August 23, 2014
John Grant Jr. scored three goals and was named MLL championship game MVP for the second straight year.
John Grant Jr. scored three goals and was named MLL championship game MVP for the second straight year.

The Waiting is Over: Grant Sparks Outlaws to Elusive Title

by Stan Awtrey | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

KENNESAW, Ga. – Years of frustration ended for the Denver Outlaws on Saturday night, as they overcame a four-goal fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Rochester Rattlers 12-11 to win the Major League Lacrosse championship for the first time.

The winning goal came from Drew Snider, who blasted one past Rochester goalkeeper John Galloway from just inside the two-point arc with 56 seconds left. The comeback was sparked by veteran John Grant Jr., who had three goals and an assist.

"What can I say, our team sucked it up in the second half and we got some big plays from a lot of guys and we needed them," Grant said. "It was a big win for us."

Grant was named the MVP of the championship game for the second straight year and improved to 5-0 in the finals.

"That's why we brought him to Denver in the off-season," said coach B.J. O'Hara, who became the first coach to win MLL championships with two different teams, also winning with Rochester in 2008 with Grant on the team. "He's 5-0 in championship games and he led the way on the offensive end."

Jeremy Sieverts had tied the game at 11-11 with 5:35 remaining on his eighth two-point goal of the year, a league high.

"We just didn't quit," Sieverts said. "It's a 60-minute game and we lose for 59 minutes and get the win. What can you say about these guys in white. What a great team to be a part of."

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Faceoff man Anthony Kelly with the Steinfeld Trophy Saturday night in Atlanta. (Kevin Liles)

Denver was playing in the postseason for the ninth straight year, but had never won the Steinfeld Trophy. It was their fifth championship game appearance. On Saturday at Kennesaw State's Fifth Third Bank Stadium the Outlaws trailed 10-6 after the third period when they outscored the Rattlers 6-1 in the final quarter.

The game was a success for the league, which has further evidence that the Atlanta area will support a professional lacrosse team. The attendance was announced at 8,149 with most of the reserved seats filled.

"I'm so happy for the Denver organization," O'Hara said. "They do it right. I appreciate the confidence they had in me to take over. I inherited a great bunch of guys and they dedicated themselves to get to this game and get us a trophy."

Denver (11-5) scored just 19 seconds into the game when Chris Bocklet found the net; it was the fastest goal scored in the championship game since 2005. Rochester answered with an unassisted goal from Michael Lazore at 4:43 and an unassisted power play goal from Miles Thompson at 5:47, when Dillon Roy was serving a tripping penalty.

Rochester (11-5) went ahead 4-1 on an unassisted goal from John Ranagan at 9:14 and an unassisted goal from Mark Cockerton, who picked up a rebound in front of the net and fired it home at 11:07. David Lawson broke through the right side to score at 13:10 and put the Rattlers ahead 5-1 at the end of one period.

"That wasn't the game plan to get down early," O'Hara said. "We started to settle down on offense. We threw the ball away a lot early and I think every time we threw it away, it led to a goal on the other end."

Denver got back in the game with a strong second period. The Outlaws scored three times in the period, getting goals from Dom Sebastiani, Bocklet (on a man-up opportunity) and Grant while the Rattlers could only counter with a lone goal from Ranagan and led 6-4 at halftime. Anthony Kelly won 14 of 25 faceoffs.

Rochester regained the momentum early in the fourth period with a goal by Justin Turri, who scored after a feed from Jordan Wolf behind the net, and Ranagan, who fought past defender Sebastiani to beat goalkeeper Jesse Schwartzman and make it 8-4.

The two teams exchanged goals before the end of the third quarter, with Rochester leading 10-6. Jordan Wolf and Dave Lawson scored for Rochester, with Eric Law and Jeremy Sieverts scoring for Denver.

"I think we played pretty solid all game," Rochester coach Tim Soudan said. "The problem in the MLL is there's that ebb and flow of the momentum, and when we're up 10-6 at one point there, and they start coming back, we answer, so we started feeling good about it again. The tough part ends up being they're feeling really good about themselves because of the momentum going into the last minute of the game. It was kind of tough. But John Grant, Jr. just turned it on. They scored in a lot of different ways."

Denver drew to within 10-9 on two consecutive goals from Grant and another from Law on a pass from Grant. Rochester got some breathing room when Lawson scored on a pass from Cockerton. But Denver tied the game 11-11 on a two-point goal by Sieverts, the league-leader in that category, with 5:35 left.

"Some people scoff at that two-point rule," O'Hara said. "But that's what it can do. It's such an exciting play and we're used to seeing him do that."

Sieverts thought he needed to make something happen. "It was big," he said. "I had a couple early that I wasn't able to put away."

He put that one away, and helped close the book on what had been a string of postseason disappointments for the Outlaws. The waiting is over.

MLL Championship Highlights

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Snider Game-Winner

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Sieverts' Tying Two-Pointer

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Post-Game Interviews

John Grant Jr.

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Jesse Schwartzman

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B.J. O'Hara

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