The first game of the 2014 MLL season featured the Denver Outlaws barely scraping away with a 14-10 victory over the inaugural Florida Launch.
The heat was heavy in Boca Raton, Fla. as the Outlaws dominated the first half of the game, outscoring the Launch 5-0 in the first quarter and 11-1 by the end of the second. The team now enjoys a 21 consecutive regular season winning streak, carried over from their past three seasons, albeit narrowly after a fight to the end from the Launch.
Drew Snider opened up scoring this season, his first of two goals followed less than a minute later by Coke Player of the Game Chris Bocklet. Bocklet netted his first of five goals with the same shot as Snider, obviating Launch defenseman Tucker Durkin and aiming from the left side of the net, burying it top shelf behind goaltender Brett Queener.
Florida charged back, looking for a 2-point goal to make up the difference merely three minutes into the first, but were shut down by a swarming Outlaws defense and top goaltender Jesse Schwartzman, who set the new League record for the lowest goals-against average last year with 9.27.
The Launch would be unable to penetrate the Outlaws’ defense until the second quarter, often getting caught attempting to move the ball in front of the net or having the ball on one player’s stick for too long. The Outlaws were able to regain possession after every shot attempt by the Launch and turn over the game, Eric Law netting two of his own with passes from Matt Gibson, and Bocklet and Snider both burying power play goals, giving Denver a sturdy 6-0 lead entering the second quarter.
With a sudden burst of energy, MLL veteran Casey Powell stormed Schwartzman in net, allowing Launch midfielder Josh Amidon enough room to slip in a shot around the goaltender, finally putting Florida up on the board.
The high, however, was short lived. Bocklet scored an unassisted goal against Queener, followed by Michael Simon and Sam Snow, completely zapping any energy Amidon’s goal had built within the new team as the margin between the score continued to widen. To make matters worse for Florida, Queener was then hit on his none-dominant forearm with an Outlaws’ shot on net, going down in pain. With over five minutes left in the quarter, Queener continued to play, his efforts thus far in the game the reason the Launch weren’t trailing by more goals.
To add insult to injury, midfielder Jeremy Sieverts, who had 44 of his own points last season, fired a 2-point shot behind Queener, who then did not return after halftime.
Then, the tables turned. The Launch came back from halftime firing, netting the only five goals of the period and leveling the score 11-7. Amidon netted a 2-pointer, while Powell, Andrew Scalley, and Grant Kaleikau all stormed the net, finagling their goals single-handedly, and Kevin Cunningham netted the final of the barrage off of a pass from Powell. In Queener’s place now stood Adam Fullerton, an eight year MLL-veteran from Denver with a .533 average save percentage.
Suddenly enlivened, the Launch began to fight back. It seemed as if everything the Outlaws had been doing right in the first half they were now doing wrong; they couldn’t maintain possession, they were turning over the ball and keeping it in one player’s stick for too long. Florida capitalized with high energy, dominating on the faceoffs, taking good shots, and burying them.
Powell opened up scoring in the final quarter with an assist from Peter Ricci, and then he drew the Launch’s first penalty, a holding call against Outlaws’ Domenic Sebastiani. Scalley took the man advantage to score on the power play, but unfortunately Florida was unable to ever steal the lead from Denver.
The Outlaws battled back with goals again from Bocklet and Justin Pennington, but even a final goal from Powell would not be enough to lift the win from the Outlaws, who were able to finalize the score 14-10.
With this win the Outlaws secure their first of the season. Although they were unable to upset the reigning undefeated team, the Launch exhibited play in the second half that should bolster support both inside and outside of the new Floridian team.
The Outlaws suit up next weekend for their home opener on May 4, hosting the Ohio Machine at 5pm ET. The Launch host the Charlotte Hounds May 3 at FAU Stadium at 7pm ET.
· Chris Bocklet was awarded the Coke Player of the Game with five goals to start the season. Last year he netted 42 goals.
· Goaltender Brett Queener left the game at halftime after withstanding being hit with a shot on net after turning away 15 shot attempts. His current status is unknown.
· Denver had multiple goals from multiple players: Bocklet had five, Snider and Law had two.
· Casey Powell and Josh Amidon helped accrue eight out of Florida’s 15 points in the game, Powell with three goals and two assists and Amidon with two goals and one 2-point goal.