July 15, 2011

MLL Midseason Report Card, Awards

by Mark Medina | LaxMagazine.com


2010 MLL MVP Paul Rabil has resumed his dominant form this year, leading the league in scoring and vaulting the Boston Cannons to first place in the standings.

© Marc Piscotty

With the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game in rearview and the stretch run ahead, here's a look at how each team has done and the individuals who have stood out most.

Boston Cannons (6-1)

Grade: A+

Boston is the last original MLL team that has not won a championship, but it looks in a strong position to do so this season. The Cannons feature four of the top nine league leaders in points, including midfielders Pail Rabil (33) and Brad Ross (21), as well as attackmen Max Quinzani (20) and Matt Poskay(19). They're on a five-game winning streak, including a signature victory against Denver. They can officially clinch a playoff spot with a win this week against Long Island.

In addition to leading the MLL in scoring offense through the first half of the 2011 season, the Cannons' also boast the league's top goaltender in Jordan Burke, who leads the MLL with a 10.17 goals against average and a .617 save percentage. They also feature plenty of depth at the pole position, with PT Ricci, Kyle Sweeney and Brian Farrell combining for seven points in a recent win over Chesapeake.

Denver Outlaws (5-2)

Grade: A-

Denver's loss to Boston marked its first defeat since June 11 and set itself back slightly in the standings. Still, the Outlaws can clinch a playoff spot with a Long Island loss and a victory against Rochester. Denver absorbed the retirement of Matt Brown, who ranked second in team history in scoring (138 goals) before accepting an associate head coaching position with the University of Denver, thanks to some other valuable offensive pieces. Denver Outlaws attackman Brendan Mundorf is tied with Rabil in as the MLL leader in goals (18) and trails closely behind him in points (29). Goalie Jesse Schwartzman has won MLL player of the week honors twice and stands in second place in goals allowed per game (10.25). And the Outlaws thrive on the hustle plays, gobbling up a league-leading 242 ground balls.

Hamilton Nationals (4-3)

Grade: B-

The Nationals entered the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak. They can surpass Chesapeake for sole possession of third place with a win against the Bayhawks on Saturday. It's been a learning process for the young team, which traded two-time MLL MVP John Grant Jr. to the Lizards as part of its rebuilding process. The Nationals have scored 49 goals in their past three wins. They also have a goalie controversy, with Joe Marra and Scott Rodgers threatening the playing time of two-time MLL champion Brett Queener.

Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-3)

Grade: C+

The road to defending their MLL championship has taken a few bumps. They suffered two consecutive losses to Long Island and Boston. Goalie Chris Garrity had surgery to repair an MCL tear. And Alex Smith's .508 faceoff percentage (98-for-193) is the fourth-best mark in the league, but nowhere near the dominance he usually showcases. But the Bayhawks have made some progress. They tweaked their deep midfield by adding Steven DeNapoli to d-middie, Barney Ehrmann to LSM and Matt Abbott to some offensive sets. Chesapeake ended its losing streak with a win over Rochester, thanks to some scoring punch from Steven Brooks (two goals) and Dan Hardy (three goals). And the Bayhawks improved their effort on ground balls.

Long Island Lizards (2-5)

Grade: D

The Lizards' record indicates they're nowhere near replicating the MLL runner-up showing they had last year. Coach Jim Mule has lamented the team's inconsistency. Lack of offensive chemistry contributed to the team losing games it could've won. Two particularly troubling spots include the Lizards' work on faceoffs and ground balls. They're last in the league at the X with a 43.6-percent success rate and are tied for last with Rochester with 219 ground balls. Improving those numbers surely would've come in handy in a 15-12 loss May 14 to Boston and an 11-10 defeat June 4 to Denver.

Rochester Rattlers (0-7)

Grade: F

The Rattlers have suffered plenty of turmoil this season, as indicated by their 0-7 start. They haven't closed out games: all of their losses have come within single digits. They underwent coaching changes, firing B.J. O'Hara and replacing him with assistant coach Tim Soudan after an 0-6 start. And they lost a significant chunk of their offense: attackmen Mike and Kevin Leveille took the season off citing work commitments, attackman Buggs Combs suffered an injury in training camp and Casey Powell hasn't reported to the team. Rochester will be officially eliminated from playoff contention with a loss Saturday to Denver.

MVP

Paul Rabil, Boston Cannons
He leads the MLL in scoring (33), is tied with Mundforf for goals (18) and has proven significantly instrumental in the Boston Cannons taking sole possession of first place in the league standings. Boston's fifth consecutive win came on the heels of a 15-12 victory over the Denver Outlaws, where Rabil literally did everything. His hat trick included a two-point marker and two goals in the second half as the Cannons overcame a 7-3 halftime deficit. Rabil also added three assists. In the past three games, Rabil has scored 18 points and has recorded at least five points and three goals in each contest.

Coach of the Year

Bill Daye, Boston Cannons
Perhaps mindful that Boston is the last original MLL team remaining not to have won a title, Daye has continually stressed to his team not to lose focus and feel satisfied with having the league's top record. The Cannons benefit from having plenty of talent, but clearly the team has struck a good balance throughout the lineup and in the locker room.

Rookie of the Year

Jeremy Boltus, Hamilton Nationals
The highlight of his rookie season involved scoring seven goals in a 19-16 victory June 25 against Rochester, a mark that tied a team record that was previously set by attackman Merrick Thomson against the Washington Bayhawks on May 15, 2009 in a 17-16 victory.

Attackman of the Year

Brendan Mundorf, Denver Outlaws
He's tied for tops in the MLL with Paul Rabil in goals (18) and trails closely behind him in points (29). Mundorf is one of five players in the MLL with at least 20 points this season. In addition, Mundorf is tied for second in the MLL with 11 assists.

Midfielder of the Year

Joe Walters, Hamilton Nationals
Walters ranks first in the league among midfielders in assists (15), second in points (27) and fourth in goals (11).

Defenseman of the Year

Brodie Merrill, Hamilton Nationals
This shouldn't be surprising considering he's won the MLL Defensive Player of the Year honors for five consecutive seasons. Merrill leads defensemen in both ground balls (45) and points (nine).

Goalie of the Year

Jordan Burke, Boston Cannons
He leads the MLL with a 10.17 goals against average and a .617 save percentage. In the last four games, Burke has posted a .642 save percentage while allowing 9.75 goals per game.

Faceoff Man of the Year

Chris Eck, Boston Cannons
The Denver Outlaws' Andrew Hennessey may lead the MLL in faceoff win percentage (.604), but Eck through the All-Star break tops the league in wins (121), attempts (206) and ground balls (34).


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