July 18, 2013

MLL Week 11: Another Comeback for Casey Powell

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com

Since the Chesapeake Bayhawks selected Casey Powell in the Major League Lacrosse Supplemental Draft this offseason, there has been much speculation about when he would return.

That speculation may finally have come to an end. Casey Powell is on the Bayhawks' active roster, was at practice this week and the word from many involved with the team is that the comeback is on for Thursday's game against the rival Boston Cannons.

"I think there's probably a very good chance he plays," said Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle.

Tweets from several Bayhawks players, including Powell, are a bit more definite in their opinion of Powell's status. Defender Brian Spallina and midfielder Ben Hunt tweeted about the comeback beginning Thursday.

Powell has only played in five regular season games since 2011. He joined the Hamilton Nationals for the last two games of their 2011 season where he helped the team reach the MLL championship game. He injured his knee in a collision with Paul Rabil toward the end of the Nationals' loss to the Boston Cannons. Powell played three games last year before announcing his retirement at the end of the season.

He is still considered among the best players in the history of lacrosse and he could join a very star-studded veteran Bayhawks team as they look to repeat as champions.

"He's a great passer and very unselfish. He's not afraid of the moment," Cottle said. "There are lots of positives to having a Casey Powell on your team."

"I remember when we took him in the supplemental draft, the reason we took him was one because he could help us but also if he came back for someone else he could hurt us," he added.

There was no definite word of Powell's status Wednesday morning, but Boston Cannons head coach John Tucker said he has prepared for the Bayhawks with the thought that Powell would play.

"They have eight All-Stars. He just makes nine," Tucker said. "There's only one ball."

Powell is 37 years old but Chesapeake has gotten a lot of production from many veterans, like Spallina, Nicky Polanco and John Grant, Jr. Powell won't be expected to be the man for Chesapeake, but without that pressure it should allow his skills to shine.

It would be fitting for Powell to return against the Boston Cannons. This season, Boston attackman Ryan Boyle broke Powell's MLL career points record. Powell's next point will be his 400th in MLL.

Cottle, however, said that individual milestones don't matter for Powell any longer.

"Whenever we get a new player on our team they introduce themselves and he did the same. He said he has nothing more to prove," Cottle said. "He's a competitor. He wants to help us play the best we can and win a championship."

New York Lizards have backs against the wall

New York has not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet, but the odds are not in its favor.

A disappointing season thus far sees the Lizards two games behind Boston for the final playoff spot, but there are two other teams between them and there are only four games left.

Head coach Joe Spallina, ever the optimist, has not given up hope however bleak the situation looks.

"One of the things we talk about with our guys is starting over. ... Our playoffs start now," he said. "We want those teams [ahead in the standings] looking in their rearview mirror."

Last year the Lizards were able to get on a roll after losing their first two games of the season. They went on a stretch where they won eight of 10 games, including one four-game winning streak. So it can happen.

For Spallina, nothing can happen in 2013, however, if the Lizards don't beat the Charlotte Hounds, who started New York's tailspin — losing five of its past six games.

"You can't go on a run until you win one game," Spallina said. "Get a win here and you have the same record as Charlotte and you can be right back in it."

It's the old cliché of one game at a time for New York. Winning out is a must, but it may still be too little too late.

"All you have to do is go 4-0 but we don't have four wins this season," Spallina said.

No spoilers in Ohio

The Ohio Machine is the only team coming out of the All-Star game eliminated from playoff contention.

It's not the place a team wants to be at this point of the season but there is reason for optimism in the final four games of 2013. In the first eight games of the season, Ohio scored 10 or more goals only once. In the past two games Ohio has reached double digits in goals. They lost to the defending champion Bayhawks in their previous game by only one goal.

The combination of a low profile and improved play suggests that teams might overlook them enough for Ohio to play spoiler for teams trying to make the playoffs. The Machine's final three games are against the Charlotte Hounds, Boston Cannons and New York Lizards, all teams that need victories to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Head coach Bear Davis, however, does not care about playing the spoiler role.

"We need to know who we need to build around in the offseason. ... We're finding the character of this team every time we step on the field," he said. "One thing on your path to find who you are is I don't think you focus a lot on who you're playing."

Week 11 Preview

Boston Cannons (5-5) at Chesapeake Bayhawks (6-4), 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Boston, winners of four straight games, heads to Chesapeake on Thursday night. The Cannons beat the Bayhawks in overtime in Week 4. Kevin Buchanan (above) scored twice in that game.
© Bill Danielewski

The Cannons have won four consecutive games to catapult themselves up the standings and back into playoff contention. To keep their roll going they will have to defeat Chesapeake. The two teams are big rivals that are only separated by one game in the standings.

"It's exciting to be in a game where there's so many stars and guys that want to prove themselves to each other," Cannons head coach John Tucker said. "We do think this is a key game for the rest of the season."

The Cannons won their first game of the season against the Bayhawks in Week 4, winning in overtime.

"We've got to do a better job at the faceoff X," Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle said. "They have a different goalie in. We have to get an understanding of where Jordan Burke is strong and where he's weak."

Denver Outlaws (10-0) at Rochester Rattlers (4-6), 1 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: CBS Sports Network

Denver has been applauded all season for having a well-balanced team that has many different weapons, especially on offense. Much has been written about players like Chris Bocklet, Drew Snider, Zack Greer and Eric Law.

One player that seems to have flown under the radar is 2012 MLL MVP Brendan Mundorf. He is second on the team in points (36) and leads the team in assists (15). Despite the success, other players have been getting a lot more attention.

That, according to Outlaws head coach Jim Stagnitta, is by design however.

"I think what he's done is what a lot of what other players have done. He's adjusted his game to the way we're playing as a team. There's not as much pressure now on Brendan to make a play on the ball," Stagnitta said. "We were hoping to take some pressure off Brendan so not everyone focuses on him and so we can show off all the assets of his game."

New York Lizards (3-7) at Charlotte Hounds (4-6), 4 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: ESPN2

The last time these two teams met, both were 1-3.

Thanks to a five-goal fourth quarter and holding the Lizards scoreless in the final period the Hounds won 14-12. It was the turning point for both of the teams' seasons.

That game was the start of the Lizards losing five of six, and they are holding onto their playoff lives by a thread. Including that Week 5 game, the Hounds have gone 3-3, and they are optimistic about a potential playoff berth.

Hounds head coach Mike Cerino said that once again defense will be key in the rematch.

"It's a matchup we had a little luck in last time we played them. We had a high quality second half against them. We were able to play good team defense," he said. "Containing New York's potent offense will be the key."

Charlotte defenders Ryan Flanagan and Brett Schmidt were 2013 MLL All-Stars and will be instrumental in stopping the likes of fellow Lizards All-Stars Rob Pannell and Tommy Palasek.

Ohio Machine (1-9) at Hamilton Nationals (7-3), 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Broadcast: YouTube.com/MLL

Ohio has improved as the season has gone on, but the fact remains that the Machine has still scored the fewest amount of goals in the league this season.

Things will not be any easier against the Hamilton Nationals.

The Nationals are third in goals allowed this league and Brett Queener is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career.

Queener already has the second-most minutes played of his career, the second-most wins of his career and the second-most saves of his career. He currently leads the entire league in save percentage (.615) and Ohio will have its hands full trying to get the ball past him.

"I think our guys are playing real good defense," Nationals head coach Dave Huntley said. "When we give him shots we expect him to handle, our trust in him is really high. Our defensive unit back by Brett has worked really well."


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