Working For The Weekend: MLL Week 1 Notes
Check out a complete Major League Lacrosse season preview here. And below take in some assorted news and notes in advance of MLL’s season-opening weekend. Three games involving the league’s six teams are set for Saturday: Long Island at Boston, Rochester at Chesapeake, and Hamilton at Denver, each set for 7 p.m. starts local time.
Tom Slate makes his Denver head coaching debut after being promoted from assistant coach by general manager and former head coach Brian Reese, who shed his coaching duties in the offseason. The idea behind the coaching move was the shake things up for the team after its fifth straight playoff appearance without a championship game victory. Slate was previously head coach of the now-defunct San Francisco Dragons in 2008 and was an assistant coach during the then-Philadelphia Barrage’s championship years.
“I’m real excited,” Slate said. “Last year I was able to understand what the Outlaws put into the team. It’s a dream come true to be involved in the franchise like this.”
Seibald Out, Clausen on Mend
Slate will make his coaching debut without the playing services of the Outlaws’ star, third-year pro Max Seibald. The former Cornell midfielder had a 20-minute surgical procedure on his knee and will be out several weeks.
In an unrelated injury note, Denver defenseman Ken Clausen is targeting a June return to the field after tearing his ACL and medial meniscus in a preseason game with the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth in December.
Crotty: Year Two
“We think he’s going to bust out this year,” Rochester coach B.J. O’Hara said of attackman Ned Crotty, the reigning MLL rookie of the year. Last year, Crotty played on attack with Kevin and Mike Leveille, neither of whom is with the team anymore. But that may be a good thing.
“He and Mike liked the same spot on the field,” O’Hara said of Crotty of Mike Leveille. “Ned was actually playing out of position a bit. We had to put him on the right side. He’s on the other side now and he’s going to be a little bit more comfortable.”
Crotty this season will be grouped with Casey Powell, and the team is still trying to find a third attackman after Buggs Combs (who came out of retirement) suffered a season-ending injury in training camp last week. Josh Coveleski, who played with the Bayhawks for part of last season, former Syracuse attackman Greg Niewieroski, rookies Jordan McBride (Stony Brook) and Brian Caulfield (Albany), and second-year pro Ari Sussman from Dartmouth are in the mix for the third attack spot, O’Hara said.
Inside the Poillon-Hardy Swap
The Outlaws and Chesapeake Bayhawks executed a trade this week after the team's met last Saturday in Maryland for an exhibition. Denver acquired midfielder Peet Poillon, the 2010 league most improved player, in exchange for midfielder Dan Hardy. Hardy, the 2009 league rookie of the year, had new job commitments that would make it tough on traveling to Denver this summer.
"It's not that we didn't want Dan, but we also wanted Peet," Slate said. "It was a match made in heaven here." Poillon finished last seaon ranked third in the league in points. He is the fourth former UMBC player on the Denver offense, joining Brendan Mundorf, Drew Westervelt and Terry Kimener.
With Chesapeake, Hardy will join Steven Brooks, also acquired via trade this offseason, and Kyle Dixon on the Bayhawks' first midfield.
"That's a pretty good middie line," Bayhawks owner/coach Brendan Kelly said. "The con is what is it going to do with the chemistry? The pro is you're trading one all-star for another all-star. Dan Hardy is a big presence, great team player. He's played with Steven Brooks in the past [at Syracuse] so they have some great chemistry. Peet is somebody Denver really wanted and it makes sense for both teams."
The Hamilton Nationals have goalies Scott Rodgers and Brett Queener on the roster. Who will start Saturday night against Denver? "It will be a game-time decision," Hamilton coach Regy Thorpe said. "We're getting into town Friday night. The coaching staff, we're still working on that."
Revamped Nats' D
Mainstay Brodie Merrill is back for the Nationals, as is second-year pro Steve Waldeck. "Two fierce competitors at the long-pole middie," Thrope said. But the team also added close defenseman Sol Bliss in the offseason and drafted Steve Henderson from Army with the intent of beefing up the close defense.
P.T. Ricci-Justin Smith trade
In another recent trade, Boston sent midfielder Justin Smith to Chesapeake in exchange for defenseman P.T. Ricci and a fifth round pick in the 2012 college draft. Smith will likely join Michael Kimmel and Ben Hunt on the Bayhawks' second midfield line.
Ricci provides the Boston defense depth. "He played in nine games for Chesapeake last year and was one of their top 3 ground ball guys," Boston coach Bill Daye said. "Guys like that are very successful in this league and very important." Daye plans to pair Ricci with Kyle Sweeney when needed up top. "We want to make sure when we do bump up two poles, there are two guys who are accustomed to playing up top, who are very good at doing their job getting the ball off the turf and creating transition."