7/7/10 1:00 PM
By Derek McLean
The (3-5) Long Island Lizards head to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, where they will attempt to defeat the (4-4) Chicago Machine in consecutive weeks. The Lizards have beaten the Machine on 2 occasions this year. Both wins came in overtime. A win for the Lizards will put them right back in the mix for a spot in Championship Weekend.
“At 3-5 and pushing for a playoff spot, this weekend is huge.” Says Lizards attack Tim Goettelmann, who scored a goal and 2 assists last week. He also scored both the game tying and winning goals in the team’s first meeting this year.
The Lizards latest win over the Machine on Saturday was won in overtime 13-12 thanks to attack Zack Greer. He scored 5 goals in the contest and was named the Bud Light MVP. The Lizards were losing by 4 in the final quarter before Greer’s heroics came into play. He scored 3 out of 5 consecutive points which Long Island scored, giving them a 1 goal lead in the final minutes of regulation.
However the lead was not safe. With just 1 second remaining the Machine’s Chris Rotelli tied the game, on a last ditch effort shot, sending the game to overtime. That’s when Greer scored the game winner with a difficult shot from a Matt Danowski pass.
The win put the Lizards just one game behind the jam packed third and fourth seeds of Championship Weekend. They will have the opportunity to pull even with the Machine for the final spot this Saturday, before heading into the bye week.
“We already have the tie-breaker over Chicago,” says Goettelmann. “However a win would have us tied in the standings with the Machine and ahead in the playoff race. It’s also important to win because we have a 12 day break until our next game and a win would give us momentum heading into the Chesapeake game.”
The Lizards struggled offensively last week, for the first 3 quarters of the game. Extended scoring droughts have been a common theme for them all year. Long Island was losing 8-6 heading into the fourth quarter. It wasn’t until Greer went off, for the Lizards to start finishing shots and making a dent in the Machine’s armor. The Lizards have struggled to put together 4 quarters of high scoring offense. The Lizards have had at least one quarter where they finished 2 or fewer goals, every game this season.
A big reason for the Lizards offensive inconsistencies have been due to their inability to finish. Last week the Lizards had 27 shots on goal, but were denied 15 times by Chicago goalie Bud Petit. The Lizards have a .251 shot percentage, which is the worst average in the league.
“We just need to stay focus for 60 minutes,” says Goettelmann.
The Lizards have had to make dramatic comebacks in both meetings against the Machine. They will look to finish their shots earlier in the game and not have to make a dramatic comeback in the fourth.
The good news for the Lizards at late, has been the improved play of Zack Greer. In the last 4 games he has scored 14 of a team leading 17 goals. As one of the Lizards top finishers he is a critical piece to their offense.
“Zack Greer is starting to come around,” says Goettelmann. “Danowski is finding him and that will help us as we make our playoff push.”
When Greer plays well, he takes a lot of the burden off fellow attacks Matt Danowski and Goettelmann’s shoulders.
Part of the reason for Greer’s midseason turnaround is due to the additions of Long Stick Midfielders Parker McKee and Ricky Pages. For much of the season the Lizards have gone without a true LSM which has hurt the team big team time. Having Pages and McKee in the lineup improves the Lizards ability to run the fast break, where Greer plays his best.
“Zack is deadly in transition,” says Lizards Head Coach Jim Mule. “He’s a great finisher. The more opportunities you can give him to create off of transition, the more opportunities he will have to finish.”
The most consistent aspect of the Lizards game this season has been on defense. The Lizards have the best goals against average in the league, at 12.13. They have had 4 games where they allowed just 12 goals or less. Last week the Lizards only allowed 12 goals, against one of the most lethal scoring teams in the league.
“Our defense has been the difference with the Chicago games,” says Goettelmann. “Our defense and goalie has played outstanding in the two games.”
The Lizards defense is led by veterans Nicky Polanco, Brian Spallina, and Dan Cocchi. The unit has been brought their hardnosed and physical style up a notch this year. A large reason for this is due to great play from Polanco, who has brought his game up another level from last season.
“The team MVP to this point is Nicky,” says Mule. “He is having a great season after a tough one last year. Nicky is back to being at the top of his game.”
But the biggest surprise has been the outstanding play of goalie Drew Adams. The first year starter from Penn State has played a league high 482 minutes, while recording 12.02 goals against average. The second best average in the league.
The Lizards defense will have their hands full once again, against the dangerous Machine offense. They are led by brothers Mike and Kevin Levielle. The 2 have combined for a total of 60 points this season. They are the third and fourth highest scorers in the league. The Lizards held the Leveille brothers to just 3 goals amongst the two on Saturday. The Machine also relies on midfielder Chris Rotelli. He has scored 13 goals and 17 points this season, including the dramatic game tying goal with 1 second left in regulation last week.
Playing consecutive games against the Machine is favorable for some players.
“I like it. I feel like it’s the mini-series with them,” says Goettelmann. “You can look to improve some of the mistakes we made in the previous game. You can also make some changes with match-ups, positions, etc…”
It will be interesting to see what kinds of adjustments the two teams make. The games have been evenly matched so far, the slightest adjustments could make the difference.
The game time is at 7 pm on Saturday. It will be held at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Tickets are on sale at Chicagomachine.com. It can be seen live on ESPN3.com.
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