By Rachel Villari | 4/15/14 10:00 AM
Over the next two weeks, MajorLeagueLacrosse.com will preview all eight teams in the league, moving from those with the worst to the best finishes last season.
2013 Record: 4-10
Key Losses: Stephen Peyser (M), Mark Matthews (A)
Key Additions: Kyle Hartzell (D), Ned Crotty (A/M), Matt Striebel (M), Devon Wills (G)
2013 in Review:
The New York Lizards spent the majority of the season trying to stay afloat while plagued with injury and an inability to show up on the scoreboard. Compared to their 2012 season where they captured the fourth seed in the playoffs, the Lizards finished the 2013 season in second-to-last place, just in front of the Ohio Machine. Despite appearing in only 10 games, Rob Pannell was still able to accrue 20+ points along with Tommy Palasek; although they were the only two players able to pass this hallmark, as opposed to the six that did so in 2012.
The Lizards have never been kept out of the playoffs for consecutive seasons, so expect them to kick this season off healthy and offensively ready. With the return of their incredible backstop Drew Adams, who led the league with the most saves in 2013 with 209 stops and a respectable .549 save percentage, the Lizards’ net-minding will surely be steadfast. Adams, coupled with newcomer Devon Wills (G), should set up the backbone for a playoff worthy defense.
Adding to the defensive depth, the Lizards traded for Kyle Hartzell, who they hope will function as more than just a protector in front of the net. Hartzell is the only defenseman in MLL history to win the Championship Weekend MVP (2010), and in 2011, he was awarded as the Fastest Shot Champion at the All-Star Game. In the 14 games he played with the Chesapeake Bayhawks in 2012, he scored 11 goals and scooped 60 ground balls, and last season, he scored six goals and scooped 55 ground balls in 14 games with Ohio.
Although the Lizards lost midfielder Stephen Peyser and attackman Mark Matthews, they were sure to secure Greg Gurenlian, who owned in faceoff domination last season and is currently boasting the highest single season winning percentage (.640). Adding to the stellar depth in midfield will be MLL veteran, three-time Steinfeld Cup winner, nine-time MLL All-Star Matt Striebel. Striebel leads the league in games played (150) and brings with him some impressive offensive records. Last season he ranked seventh in the league in 2-point goals scored (7), and he is currently third in the league with career points (348).
The acquisition of Ned Crotty (A/M) will also provide some two-way attack much needed by the Lizards, so not only will these all-star midfielders be able to gain possession, but they will also be able to produce points with it. Last season, Crotty tallied 15 goals, 20 assists, and one 2-point goal, setting the Rochester Rattlers’ team high with 36 total points. Crotty’s 44-game career boasts an offensively reassuring 141 points with 70 goals, 70 assists, and one 2-point goal; the New York Lizards are counting on him to help relieve some of the offensive pressure put on Pannell.
Although we’re not entirely sure the Lizards will be in serious playoff contention right out of the gate, this season will see immense improvement from their last. With hot-handed attack-minded players on every level of the field, the Lizards should have no problem finding the back of the net on any given game. Now that they’ve made the necessary adjustments to their roster, all they need to do do is stay healthy.
What the Experts Say:
Laxworm – Mike Sportini: After a disappointing 2013 season the Lizards feel they have something to prove in 2014, I expect to see the Lizards playing the final game of the MLL season. Coach Spallina put together a tremendous off season effort to get Striebel, Crotty, Hartzell, DeNapoli and draftees Fletcher and Duprey who should take the lizards from 4-10 to the Championship. The addition of a weapon like Crotty, should take some of the pressure off Pannell to be the star and create a righty and lefty combo that will be trouble for every team. Then add Palasek, and Mock for a great off ball and you have probably the league’s best attack squad. The Midfielders will be stronger this year - a healthy Max Siebald ,a more confident Jo Jo Marasco , a veteran in Matt Striebel and an improved David Earl will create matchup problems coupled with that potent attack group - LOOK OUT!! This team also sports the best faceoff man in the business and one of the best goalies in the world, the biggest question is can they play as a team and not individual names if so, this can be the Lizards season!
Laxdirt.com – Tim Thomas Once again this team has loaded up. They have talent for days and are stacked at every position. However the same was said heading in to last season. This is a team that has something to prove. They bring in veteran leadership with Ned Crotty and Matt Striebel, they shore up their defense in my mind by getting the two best poles in the collegiate draft and they move on from some pieces that didn't fit what they were trying to do. How far this team goes is going to come down to how Joe Spallina puts together the pieces of the puzzle. Cohesion and teamwork was an issue last season this season, if they want to win, it can't be. I have New York penciled in to my top four in the preseason.
Check back tomorrow as we preview the Boston Cannons.