7/18/10 7:00 AM
By Derek McLean
The (4-5) Long Island Lizards return home Thursday night, as they prepare to take on the (4-5) Chesapeake Bayhawks. The two teams faced off Week 1 in Annapolis and the Bayhawks came away with a convincing 16-8 victory. Peet Poillon scored 5 goals and 7 points for Chesapeake and Alex Smith won 17 of 25 face-offs. But because the loss was so early in the season, Lizards goalie Drew Adams explains neither team will put too much stock in the result. “There were a lot of things to change from that first week and I think we have already changed a lot of those things, he says. “Now we know their strengths, they know our strengths a little bit better. It really comes down to execution and what team wants it more.”
The 2 teams appear to be headed in different directions as of late. The Lizards are the winner of 2 straight while the Bayhawks are currently on a 4 game losing streak. Chesapeake’s latest loss was to the (6-3) Boston Cannons, who scored the first 9 goals of the game and never looked back in a 16-10 win.
The loss was so devastating to Chesapeake that it prompted the team to fire its head coach John Tucker. He has been replaced by team president Brendan Kelly who will take over as coach for the remainder of the season. The coaching change may lead to new schemes and offensive plays. However Kelly has no history of coaching in Major League Lacrosse, so it is hard to predict.
The Lizards defeated the (4-5) Chicago Machine in back-to-back weeks. Both of the victories were come from behind wins and gave the Lizards three wins over Chicago this season by a total of 4 goals. The first 2 meetings were won in overtime and in week 9 the Lizards won 17-15 in Columbus, Ohio. Matt Danowski scored 3 2-point goals, including the game winner, and 7 total points. His performance was good enough to earn MLL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
With the win, the Lizards are now back in serious contention for Championship Weekend, after looking all but dead just a few weeks ago. If Championship Weekend were to begin today, the Lizards would hold the fourth seed in the standings and the final spot for the playoffs, thanks to their head to head record versus Chicago.
Goalie Drew Adams is happy with the situation his team is in. “I’d much rather be a team that is clicking on the upswing of the schedule and is still looking to peak,” he says, “than a team that started off strong and kind of fades at the end.”
The game will feature the second and third highest point scorers in Major League Lacrosse this year. Bayhawks midfielder Peet Poillon has scored 37 points and is just 2 points behind league leader Matt Poskay of the Cannons. Matt Danowski of the Lizards is not far behind with 35 points so far. Both players are serious contenders for MVP honors.
“Peet Poillon is one of the leading scorers in the league,” says Danowski. “He’s going to be bold and he’s got to be stopped.”
Offensively the teams have been light years apart this season. The Bayhawks have scored 193, third highest in the league. They have six players with 16 or more points this season, Poillon, midfielder Kyle Dixon, attack Danny Glading, midfielder Brian Vetter, attack Ben Rubeor, and attack Andrew Combs. With all of the scoring options it will be once again a difficult challenge for the Lizards to counter.
“We know who their threats are,” Says Danowski. “Danny Gladding, Ben Rubeor, and Combs are very talented on attack. We played these guys the first game of the season, which feels like it was almost last year already. We’re going to watch some film and see where we can get better.”
The Lizards on the other hand have scored 149 points this season, the lowest total in the league. They have only 3 players with 16 or more points, Danowski as well as attacks Zack Greer and Tim Goettelmann. Their struggle to score can be attributed to their shooting. The Lizards have scored on only 26 percent of their total shots.
But recently the Lizards have had a major turnaround in scoring. In the last 3 games they have averaged over 14 points in the previous 3 games the Lizards had only reached 13 points in regulation once. A big reason for their offensive turnaround is due to the building chemistry of the Lizards top 2 scorers Danowski and Greer. In the past 3 games the two have scored a combined 28 points, which are more points than the duo had scored in the first 6 games of the season combined, which was only 27.
The most consistent aspect of the Lizards game this season has been their defense. They allow only 12.44 goals a game, which is the best average in the league. The Lizards are led on defense by veterans Dan Cocchi, Brian Spallina, and Nicky Polanco, who are regarded by many as the most physical unit in the league. The Lizards have given their defense support recently in their transition game. They have added defenseman John Orsen and Long Stick Middie Ricky Pages, who returned from season long injuries, and newly drafted Long Stick Middie Parker McKee.
With their sound defense, the Lizards have enjoyed surprisingly good goaltending from Drew Adams. In only his first year as a Major League Lacrosse starter, Adams has played almost every minute of every game this season and has the lowest goals against average of any goalie that has played at least 150 minutes in the league.
The Bayhawks on the other hand have been pretty average on defense. They have allowed 13.22 goals a game, fourth highest in the league. The unit consists of PT Ricci, Joe Cinosky, Michael Evans, and Ray Megill. However there is little experience in the group, since not one of them has played in the league earlier than the 2008 season. Their most veteran defender is Shawn Nadelen who has been out with an injury all season.
But this week will be especially tough on the Chesapeake Bayhawks. They will be missing 3 key players who are representing the US National Team at the World Games in place Manchester, England. The Bayhawks will be losing Cinosky, 29 point scoring midfielder Kyle Dixon, and face-off specialist Alex Smith, who has won 58 percent of the face-offs he has taken this year. But even with Chesapeake’s losses Danowski still expects to see the same difficult Bayhawks team they saw in week 1.
“Missing Dixon hurts, Alex Smith is a big part of their offense,” he says. “But just because their missing a couple guys doesn’t mean they’re not going to be as good as they usually are. They’re going to have guys who will be well prepared.”
The Lizards on the other hand will be losing Zack Greer, who has proven to be an essential piece to the Lizards offense the last few games, to Team Canada. They will also be without their top goal scoring midfielder Stephen Peyser and midfielder Matt Zash to the US National Team.
“The guys who haven’t played much all year are going to be more than excited this week,” says Danowski. “Just because they haven’t been in the lineup doesn’t mean they’re not going to be ready to play. Everybody wants to prove themselves in this league.”
Even with the absentees, both teams still have plenty of firepower to throw at each other. For both teams, the playoff implications are massive and the intensity level should be even greater.
“We haven’t done anything yet, “says Adams. “It’s up to us to follow up on these next 3 games and make that playoff push.”
The game time is at 8 pm on Thursday. It will take place at James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, NY. It can be seen live on ESPN3.com.
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com
|07/28/2010||Week 10 Players of the Week|
|07/22/2010||Live Blog and Chat: Bayhawks vs Lizards|