Saturday, May 12 7 p.m. ET | Harvard Stadium | Boston, MAWatch & Follow: CSNNE (5/13 4 p.m.), COX NO (tape delay 5/13 3 p.m.), Brighthouse (5/13 3 p.m.) Web: ESPN3, Live Blog
The Big Picture: The Boston Cannons will host the Hamilton Nationals this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The Cannons are off to a rousing title defense, beginning the season 2-0 start after their 15-3 victory over the Rochester Rattlers on April 28 and last weekend’s 20-12 victory over the Charlotte Hounds last weekend. The Nationals dropped their season opener 15-6 to the Denver Outlaws last weekend. This game represents a rematch of the 2011 MLL Finals, which saw Boston outlast Hamilton 10-9 to win its first Steinfeld Trophy.
Boston Cannons: The Cannons have picked up right where they left off last season, as they have rolled to a 2-0 record. They are coming off commanding wins against Charlotte (20-12) and Rochester (15-3). However, they will not get complacent with a very strong Hamilton team coming in this weekend. “Obviously, the Nationals bring a different challenge for us this week,” says Coach Duffy. “Like us, they are going to be adding some of their inactive players to the roster this week and we are looking forward to the challenge and to playing in front of our fans at home.” Playing this season with a bull’s-eye on their back hasn’t affected the Cannons at all. “It has been a point of emphasis to play this season and not play in the past,” says Duffy. “We’ve got a great group of guys and I know that there is always talk about the championship hangover but for us, it’s more of a hunger. Having played and won the championship makes you hungry and makes you want to have that experience again.”
They are loaded at just about every position, led by last season’s league Bud Light Season MVP and Warrior Offensive Player of the Year Paul Rabil. Rabil, who tied for a league-high 50 points last season, has 11 points on 5 goals and 6 assists so far this season. “Paul has a strong understanding of what we’re trying to do and what we all need to do for our team to be successful,” says Duffy. “I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Boston has also gotten amazing contributions from attackmen Ryan Boyle, Ari Sussman and Matt Poskay. Through the team’s first two games, Boyle has tied Rabil for the team lead in points with 11 (1 goal 10 assists), while Sussman has added 8 points on 6 goals and 2 assists. Poskay made his season debut in explosive fashion last weekend, pumping in 5 goals.
On the defensive end, Boston has been shutting opponents down. After an amazing playoff run last season, Jordan Burke has dominated so far this season. Burke has only allowed 15 goals in 120 minutes this season, with an insane 67.4 save percentage.
Players to Watch: Paul Rabil is a perennial all-star and will certainly be looking to make his mark on this game.If Hamilton focuses too much on shutting Rabil down, Boston is filled with capable scorers like Ryan Boyle and Matt Poskay who can pick up the slack. Face-off man Chris Eck has won 34 of 56 face-offs this season and is a big reason why Boston has so many offensive chances. Boston will also get a boost when Kevin Buchanan, Pat Heim and Brad Ross make their 2012 debut. Ross (29 points), Buchanan (26 points) and Heim (13 points) were among the team leaders in 2011, playing a major role in the Cannons’ championship run.
Week 2 Game Highlights
Hamilton Nationals: Hamilton began their 2012 season with a 15-6 loss in Denver last weekend against the Outlaws. While the final score may not show it, the game was very close for much of the game. “We played a very good Denver team who plays especially well at home,” says Nationals Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “It was a closer first period before they got on a roll. That will be a key for us this season, we have to stop runs. We can’t give up a 7-0 run like we did against Denver and expect to beat Boston.”
In playing Boston, they will have their work cut out for them. “Boston is a great team, obviously they are the defending champions,” says Thorpe. “I think our guys are excited and are ready for the challenge.”
Hamilton will certainly get a boost this weekend as they are returning several players for the game on Saturday. Hamilton has activated Brodie Merrill, Kevin Crowley, Geoff Snider, Jeremy Thompson, Dan Coates, Adam Jones, and rookies Kiel Matisz and Gerry Reilly. Coates, Jones, Matisz and Reilly are all expected to make their MLL debuts in Boston.
Merrill will be a huge addition to the Nationals, who struggled at times last week to stop Denver’s offensive attack. He is a six-time defending Warrior MLL Defensive Player of the year and one of the best shutdown defensemen the league has ever seen.
Players to watch: Brodie Merrill is a veteran presence and a major part of the foundation of this National’s team and he will be making his season debut this weekend. If the Nationals are going to slow down Boston’s explosive offense, Merrill will have to come up big. The Nationals also feature former number one overall draft pick Kevin Crowley, who will also be making his season debut this weekend.
Week 2 Game Highlights
Next Match-Up: The Nationals will face the Bayhawks at home on Friday, May 18 at 11 a.m. ET. The Cannons will travel to Denver to take on the Outlaws on Saturday, May 19 at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. ET).