While both seem to be on pace to grab a playoff spot early on in the year, this game means more than just a tally in the win column. A victory on Saturday night presents an opportunity for one of these two clubs to assert their dominance atop the MLL standings, as well take a stranglehold on the race for Championship Weekend’s number one seed. With both teams at the top of their game early on in 2013 the question can be asked, who has the advantage?
Both of these teams have the ability to light up the scoreboard, but who has the more potent offense?
- Led in scoring by Kevin Crowley (22 Points) who ranks second in the league among point scorers.
- Kevin Cunningham is currently leading the league in assists with 10. Nationals are number one in MLL this season with 43 teams assists.
- Hamilton’s offense on the road has been impressive; they have outscored road opponents 42-26 this season. They’ll have to continue that trend in order to stump a stingy Denver defense.
- The Nats have been impressive in the second half of their games so far this season. In the 3rd and 4th quarters Hamilton has been able to net 29 total goals.
- Ranked second in the league in man up opportunities converting at a 39% success rate.
- The Outlaws currently lead the league in goals (87) and points (124)
- Chris Bocklet leads the team in scoring with 16 goals through his first five games.
- Are undefeated when leading after the third quarter.
- Have the potential to make defenses pay from behind the arc. Jeremy Sieverts is second in the league in two-point shots made, with three.
- An outstanding second half team, Denver has been unstoppable after halftime so far this season putting up a combined 46 goals in the third and fourth quarter of games.
- The Outlaws have the ability to run away from teams when they’re hot. So far in 2013 their margin of victory has never been under three goals.
Denver’s ability to shoot from the outside, which happens to be a weakness for Nats’ goaltender Brett Queener, is a dimension of offense that Hamilton doesn’t have right now. Additionally, the Outlaws man-up unit has the ability to score every time they possess the ball. Denver’s offense is extremely talented and is a key for them to come out of this game with a victory.
- Currently ranks second in the league in shots allowed per games.
- Man down unit has been killing 82% of penalties, good enough for first in MLL.
- Killing 60% of penalties at home.
- Lee Zink, the reigning defensive player of the year, has been solid so far this season collecting six ground balls in four appearances.
- Rank fourth in the league in goals against (10.80).
- Second in the league in goals against (10.00).
- Killing 61% of man down situations, seventh in the league.
- Brodie Merrill has been influential on both sides of the field for the Nats.
Despite Denver’s strong defense, Hamilton’s defenders have the ability to be play makers as well as shut down opposing offenses. Don’t be surprised to see Brodie Merrill take a couple of caused turnovers to the Denver cage, the former defensive player of the year has four points so far this season. In a game that will largely be powered on momentum, the National defenders have the potential to provide a spark on either end of the field at any given moment.
In a game that will likely produce 30 goals or more, goaltending will be the tipping point in this matchup of the MLL elite.
- Sometimes runs a two-goalie system, which can result in inconsistency fro Brett Queener.
- Queener has play making ability, but threat of running can also be detrimental if a turnover occurs.
- Queener: 3-0 record, 8.21 GAA, 53 saves, .679 save percentage, a pair of two point goals allowed.
- Jesse Schwartzman is a seasoned MLL veteran who has has some big game experience as a starter.
- Doesn’t have a lot of versatility in his game, but excels with clearing passes.
- Schwartzman: 5-0 record, 10.80 GAA, 60 saves, .545 save percentage, one 2 point goal allowed.
Even though Jesse Schwartzman has been good so far in 2013, Brett Queener is playing the best lacrosse that we’ve ever seen from him. His unique ability to develop saves into scoring opportunities with his legs is something that Denver hasn’t seen yet this year. If Queener can hold onto the ball when he darts for the midfield line, his skill set is going to be a game changer.
While statistics may be able to help determine who has the advantage in this game, the truth is that both of these two teams have an “X” factor that can’t be measured by statistical analysis. Even though these stats have shown that Hamilton may have the advantage in this matchup, Denver’s toughness and ability to win hard fought games is something that can’t be accounted for with numbers. No matter who comes out of this one on top, be prepared for a game that’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.