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MLL Recap: Opening Day Thoughts from Annapolis

Photo Courtesy of Major League Lacrosse

Major League Lacrosse’s kicked off it’s 20th anniversary season in Annapolis, Maryland on Saturday, as all six teams were in action. The race, albeit shortened, for the Steinfeld Cup will see each team play five games over seven days, followed by a 4-team playoff. While each team has only one game under their belts, we made some observations that should be made note of as the tournament progresses.

Chesapeake Bayhawks 16, Philadelphia Barrage 11

The Bayhawks outscored the Barrage 9-3 in the second half in the day’s first contest to spoil Philadelphia’s return to league play.

Chesapeake boasted a well-rounded offense, centered around a 6-goal performance by Andrew Kew. In addition to Kew, the Bayhawks saw 5 other players find the score sheet, including Nate Solomon and 2019 MLL MVP, Lyle Thompson, who both recorded hat tricks.

The Barrage jumped out to a 4-1 lead thanks in large part to the play of veteran Tommy Palasek, who had 3 goals on the day, and went into halftime leading 8 to 7. But the slim lead was not enough as the Chesapeake defense held steady, stifling the Philadelphia offense for much of the second half.

Despite the loss, reigning MLL Rookie of the Year, Alex Woodall, continued his dominance at the X for the Barrage, winning 20 of 31 face-offs.

Neither team will have much time to reflect on their opening contest, as both squads are back in action on Sunday. Chesapeake will take on New York at 1:00 p.m., while Philadelphia will look to get into the winner’s column when they take on Denver at 4 p.m. Both games will be televised on ESPN 2.

Kew picks up where he left off

Andrew Kew lead all Bayhawks in scoring, notching 6 goals on 6 shots against the Barrage. Kew will look to build on a breakout 2019 rookie campaign, where he finished second on the team in goals with 25. This offensive outburst should come as no surprise as Kew is also coming off a stellar season with the New England Black Wolves, where he tallied 42 points and was a finalist for NLL Rookie of the Year. After just one game, Kew is on pace to score more goals in the tournament than he did for the entirety of the 2019 season.

Rookies come to play for Philly

Despite the loss, Philadelphia fans should be excited by play of their young guns on offense. Jon Mazza (Towson) and Colin Minicus (Amherst) both found the back of the net in their first game as professionals. Robert Morris product, Tyson Gibson, also impressed in his debut, tallying a hat trick of his own. The 2020 NLL Rookie of the Year is already looking like a shrewd pick-up by Head Coach Spencer Ford after Kew went undrafted in May’s Collegiate Draft.

Boston Cannons 16, New York Lizards 14

Boston held New York scoreless for the final 22 minutes of play during Saturday’s contest to grab their first victory of tournament week.

The come-from-behind victory was thanks, in large part, to a strong second half performance by goalie, Nick Marrocco. After only recording 3 saves in the first two quarters, Marracco bounced back in a big way after halftime. The 2019 MLL All-Star nabbed 11 second half saves, including multiple in the waning minutes of play.

New York maintained a lead for virtually the entire game, before Mark Cockerton’s 4th goal on the day put Boston ahead with just under two minutes to play. Bryce Wasserman followed by netting his 4th goal moments later to seal the victory for Boston.

“We used a lot of guys through the first half and throughout the game. On both sides of the ball, that was a big adjustment,” Boston Head Coach Sean Quirk said. “There wasn’t a lot of preparation time and I think all teams felt that. But in the second half we made some adjustments, particularly in the invert that New York was running, and I thought our guys responded really well to that.”

Both team will play Chesapeake over the next two days. New York on short rest Sunday at 1 p.m., while Boston has an off-day to prepare for a Bayhawks team that will be playing their third game in as many days. Game time set for 7 p.m.

Colin Burke’s strong debut

The selection of Colin Burke 3rd overall in this year’s Collegiate Draft paid immediate dividends for New York on Saturday. The Lehigh product recorded a hat trick in his fist game in a Lizards uniform, including the highlight reel goal below.

Despite the loss, New York’s offensive leader, Dylan Molloy, was excited by the performance of Burke and fellow newcomers Connor O’Hara and rookie Andrew Pettit.

“Coming out of two days of training camp, it was exciting to get a grasp of what the guys were like and how everyone would mesh,” Molloy said. “All of these guys are very unselfish players and are willing to learn and listen. It was really cool to see some of them get their first goals, step into those big shoes, and play really well.”

Boston offense gains steam

The Cannons boasted one of the league’s most potent offenses in 2019, and that was before the off-season acquisitions of Randy Staats, Bryan Cole and Bryce Wasserman. With those additions and returners Mark Cockerton, Challen Rogers and Kyle Jackson still in the mix, it was safe to say expectations were high coming into 2020.

Despite a somewhat rocky start in game 1, the Cannons offense delivered when they needed it the most. A combination of old and new scored Boston’s final two goals to get them past New York.

“On the offensive end, we had guys playing in different spots and different roles. As the game went on, they looked more comfortable with each other out there,” Quirk said. “I was proud of how our offense responded, especially down the stretch.”

It will be interesting to watch how this unit continues to gel over the condensed season, as the Cannons have the capability of having a different player lead the team in scoring each game.

Denver Outlaws 18, Connecticut Hammerhead 6

The Outlaws’ offense was clicking on all cylinders from the first whistle on Saturday, handily defeating the Hammerheads 18-6.

Ryan Lee and rookie Daniel Bucaro led the way for Denver, recording 4 goals each in the one-sided affair. Even SSDM Charlie Hayes got in on the scoring action. In total, 6 different Outlaws players found the back of the net.

Goalie Christian Knight played well in only his second ever start for Denver, making 9 saves on 12 shots. The Cornell grad will man the pipes full-time for the Outlaws in his third MLL season.

Not to be outdone, reigning MLL Goalie of the Year, Sean Sconone, played admirably in the loss, recording 14 saves on the evening.

Both teams will take on Philadelphia over the next two days. The Barrage take on the Outlaws tomorrow and the Hammerheads on Monday. Both games set to air on ESPN+ at 4:00 p.m.

Denver offense on a mission

As Stefon from Saturday Night Live would say, this offense has EVERYTHING. From a former D3 All-American leading the way in Ryan Lee, to the ageless wonder that is John Grant Jr., this unit will be one of the most exciting to watch as the tournament progresses. Add in the likes of rookies Daniel Bucaro and late roster-addition Miles Silva, this may be the team to beat. Oh, and did I mention that there are brothers, Chris and Pat Aslanian, on the team too?

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

Adam Moore is a Delco native, co-founder/host of Pro Lacrosse Talk and managing editor of Lacrosse Playground. He also has a passion for sports history and serves as Lacrosse Playground's creative director. Adam has been writing on lacrosse for more than a decade and has been published online with The Capital Gazette and US Lacrosse Magazine. Adam played four years of college lacrosse as a goaltender for Elizabethtown College. When he’s not covering pro lacrosse, he can be found coaching at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore and watching Philadelphia sports.

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