By Jessica Braveman and Patty Shields | 8/22/14 11:00 AM
With the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Championship fast approaching, we wanted to take a closer look at the two teams going head-to-head: the Denver Outlaws and the Rochester Rattlers. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the Outlaws vs. Rattlers, including the lineups, statistics, players to watch and who we think has the advantage in the Championship Game:
Kevin Leveille (23g, 8a)
Jordan Wolf (24g, 14a)
Miles Thompson (13g, 10a)
Mark Cockerton (25g)
The Rochester attack has a number of potential threats, especially seen in rookie Jordan Wolf and veteran Kevin Leveille. Leveille had six goals against Ohio in the semi-finals, while Wolf and fellow rookie Cockerton both had 3. Miles Thompson adds even more of an advantage with his untouchable stick skills and ability to move the ball.
Player to Watch: Wolf has been a standout rookie this season, scoring 24 goals in only 8 games. He is undoubtedly one of the fastest players in the game, and it will take tough and physical play by the Denver defense to keep Wolf from scoring off the crease.
John Grant, Jr. (32g, 29a)
Chris Bocklet (22g, 7a)
Eric Law (37g, 18a)
Zack Greer (5g, 9a)
It should come as no surprise that Denver has made it to the Championship when they have an attacking squad like this. Grant and Law have been some of the most productive attackmen in the league this season, and are capable of beating out any defender they go against. Surely this group will give the Rattlers’ defense a run for their money.
Player to Watch: Ten-year veteran Grant has had an incredible season, setting the record as the all-time leading goal scorer with 281 career goals. In Denver’s semifinal game against New York, Grant added four goals and two assists. Grant is a clear threat on defense—why wouldn’t you want see what this guy can do?
Denver’s experience will likely take the edge on the offensive end during this championship match-up. Grant has been on fire in the second half of the season, and will surely turn it on to keep his undefeated Champ record alive. Leveille, coming off a 6-goal game, and Wolf will likely put up a fight, but Denver’s veteran players and championship experience definitely have the potential to outscore the opposing side.
Justin Turri (20g, 2 2pts, 15a)
Jordan MacIntosh (18g, 13a)
Dave Lawson (25g, 9a)
Stephen Ianzito (18gb)
Michael Lazore (2g, 1a)
John Ranagan (13g, 9a)
The Rochester midfield is led by quick transition play from 2014 Most Improved Player, Justin Turri, and Dave Lawson. Both have played large roles in the offensive end this year, helping not only with points, but moving the ball quickly through the midfield.
Player to Watch: Lawson has been a solid performer this year for the Rattlers. He is third on the team in points (32) and leads the midfield in goals scored (25). His physical play has helped him maintain control in transition, and will be a big factor for Rochester in the championship.
Cam Holding (6g, 3a)
Justin Pennington (12g, 3a)
Jeremy Sieverts (25g, 7 2pt, 19a)
Drew Snider (29g, 5a)
Colin Dunster (5g, 1a)
Jeremy Noble (4a)
Domenic Sebastiani (3g, 1a)
What could potentially be more dangerous than Denver’s attack? How about the midfield. The Outlaws’ midfield combined for a total of 115 points during the regular season, and added another eight points against New York last weekend. Rochester will need to keep up with this group in transition if they hope to create a low-scoring game for the Outlaws.
Player to Watch: Jeremy Sieverts has been one of the most exciting players to watch this season. It seems like he’s always in front of the goal, ready to fire another shot. Sieverts finished the season as the league’s two-point goal leader, so if I were Rochester, I’d want to keep him inside the arc.
The midfield is going to be a battle to the very end. Denver will likely have the offensive midfield advantage, with the consistency seen in Sieverts and Snider this season. However, the tough defensive play in transition and off the face-off will definitely give Rochester the power to combat the offensive play, seen during the regular season when Rochester led the league in 50-50 balls (469gb).
John Ortolani (199-402)
Ortolani has been consistent at the X all season, finishing in the top group of faceoff specialists during the regular season. He played a large role in the win over Ohio, coming up with big draws during the second half comeback (16-29).
