Red-Hot Hamilton Clinches MLL Playoff Berth
from press release
HAMILTON, Ontario -- For the third time in team history, the Hamilton Nationals are heading to the Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend. Hamilton (9-3) locked up a playoff berth after defeating the Boston Cannons 17-12 Saturday at Ron Joyce Stadium.
"They were ready to play right off the get-go and we came after them," said Hamilton coach Dave Huntley, who said his team had a great practice Friday and shoot around Saturday morning. "They're a good team and they were going to come back. We answered them every time and everyone contributed. It all started Friday night."
The Nationals used nine different goal scorers to win for the third straight week, and tie their best offensive output of the season with 17 points. Rookie Kevin Cunningham (2g, 3a) tied his career high with five points, while fellow first-year pro Garrett Thul notched a career-best six points (5g, 1a). Both players were named to the U.S. national team's 98-man tryout roster for FIL World Championship on July 10-19, 2014, in Denver.
"It was great. Everything was clicking," Thul said about his breakout night. "I had a quarter where I wasn't playing so hot. So I took a breather and came out with a fresh head and made better decisions."
Thul scored three points in the first quarter, including his second career two-point goal, to give the Nationals a 6-1 lead in the first quarter. With Boston mounting a late push in the fourth, Thul scored three goals in the final 15 minutes. His last tally was a behind-the-back goal after leaping in the air to catch a cross-crease pass from Cody Jamieson.
On defense, Hamilton nearly blanked Paul Rabil, who entered the game as the MLL's leading point man, but yielded a two-point goal at 12:44. Queener made 17 saves and turned away eight shots from Rabil. Queener even provided some offense, scoring his first MLL goal early in the first quarter. It was a long time coming for Queener, who also played on man-up opportunities at the University at Albany, and scored two goals his senior season.
"It felt good. I'm glad it went in so I didn't have to sprint back," he said with a smile.
Hamilton opened the game with a barrage of goals in the first six minutes to take a 4-0 lead. Kevin Crowley connected at 2:06 to extend his team-best point streak to 27 games and give Hamilton a 1-0 lead. The Nationals then connected for three goals in a 1:18 span to open up a 4-0 lead. Queener made it 2-0 with his first MLL goal at 4:30 and Hamilton was just getting started. Thul and Cunningham followed suit to make it 4-0. After a Boston goal, Thul drilled home a two-pointer for a 6-1 lead.
Hamilton took its largest lead of the contest in the second with three of the quarters first four goals. Jordan Hall (two goals), Jeremy Thompson and Roy Lang (two goals) all scored goals for the Nats. Boston scaled back the Hamilton lead with a 3-0 run midway through the second as Mike Stone scored his second of the night and 35-year-old rookie Martin Bowes followed with his first MLL goal. When Cameron Flint scored from a tough angle at 10:50, it brought Boston within four at 9-5. The Nats answered with a late marker by Joe Walters, who extended his point streak to 23 games, to give Hamilton a 10-5 lead at half.
Both teams scored three times in the third with the highlight coming at 8:47 on a one-handed goal by Hall. The fourth quarter belonged to Thul, who bull-dodged his way to his fourth goal of the contest to open the frame, and ended the fourth with two straight goals. Stone (2g, 1a), Kevin Buchanan (2g, 1a) and Flint (1g, 2a) all collected three-point nights for the Cannons, who fell to 5-7 with the loss.
The Nationals make their final road trip of the regular season next Saturday when they battle the Charlotte Hounds at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.