August 24, 2013

Bayhawks Grind it Out, Set Up Old vs. New Title Matchup

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

* Snider Turns Tables on Denver | Charlotte-Denver Live Blog Replay
Denver Finds Playoff Disappointment Once Again
* Chesapeake-Hamilton Live Blog Replay

CHESTER, Pa. -- The 2013 Major League Lacrosse championship game is set, with the second-seeded and defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks facing the fourth-seeded Charlotte Hounds at 3 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN2) at PPL Park just outside Philadelphia.


Casey Powell and the veteran-laden Chesapeake Bayhawks will face upstart Charlotee at 3 p.m. ET Sunday for the MLL title at PPL Park outside Philadelphia.
© Kevin P. Tucker

The Hounds ended the Denver Outlaws' bid for perfection in a 17-14 upset win in Saturday's first semifinal. In the second game, the Bayhawks won a knock-down, drag-out 13-12 contest over the Hamilton Nationals.

Veteran Casey Powell found Michael Kimmel cutting through the Hamilton defense for the game-winner with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter. After what appeared to be a moving pick call on Hamilton and a restart in the Nationals zone, Powell corralled a full-field pass from Matt Abbott and tossed it back to Drew Westervelt, who ran out the clock.

Chesapeake scored five of the game's final six goals to overcome an 11-7 deficit entering the fourth quarter. There were six ties and five lead changes in the game.

"The tempo was really weird," Powell said. "Nobody really had the momentum. We were just grinding away, digging away."

"This is the game we thought it would be," Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said. "It was two teams grinding it out, and had a lot of guys who had played in big games and been successful. We never felt like we got into a flow, but we just kept grinding. It's kind of like what our season has been about the whole year."

And so Sunday's old vs. new championship showdown is set. The veteran-laden Bayhawks will take on relatively young upstart and upset-minded Charlotte. Chesapeake seeks its third title in four years.

The teams last met in the final week of this regular season with Chesapeake winning 16-14.

"We played really well for three quarters, as well as we played all year, and only won 16-14," Cottle said. "We're looking for a high-scoring, up-and-down game."

Here are five storylines to watch in Sunday's title tilt:

Charlotte's underdog mentality

The Hounds have an underdog mentality, and rightfully so. They are the fourth seed in these playoffs and have only existed as a franchise for two seasons. Charlotte rookie midfielder Jake Tripucka, who won an NCAA title at Duke in May, summed their mindset up well.

"We played like there was no tomorrow," Tripucka said. "There was no tomorrow for us."

Well, now there is.

Faceoffs, as always, will be important

Geoff Snider, in just his third game of the year taking faceoffs, was a difference-maker for the Hounds in Saturday's semifinal win. He won 17 of 25 draws against Denver, turning the tables on the Outlaws.

"We're going to have worry about not winning any faceoffs," Cottle said.

Chesapeake advanced to the championship despite losing the battle at the X on Saturday. Adam Rand won 12 of 28 against Hamilton's Mike Poppleton. Further complicating the matchup is that Chesapeake long-pole wingman Mike Simon injured his back and likely won't play on Sunday, Cottle said.

Adam Ghitelman's steady presence

While Denver goaltender Jesse Schwartzman got flustered in the Outlaws' loss, even breaking his stick across the goal after allowing a score in the second half, Hounds goaltender Adam Ghitelman looked sharp and composed. He finished with 14 saves. A hot goalie can go a long way in a two-game tournament.

"Adam is our MVP," Hounds attackman Matt Danowski said. "He's been the most consistent player on the team all season. Guys feed off his emotion. He makes big plays, gets ground balls, he clears the ball. He's an All-Pro in my mind. That's the way he's been playing all year."

Kip Turner finished with 14 saves for the Bayhawks, so he wasn't too shabby either.

Nicky Polanco in for championship

In a noteworthy roster move, Chesapeake elected to scratch a healthy Nicky Polanco from Saturday's game, but the veteran defenseman will play against Charlotte, Cottle said. He said the team will do its best to maneuver around salary cap issues.

Polanco, a veteran of big games and many championship weekends, was itching to get on the field. "Take it on the chin," he said on the field after watching the semifinal win in a blue Bayhawks polo shirt and khaki shorts. "It's time to win a championship."

Quick turnaround

The relatively quick turnaround between Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's championship game has been well-documented over the years, and anecdotally, the effects have been seen in the second half of several championship games. The team that manages its time off best and is most fresh on Sunday may benefit. Signs point to Charlotte's young roster. They were helped by playing in Saturday's first game.

The Bayhawks are a decidedly veteran team. "Get the ice baths ready," midfielder Ben Hunt said to the Chesapeake training staff immediately following the post-game handshake line.

"I'm 37, so I'm going into the ice tub right away," Powell said. "But I felt really good today. It's a beautiful field. It's fun to play on. The Chesapeake crowd had a lot of energy. I'm excited. I don't think we'll let the turnaround bother us at all. Hopefully we can use our experience and come out on top."

Check back to LaxMagazine.com for live coverage of Sunday's MLL championship game starting at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.


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