Major League Lacrosse is set to descend on Annapolis, Maryland on July 18 to kick off their 20th season in a tournament format. Pro Lacrosse Talk is covering every team and how they’ll measure up in Maryland.
The Boston Cannons are back in action, looking to build upon the team’s success from the 2019 season. The Cannons posted one of their best seasons in recent history, achieving their first winning record since 2015 at (9-7) and making it to the playoff for the first time in four years. With the addition of new talent and a strong returning core, Boston will look to make a run at the title.
Arsenal of Weapons at Attack
The Cannons boast one of the most talented attack units in the game. Bryce Wasserman and Randy Staats, added in trades during the offseason, will look to gel with returners Mark Cockerton and John Uppgren.
Cockerton was one of the MLL’s most dominant players in 2019, leading the Cannons with 43 goals. Wasserman came to Boston via a trade with the Dallas Rattlers after leading the Rattlers in points last season with 47. His versatility down low makes him a scoring threat around the cage. Staats ranked second in the league in assists last season with the Atlanta Blaze and will be expected to be the team’s primary facilitator while also serving as a shifty do-it-all attackman.
Boston returns 2/3 of its first-line midfield in Kyle Jackson and Challen Rogers, who developed strong chemistry playing alongside one another. Rogers will hit field for the first time since being named the NLL’s Transition Player of the Year for the second straight time. Bryan Cole, who led all MLL midfielders in goals and points as a member of the Blaze last season, will likely round out the group. Cole will look to fill the void left from Zed Williams’ departure to PLL and Kyle Denhoff’s absence. Behind those three, the Cannons have a depth of talented midfielders. Calvin Dearth will look to build off a season-high performance in the semi-finals for Boston, while Frank Brown will be suiting up in MLL for the first time since 2018.
Between the Pipes
Nick Marrocco returns for his second season as the Cannons’ starting netminder and looks to have another successful season between the pipes. He was second in the MLL in 2019 with 190 saves and ranked fourth in overall save percentage. Marrocco was selected as a captain for the second year in a row and will serve as a much-needed leader for a defensive unit that saw many personnel changes in the offseason.
The Cannons were hit with two tough pieces of news before roster announcements this season. James Fahey, Boston’s main shutdown defenseman and a veteran leader, is stepping away from lacrosse indefinitely to let his body heal, and Nick Mellen, the Cannons’ first-round pick in the 2020 Collegiate Draft, will be absent from Annapolis as well.
Fahey and Mellen were expected to start alongside Justin Pugal to form Boston’s main defensive unit, but now, head coach Sean Quirk will have to give extended responsibility to Scott Hooper and Mike Skudin, who split time on defense for the Cannons last season. Boston has extra options in Charlie Ford and Jason Brewster, but both have little to no experience playing at a professional level with Brewster unable to compete in his senior season due to an ACL tear in 2019. Thus, the Cannons could struggle from a lack of chemistry on defense as multiple new players have to work together.
Most Intriguing Matchup
Cannons vs Outlaws, July 24
The Cannons and Outlaws had quite a tumultuous rivalry last season that concluded with Denver eliminating Boston from the 2019 playoffs in the semi-finals. Their first meeting was quite a game of runs with the Outlaws handing the Cannons their first loss in their new home. Boston then traveled out west and beat Denver, thanks to a seven-goal first quarter, but then the Outlaws embarrassed the Cannons in Quincy with a 22-9 win.
During this shortened stint, Boston will play Denver in their final regular-season game. This contest could have major playoff implications, so expect another entertaining battle.
Players to Watch
Justin Pugal was continuously improving each game last season until an injury brought his success to a halt. He will now need to step up as a leader and a shutdown defender to fill the shoes of James Fahey. Plus, we will need to see if there are any lingering effects of his injury that could come back to haunt him with so many games in such a short span of time.
With the departure of Ryland Rees to the PLL, Scott Corcoran will likely serve as the Cannons’ primary LSM. He had a breakout year with the Lizards in 2019, grabbing 31 ground balls and causing 15 turnovers. Boston will need similar production from Corcoran, especially aiding in transition and aggressiveness on the wing.
Zach Goodrich had an immediate impact on the Cannons at short-stick defensive midfield during his rookie season. He scooped up 30 ground balls and tallied 15 caused turnovers in 2019 and is expected to elevate his game even more during his second year with Boston.