Who would have thought that Wednesday, heading into the second week of the 2014 Major League Lacrosse season, the Ohio Machine (just 2-12 last year) would be tied for first place with the New York Lizards (4-10 in 2013) and the Boston Cannons (5-9 in 2013). Or that the twice-defending world champion Chesapeake Bayhawks would be tied for last place.
All through the offseason and training camps, the biggest story in the league was how the Bayhawks had assembled an even more talent-laden roster than a year ago and, on paper, appeared practically a lock to “three-peat” as champions. But as coaches in all sports admonish, the games are never played on paper.
After dropping its first season opener since 2009 Sunday in Boston, Chesapeake begins its home schedule this Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the resurgent Lizards at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Despite a three goal, three assist effort from their new star attackman Brendan Mundorf (UMBC), the Bayhawks appeared slow and lackadaisical in losing 15-9 to Coach John Tucker’s rebuilt Cannons. They gave up the first four tallies and were outscored 5-0 over a 13 minute stretch through the second half. A strategy to guard Boston attackman Kevin Buchanan with a long pole backfired allowing him to dodge his way to a league-leading seven goals and earn Warrior Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Adding injury to insult, Chesapeake’s starting netminder, Kip Turner, suffered a groin injury on Buchanan’s second goal just 1:19 into the second quarter and had to leave the game. His status is questionable for this weekend.
Meanwhile, New York’s Rob Pannell – 2013’s Rookie of the Year – led the Lizards with six goals in a tight 18-15 win over Rochester. Max Seibald and Albert Maione earned hat tricks while JoJo Marasco and Tommy Palasek each added a pair of markers in a firefight of a game in which only four of New York’s 18 goals were assisted.
Lizards goaltender Drew Adams went the distance for the win making 15 saves while giving up 13 goals – two of those from beyond the two-point line. Greg Gurenlian controlled 20 of 36 faceoffs for New York which went only one-for-five on the man-advantage.
A year ago, before a crowd of 11,125 (their largest-ever in Annapolis), the Bayhawks tied an all-time MLL record in allowing the Lizards just three goals in an 8-3 victory. Attackman Ben Rubeor earned Offensive Player of the Week with a career-best seven goal performance on just nine shots.
The rematch on Manhattan was a 21-8 blowout for Chesapeake in which All-MLL defenseman Michael Evans held Pannell scoreless while the Bayhawks set season-highs for goals and victory margin. The Bayhawks have taken the last four games and hold a 15-11 all-time advantage in the regular-season against a Lizards franchise with which it battled in four of MLL’s first five Championship Finals.
Saturday’s game will feature three of the top four MLL career leaders in games played. They include veteran Chesapeake defenseman Brian Spallina, -- who in his 134th game, will move into second place behind New York’s Matt Striebel (151) – and his Bayhawks defensive linemate Nicky Polanco (125).