July 23, 2014
Boston didn't have Brodie Merrill, New York didn't have Rob Pannell. But there were plenty of headliners in the MLL's weekend slate. (Scott McCall)
Boston didn't have Brodie Merrill, New York didn't have Rob Pannell. But there were plenty of headliners in the MLL's weekend slate. (Scott McCall)

MLL Weekly: World Championship Fill-Ins Prove Worth

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

With only eight Major League Lacrosse teams and clubs allowed to only dress 19 players a game, competition for roster spots is fierce. Many talented players don't get the opportunity to play their way into the game-day rotation.

But with the MLL season overlapping with the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship, some teams were without key players, which allowed unheralded and unproven players the opportunity to step in and earn minutes in crucial contests.

Several players were very impressive, and some may have forced their coach's hand to keep them in the lineup. Two unlikely players even earned MLL Player of the Week honors.

The Ohio Machine features a very strong and young offense but was without Marcus Holman, Steele Stanwick and Kyle Harrison last weekend. Enter Derek Maltz, a rookie out of Syracuse, who scored four goals and earn Rookie of the Week honors.

"He was able to capitalize. We talked about it and he said he just wanted to have fun and make the most of the opportunity," said Ohio head coach Bear Davis, admitting Maltz's size on the crease gave the Machine a new element to their offense. "We have to rethink the way our offense is and how we can get him in and capitalize on his style of play."

In Denver, goalie Charlie Cipriano was named Defensive Player of the Week and he didn't even start in the Outlaws' 13-10 victory over Florida.

Cipriano came on in relief of Jesse Schwartzman, who had also started the previous night for Team USA in the world championship gold medal game. Cipriano played almost 40 minutes, made 11 saves and allowed only three goals. It was his first win not only in five appearances this season, but in 13 games over his three-year career.

While it is unlikely Cipriano will unseat Schwartzman as the starting goalie, his performance should make Denver head coach B.J. O'Hara more confident in his ability to give Schwartzman a break as needed.

"We didn't know what to expect," O'Hara said. "[Schwartzman] wasn't himself, understandably. Charlie knew this could be the scenario."

The Rochester Rattlers have loaded up on talent on attack and have already seen the heavily anticipated debuts of Miles Thompson, Jordan Wolf and Mark Cockerton.

While Thompson, Kevin Leveille and Mark Matthews were all busy in the world championships and Wolf had a work commitment that made him unavailable for Rochester's Thursday evening game, Miles' cousin Ty Thompson made his MLL debut and didn't disappoint.

Ty Thompson scored a goal and added an assist while showing versatility and good chemistry with Cockerton.

"We started running Ty Thompson out of the box and were able to get a two-man game going with him and Cockerton. It brought both of those guys up," Rattlers head coach Tim Soudan said. "[He] came out of the gate a little slow. His confidence grew as the game went on. He was very in control of what he was doing at the end of the game."

Soudan admitted on the weekly MLL coaches' conference call that he would look to go back to the lineup he used before the world championships, but that he was "comfortable" putting Ty Thompson on the field and it was possible he could dress again this season.

The Rattlers defeated the Chesapeake Bayhawks, who also were missing a healthy portion of players due to injury and the world games. One player Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle was impressed with was defensive midfielder Mark McNeill.

The rookie from the University of North Carolina picked up four ground balls in his MLL debut.

"I liked [his effort]. I thought he was pretty good," Cottle said. "There's a good chance McNeil dresses [against New York] ... We're trying to figure out about [Dan] Burns and see if we can rest him, get him healthy, and give McNeil a chance."

LIZARDS DUO PROPELLING OFFENSE

In 2012, a very young and inexperienced Lizards team featured two rookies prominently on attack: Tommy Palasek and Matt Gibson.

In 11 games in 2012, Palasek had 21 goals and five assists while Gibson was third on the team in scoring thanks to his 18 goals and 15 assists, which also helped him win the Rookie of the Year award.

While Palasek played fourteen games and was second on the team with 24 points, Gibson played only six games and the duo was no longer the focus of the offense thanks to the arrivals of Rob Pannell, Mark Matthews, Stephen Berger and David Earl.

Gibson didn't even start the 2014 season with the Lizards. But he was brought back just four weeks ago and he and Palasek have had a major impact on the offense. The In the past four games, the Lizards have four wins and averaged 17.25 goals scored.

Gibson has six goals and an assist in three games and Palasek is once again second on the team in points, with 22 goals and two assists. In the past four games, Palasek has scored 13 goals and two assists.

"I think there's tremendous chemistry. They played together growing up," Lizards head coach Joe Spallina said of the two New York natives. "They're good team players. They move the ball and make good team decisions. We're happy to get Gibby back and Tommy has been a consistent performer for three years now. He has his moments but he's comfortable in his role. His role has changed since his rookie year but testament to him he's adjusted and playing at a higher level."

BOSTON AND FLORIDA MEET FOR FIRST TIME

There are only three games remaining in the season, but the Boston Cannons and Florida Launch will meet for the first time this season – and ever – in Week 12. The game will be played in Florida and is the first of back-to-back games.

The Cannons are in a tie for fourth place with a 5-6 record while the Launch sits only a game behind in the standings despite five consecutive losses.

"With the addition of the new players they have, they've done great," Boston head coach John Tucker said. "They have new guys to their lineup and with Casey Powell it's going to be a challenge."

Florida acquired Steven Brooks, David Earl and Jon Hayes at the MLL trade deadline. All three played last weekend against Denver, with Brooks scoring two goals (including a two-pointer) and adding an assist, Earl scoring once, and Hayes starting at defensive midfield and picking up a ground ball.

"I thought all three brought what we needed," Florida coach Stan Ross said. "Brooks was able to get a couple goals. Earl was able to dodge for a goal. I thought Hayes brought some toughness."

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS

Each coach on the MLL coaches call said that his team would only focus on one game at a time and would only worry about what winning their own games, not what the other teams do.

That being said, it's gotten far enough into the season where teams can start to clinch playoff berths or be eliminated.

Denver can clinch a playoff berth with a win or a loss and a Boston loss, or a loss to Ohio by only one point due to tie-breakers. Rochester can clinch a playoff spot with a win or a loss and a Boston or New York loss. New York can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Chesapeake is the only team that can be eliminated and that would happen with loss to New York.

This is the latest the league has gone without a team getting into or being eliminated from the playoffs.

"I think it's huge," said Soudan, whose team has finished one game out of the playoffs the previous two seasons. "This game is the biggest game in my tenure in Rochester. The guys are excited."


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