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Blaze Moves to within One Win of First-Ever Playoff Berth

July 28, 2018
Dan Eipp's career night led the Atlanta Blaze to a 16-13 victory over the Florida Launch and bolstered the Blaze's playoff hopes. The Blaze (7-6) will host Denver on the final day of the season, Saturday, Aug. 4, with a chance to make their first-ever playoff appearance since becoming Major League Lacrosse's ninth team in 2016. 

Atlanta has now won four games in a row, its longest win streak in team history, and will advance to the playoffs with a victory over the Outlaws. Florida was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.  

Eipp, who entered tonight's play with nine goals and three assists, scored three first-half goals and restored Atlanta's two-goal cushion with 11:25 left in the game. The fleet-footed midfielder broke into the league with Florida in 2016 and played in three games for the Launch. Long-pole middie Scott Ratliff scored two important goals for the Blaze, one on a pass from Connor Kelly with 3:11 left in the third quarter and the other on a dish from Christian Cuccinello with 2:51 left in the contest. 

After Steven Brooks gave Florida the lead just :43 into the game, Christian Cuccinello scored twice and faceoff specialist, Joe Nardella, won the ensuing faceoff and scored to give Atlanta a 3-1 lead. After Connor Buczek scored the first of his three goals, the Blaze extended their lead with two Eipp goals, an extra-man goal by Sergio Salcido and Kyle McClancy's second in two games to take a 7-2 lead after one frame. 

Florida scored the next four goals to trim the lead to just one before Cuccinello, Eipp and Kelly scored. Atlanta led 10-8 at the half. After the teams traded goals in the first six-plus minutes of the third quarter, a 90-minute lightning delay interrupted the hard-fought contest. Upon resumption, Florida scored twice to tie the game at 12-12, but Atlanta outscored the Launch 4-1 in the final 18-plus minutes of the game.

Cuccinello finished with a hat trick and one assist and Kelly had a goal and three assists to join Eipp with four-point nights. Adam Ghitelman made 15 saves to earn his fourth-straight win. 

The Launch had three players who tallied three times each, Kieran McArdle, Bryan Cole and Buczek. Dylan Molloy had a goal and three assists, while Austin Kaut made 16 saves in a losing effort. 

The Launch wraps up its season at Dallas next Saturday.