The Hamilton Nationals grabbed a spot in Championship Weekend, presented by Smartlink, with a 17-12 victory over the Boston Cannons Saturday night at Ron Joyce Stadium. The Nationals are now 9-3 on the season, while the Cannons fall to 5-7.
Rookie Garrett Thul led the Nationals with five goals, including his second two-point goal of the season, and was named Player of the Game for his career-high six points.
The Nationals started the game with four goals in fewer than six minutes in an offensive onslaught. Hamilton’s leader in points and goals, Kevin Crowley, opened up the scoring with a goal off of a Jeremy Thompson assist. Hamilton goalie Brett Queener notched the second goal of the night, the first of his MLL career, after saving a Paul Rabil shot. Thul scored 39 seconds later on a drive to the goal. Kevin Cunningham continued the scoring off of a Brodie Merrill assist. Rookie defenseman Scott Ratliff stopped the bleeding for Boston with a goal from Will Manny with 3:54 left in the first quarter. Thul fired a two-point goal from Cunningham to give Hamilton a 6-1 at the end of the first.
The onslaught continued in the second quarter. Boston recorded the first goal of the quarter with a Mike Stone goal from Will Manny. Hamilton responded with three goals within a minute beginning with Jordan Hall, Thompson and Roy Lang scoring their first goals of the night, putting Hamilton up 9-2. Stone scored his second goal of the game off of a Buchanan assist to end the Hamilton run. Boston initiated a run of its own with a transition goal from Martin Bowes and a goal on the run from Cameron Flint. Once again, Hamilton tallied the final goal of the quarter with a marker from Joe Walters to finish the first half leading 10-5.
Boston came out firing in the second half with goals from Kevin Buchanan and Matt Poskay to make it a three-goal game with just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter. Hamilton countered with goals from Lang and Hall before Poskay notched his second of the quarter off of a Flint assist with 3:35 to go in the quarter. An empty-net goal from Cunningham with just over a minute left in the quarter improved Hamilton’s lead to 13-8 going into the final frame.
Thul opened up the scoring by completing his hat trick with just over seven minutes to go in the game. Rabil recorded his first of the game with his third two-point goal of the year. In more back-and-forth lacrosse, Cody Jamieson and Stephen Berger scored for their respective teams, putting the score at 15-11 with under five minutes to go in the game. Buchanan cut to the goal to add another one for Boston, but two Thul goals within a minute of each other sealed the game and the playoff berth for the Hamilton Nationals.
Queener tallied 17 saves in addition to his goal. He seemed to have Rabil’s number with saves on eight of his nine shots on goal. Jordan Burke had a season-high 22 saves in the loss to Hamilton. Mike Poppleton won 16 out of 31 faceoffs, tying his career-high for faceoffs won.
Next week, Boston will face Ohio at home in the YouTube game of the week at 4 p.m. The Nationals travel to Charlotte for a 7 p.m. match up on ESPN3 as the Hounds try to fight their way into Championship Weekend, presented by Smartlink.
· Nine wins are the most in Nationals history
· Crowley improves his franchise-best 27-game point streak
· Cunningham ties the franchise record for consecutive games with an assist with eight
· Burke’s 22 saves are a season-high