By Chris Mahoney | 5/31/12 11:28 AM
The Big Picture: The Denver Outlaws will host the Chesapeake Bayhawks on Saturday at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. ET). The two teams are tied for second place in the standings, as both sit at 3-1, just behind the undefeated Boston Cannons. The Outlaws are 2-1 at home on the season, while the Bayhawks are 2-0 on the road. The winner of this game will claim sole possession of second place, or move into a tie for first should Boston slip up at Rochester on Friday night.
Denver and Chesapeake split their two meetings in 2011, with the road team prevailing both times. In June of 2011, Chesapeake went out to Denver and came away with a 16-15 overtime victory, battling back from a 13-10 fourth quarter deficit. The Outlaws got their revenge in the final week of the season, rolling to a 12-1 halftime lead in a 15-9 rout on Long Island. Both teams lost in the semifinals of the playoffs.
Denver Outlaws: Denver stormed out of the gate this season, blasting each of their first three opponents by at least eight goals. However, the Outlaws’ winning streak was halted by the defending champs, as Boston came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High and won 17-10 in Week 4. Coach Jim Stagnitta commented, “In order to compete in this league, you have to be able to compete with Boston. You have to be able to handle what they throw at you…We have to be better in the middle of the field. We do not defend well at that position.” Stagnitta is hopeful that the influx of draft picks will help the outlaws slow down opposing teams in transition.
Players to Watch: Midfielder Jeremy Sieverts has been the focal point of the Denver offense, compiling 17 points so far this season (3rd in MLL). The offense has been very midfield-oriented in general, as middies Peet Poillon and Terry Kimener are tied for second on the team in scoring with 14 points apiece. Josh Sims - a natural midfielder - leads Denver’s attack unit with 12 points, while the always-dangerous Brendan Mundorf (8 points) is looking to get going after finishing third in the league in scoring in 2011. Stagnitta believes that some of the Outlaws’ draft picks can help out the offense. He is particularly excited about Denver University attackman Mark Matthews, who he thinks is “built for [the MLL] game.” Matthews’ presence will allow Sims to play more midfield, where he is more comfortable. Virginia standout Colin Briggs is another rookie to watch; Stagnitta likes the athleticism that Briggs brings to the middle of the field.
Chesapeake Bayhawks: Chesapeake is also 3-1 on the season, with the only loss coming at the hands of Rochester, a 12-8 decision in Annapolis. However, the Bayhawks rebounded by heading north of the border and crushing Hamilton 20-7 in Week 4. The Bayhawks are the only team in Major League Lacrosse to have scored at least 20 goals twice this season (Denver and Boston have each done it once). Coach Dave Cottle said that his team “played pretty well last game, and hopefully we can continue to improve.”
Players to Watch:Chesapeake’s top four scorers all play midfield. Kyle Dixon (15 points) leads MLL with five two-point goals, and Michael Kimmel (13), Ben Hunt (12), Steven Brooks (11) all contribute to a well-balanced unit. Attackman John Grant Jr. made his presence felt in his first game of the 2012 season, scoring six points on two goals and four assists in Week 4 against the Nationals. His presence could spark the attack group going forward. Second-year defenseman Dan Hostetler has picked up his play this season: Hostetler leads the team with 18 ground balls and has contributed two goals from the back end. Chesapeake has not fully settled on a starting goaltender, but Kip Turner will start this week, and according to Cottle “right now it’s Kip’s job”.
Next Match-Up: Next week, the Bayhawks host the Charlotte Hounds on Saturday June 9th at 7 p.m. ET. The Outlaws will head to Ohio to face the machine Saturday June 9th at 7 p.m. ET.