Anthony Kelly (167-303)
Brent Hiken (31-90)
Kelly finished the regular season ranked fourth among the faceoff specialists, after being forced to miss the final two games due to injury. He was forced to split time in semifinals with rookie Hiken when his injury started to act up, which cost the Outlaws multiple faceoff wins. Although Hiken was able to beat some of the best faceoff men in the league in key moments for Denver, he had trouble making the rookie adjustment.
Rochester will have the advantage at the X during the championship match-up. Ortolani has been consistent during the Rattlers impressive season, and the midfield unit has become incredibly cohesive. Denver has certainly missed their starting FOGO Anthony Kelly during the end of the year, despite a solid effort by rookie Brent Hiken. If Kelly is fully able to return from injury, Denver will be much more likely to battle on the faceoff.
Joel White (5g, 5a, 93gb)
John LoCascio (3a, 42gb)
Mike Manley (6g, 2 2pt, 1a, 38gb)
Will Koshansky (22gb)
John Lade (41gb)
Donny Moss (1g, 1 2pt, 6gb)
This year’s Rochester defense is very arguably the best in the league, having the lowest number of goals against in the regular season (166). Led by defensive standouts, Mike Manley and Joel White, the Rattlers play tough and physical coverage both in the midfield and around the crease.
Player to Watch: Manley was named Warrior Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. His tough defensive play makes him a force against any offense, and his ability to turn over and recover the ball is certainly indispensible. He’s also come up on the offensive end this season, scoring 6 goals, including two 2-pointers, and adding an assist. He’ll be a key factor in shutting down players like John Grant Jr. this weekend.
Chris O’Dougherty (19gb)
Matt Bocklett (60gb)
Lee Zink (12gb)
Michael Simon (4g, 1a, 1 2pt, 14gb)
Dillon Roy (1a, 21gb)
O’Dougherty and Bocklett are extremely dangerous when it comes to picking up ground balls, so Rochester will need to be careful with their passes in the offensive zone. Although the Denver defense ranked 6th in the penalty kill this season with 65.85 kill percentage and allowed 14 power play goals, they’ve clearly been a key part in goalie Jesse Scwartzman’s success in the net.
Player to Watch: The Rattlers will need to keep their eyes on Michael Simon, who has been one of the most productive defenders when it comes to transitioning to offense. A misstep by the Rochester offense could easily lead to another Simon goal.
The Rochester defense will be tough for Denver to out play. Manley’s tough crease play will hopefully stop Grant’s tough moves around the net, and Joel White’s ground ball skill will make it difficult for Denver to recover if they make mistakes.
John Galloway (210 saves, 166GA)
Jason LaShomb (7 saves, 6GA)
Despite tough competition in the league, Galloway took home this year’s Warrior Goalie of the Year Award for his undisputable performance this season. He had a regular season high of 194 saves, and a both career and season high of 11.6 GAA. His aggressive play and ability to step out from net have been a large part of Rochester success this year, and will be tough for Denver to get past this weekend.
Jesse Schwartzman (191 saves, 155GA)
Charlie Cipriano (35 saves, 34GA)
Schwartzman will make his third Championship game appearance this Saturday, and has appeared in every single playoff game for the Outlaws since they lost to Rochester in 2008. This year, Schwartzman has been one of the best goalies in the league, and the Outlaws can count on him to make some incredible saves. Cipriano will most likely not get any playing time, unless Schwartzman is injured or falls behind.
Despite Jesse Schwartzman’s skill and experience, Galloway has been too tough in net this season. His quick tempo play and ability to step out to the ball have been tough for every opposing team, and will certainly give Denver a run for their money.
The 2014 MLL Championship Game will certainly be a battle. Both sides have the talent to execute, and this game will likely come down to the final minutes. Denver’s experience and talent around the net will make it very difficult for Rochester to gain an advantage. If the Rattlers go down early like they did in the semi-final, it will be difficult for them to come back and gain the lead against the high scoring Outlaw offense. However, Rochester’s defense cannot be brushed off. Not only are they skilled, but their powerful and gritty play will likely give great opportunities for guys like Leveille and Wolf to finish the job on their attacking end. If Rochester can continue their tough and effective play in the midfield, and remain solid on defense, its unlikely that they won’t be awarded this year’s Steinfeld Trophy.