Denver Headed Back to MLL Championship Game

PHOTO BY PRETTY INSTANT/ISAIAH DOWNING

Defending champion Denver went on a nine-goal run in the second half to beat Rocheter 15-8 in Saturday's first Major League Lacrosse semifinal.


DENVER — Capitalizing on intervals of momentum amidst a grueling mix of blistering heat and inclement weather, including an hour-long lightning delay, the Denver Outlaws arose triumphant over the Rochester Rattlers in the Saturday's Major League Lacrosse playoff match at the University of Denver's Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Denver (10-5) will travel to Frisco, Texas for its third MLL title game appearance within the past four years following the 15-8 victory over Rochester (8-7).

Rochester held the upper hand in season series after defeating the Outlaws 16-15 and 18-12 in the regular season, but Denver excelled before a spirited crowd of 2,681 fans.

"I've never been this excited to go to Texas," Denver head coach B.J. O'Hara said. "The first half wasn't the most well-played half, but certainly was a grinder."

Three goal runs in the first and second quarters gave Denver a 6-3 halftime lead, but the Outlaws struggled at the X, finishing with just 7-of-25 faceoff wins. The Outlaws' relentless defensive execution saved the game. Denver forced 20 turnovers and goalie Jack Kelly made 16 saves.

"It was tremendous against a great offensive team," O'Hara said. "Jack was our backbone. Finn Sullivan covered Jordan Wolf, who in my mind is one of the very best attackmen in the world, shutting him out. Our defensive middies; (Greg) Downing, (Noah) Molnar and (Nick) Ossello were tough as nails. Matt Blocklet and Mike Simon blocked a lot of passes on defense."
 







Simon was imperative in the victory, converting Denver's two most critical goals. After forcing a turnover in the second quarter, Simon joined the attack and provided the goal-ahead goal to end a 12-minute scoring drought.

Early in the third quarter, Simon mirrored his previous success on net by extending the Outlaws' lead to 7-4, sparking a nine-goal run. Matt Kavanagh had five of his game-high six assists during the nine-goal run and led the Outlaws with six points. Eric Law added three goals and an assist.

"This team is all about knowing your role. Part of that role is taking advantage of opportunities when they're given to you," Simon said. "Even though my objective when I'm coming down with the ball isn't necessarily to be a goal scorer, I am part of the offense. At that point I put myself in a position to take advantage of the defense's misstep or get a good pass off. It's really just about the team, doing your role and feeding off of guys around you."

The Outlaws recent domination is attributed to the ability to overcome obstacles faced.

"We've dealt with rain delay issues before and adversity, but that's something this team thrives off of," Simon said. We had a lot of confidence from last season knowing we are the stronger team out of the delay. When we have to face a little adversity I don't think anyone sees it as a negative."

The opportunity to play in the MLL championship game for the second consecutive year is an accomplishment in itself, but the Outlaws won't be satisfied until they are once again hoisting the Steinfeld Cup when all is said and done.

"In any professional sports league I think the most challenging thing is not just wining a championship, but getting back," Simon said. "Just getting back to the championship is not our goal, but to win two [titles] in-a-row would be something not a lot of teams have done. It would be a huge accomplishment and something I'd cherish forever."

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