By Chris Mahoney | 7/5/12 12:33 PM
Watch & Follow Friday: National TV: CBS Sports Network, Web: Live Blog
Watch & Follow Saturday: National TV: ESPN2 Syndicated TV: Armed Forces Network Web: ESPN3, Live Blog
The Big Picture: New York rivals Long Island and Rochester will play a home-and-home set on Friday and Saturday night. This will be the only two matchups of the season between the Lizards and the Rattlers.
Last season, the Lizards beat the Rattlers both times the two teams met, though neither squad had much overall success as both missed the playoffs. This season, both teams have been better, and a sweep for either team would have important playoff implications.
Long Island Lizards: After starting the season 0-2, the Lizards have caught fire, winning five straight and climbing all the way to second-place in the standings (percentage points ahead of Denver). Before the All-Star break, the Lizards used a stellar 7-0 fourth quarter to pull away from the Outlaws in an impressive 14-8 win. Two wins this weekend for Long Island would put them in sole possession of second-place, one game back of Chesapeake (assuming the Bayhawks handle Charlotte).
Players to Watch: Rookie Matt Gibson has transformed the Long Island offense. The Yale product has 20 points in only five games, but most importantly has given the Lizards’ offense a true playmaker at the attack position to play alongside Grant Catalino and Ryan Young. Midfielders Brian Langtry and Max Seibald are Long Island’s primary midfield options; Langtry and Seibald rank one-two on the Lizards in scoring, respectively. Goaltender Drew Adams has had an excellent season so far, playing all but two minutes between the pipes for the Lizards so far. He is second in the league in save percentage.
Rochester Rattlers: These two games are huge for Rochester. The Rattlers are capable of beating any team in the league, as they have proven with wins over Chesapeake and Boston, but they do not always bring consistent effort, as confirmed by their 3-4 record. A game and a half out of the final playoff spot, time is running out for the Rattlers to make a run. However, the Rattlers control their own fate: two wins this weekend and they can be in playoff position (via tiebreaker with Long Island) by Sunday.
Players to Watch: The health of Ned Crotty is something to watch going forward. Crotty could return this week, but will likely not be at full strength. When healthy, Crotty is unquestionably Rochester’s best offensive player. In the meantime, veteran Kevin Leveille and the emerging Steven Boyle will need to step up on attack. The Rattlers haven’t gotten much from their offensive midfield so far, but SSDM Steve DeNapoli and LSM Joel White have explosive transition skills.