hammerheads have another day to regroup before looking to notch their first victory over the Lizards on Wednesday.

Chesapeake Bayhawks 15, Boston Cannons 13

By Nicole Weaving

Some rain may have delayed the opening face-off an hour and 48 minutes, but the match-up between Chesapeake and Boston was worth the wait.

It was an entertaining game on all fronts with a handful of SportsCenter-worthy goals and spectacular goaltending from both Bayhawks’ Brian Phipps and the Cannon’s Nick Marrocco. But ultimately, a late-game push from the Cannons couldn’t overcome the lead the Bayhawks had built up early in the contest.

Boston netted the first two goals of the game, but that was the only time the Cannons would hold the advantage. Chesapeake went on a nine-goal scoring run in the first half that saw seven different players find the back of the net. This continues to emphasize the abundance of contributors on the Bayhawks’ roster since the beginning of tournament play.

Of note, Lyle Thompson picked up where he left off Sunday, tallying four goals and an assist. Andrew Kew netted a hat trick and Nate Solomon had another two-goal outing for the undefeated Bayhawks.

The Cannons actually led in most statistical category with the exception of shots on goals, demonstrating how Boston tried to force shots at times in hopes the team could dig themselves out of their hole. The Cannons’ defense also had lapses where players looked slow on the whistle, flat-footed or late to second slides to which the Bayhawks usually made them pay.

Boston suffers their first loss of the 2020 season but has a chance to rebound against Philadelphia tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Chesapeake finally gets a day off after playing three games in a row and will be back in action on Wednesday against the undefeated Outlaws.

Rogers making a splash

Boston’s Challen Rogers had a career year in 2019 and has not disappointed since taking the field in Annapolis. He only scored two goals against the Bayhawks, but both were insanely crafty and came at crucial times. Rogers scored the first goal of the game with this no-look BTB goal that got the Cannons started on the right foot. The NLL’s reigning Transition Player of the Year later scored a two-point bomb that would give Boston a chance for the comeback.

Phipps saves the day

Chesapeake goalie Brian Phipps has posted double-digit saves and a 50% or higher save percentage in every contest so far this season. On Monday, he stopped 13 shots including a miraculous save with Kyle Jackson diving straight at him. Phipps may have fallen into the goal, but it kept the Bayhawks scoring streak alive.

Check back tomorrow for more coverage of this week’s action in Major League Lacrosse.

Pro Lacrosse Talk was created by Adam Moore and Hutton Jackson, two former NCAA athletes and lifetime lacrosse fans who recognized the need for a platform devoted solely to professional lacrosse. The Pro Lacrosse Talk podcast is the first and only podcast covering all three professional lacrosse leagues (NLL, PLL, Athletes Unlimited) and remains the main source for pro lacrosse news.

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