MLL Notebook: Atlanta Blaze Playoff-Bound for First Time in Team History


Atlanta Blaze defenseman Liam Byrnes' monster game Saturday (two goals, one assists, three caused turnovers) helped the team clinch its first-ever playoff appearance.

In each season of its existence, the Atlanta Blaze have improved their win total. The playoffs, however, have been out of reach.

With a 15-14 victory over the Dallas Rattlers on Saturday, not only did Atlanta earn its eighth victory (a franchise record), but also the Blaze are postseason-bound for the first time in franchise history.

“it was extremely emotional for both [head coach] Liam [Banks] and myself,” said Spencer Ford, vice president of player personnel. “[Offensive coordinator] Pat March and [defensive coordinator] Todd Francis, it means a heck of a lot to them, as well. For Liam and I, both there in 2016, this has been a long time coming. It’s been a lot of hard work. Four seasons, we built it from zero. We’re pretty proud of each other and the organization. The feeling was great emotion and great happiness, everything mixed in one.”

Dallas jumped on the Blaze early in the game. After Christian Mazzone scored first for the Blaze, Dallas rattled off five consecutive goals and took a 6-2 lead going into the second quarter. The Blaze, however, used five-goal quarters in the second and third to come from behind and overtake the Rattlers.

Dallas fought in the fourth quarter, scoring five consecutive goals to take a late one-goal lead, but Shayne Jackson and Bryan Cole — both of whom were recently named candidates for the league MVP award — scored to take back the lead and secure the victory.

“This one is for the big guy. This is for Coach Hunts. I’d like to put a ring on his grandson’s finger,” Ford said about his friend, former Blaze head coach Dave Huntley, who passed away in December 2017. “Liam was there [at the inception of the organization]. I was there. Hunts was there. It was frustrating. It was horrible at times. The Atlanta Blaze deserve this. The players, a lot of whom haven’t been given the opportunity, are doing it for him.”

Two teams clinch playoff spots in Boston-Chesapeake game

With its fourth one-goal victory of the season, and second one-goal victory over Chesapeake, the Boston Cannons clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

The Bayhawks defeated the Cannons 12-11 on Saturday.

“The guys started out fast and battled for that entire sixty minutes,” Cannons head coach Sean Quirk said in a press release on the team’s website.

The Cannons scored the game’s first five goals, two of which came from Zed Williams, who finished with a hat trick. Boston maintained a large lead throughout the first three quarters.

The Bayhawks made a spirited comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, outscoring Boston 5-2 thanks in part to two goals from John Wagner. But ultimately, the Bayhawks couldn’t close the gap.

Even with the loss, Chesapeake clinched a spot in the playoffs thanks to a loss by Dallas. Still, Bayhawks head coach Dave Cottle expects to see more from his team as they make a push for the championship.

“I thought we played hard the whole game. Unfortunately, we dug ourselves a big hole that we couldn’t climb all the way out of,” Cottle said in a press release on the team’s website. “I thought the bye week hurt us a bit. We weren’t real sharp early on.”

Denver retakes first place, clinches playoff berth

The Denver Outlaws are back on a roll, winning their third consecutive game and retaking sole possession of first place in the league standings after a 15-12 victory Saturday over the New York Lizards.

Denver scored the first eight goals of the game and maintained a seven-goal lead going into halftime.

New York got four goals from Kevin Crowley in the third quarter to outscore Denver 6-2 in frame and climb back into the game. New York even pulled within one after Brendan Kearns scored his third goal of the night with 6:03 remaining, but goals from Mikie Schlosser and John Grant Jr. cemented the victory for the Outlaws.


Atlanta’s Shayne Jackson scored three goals and added one assist. He has 40 goals on the season, setting a new Blaze single-season record. … MVP candidate Bryan Cole led the Blaze with six points on two goals and four assists. … Both Randy Staats (one goal, four assists) and Tommy Palasek (two goals, three assists) tallied five points for Atlanta. … Rookie Max Edelmann came on in replacement of All-Star goalie Chris Madalon and made 13 saves on 21 shots on goal. … Alex Woodall continued his strong rookie season, winning 18 of 33 faceoffs and picking up nine ground balls. …

The Rattlers were led by attackman Bryce Wasserman, who tallied five points on four goals and one assist. It was a big night for the second-year pro, who arrived to the game by helicopter because he was at a wedding earlier Saturday. …

Dallas rookie Lucas Wittenberg scored two goals and added one assist. … Ryan McNamara and Jack Curran each scored two goals.

Challen Rogers led the Cannons with four points (three goals, one assist). … Mark Cockerton scored two goals. He has 37 on the season, third-most in the league. … Kyle Jackson scored two goals and added one assist. … Faceoff specialist Kevin Reisman went 19-for-27 and picked up 11 ground balls. … Boston goalie Nick Marrocco made 18 saves.

Chesapeake goalie Brian Phipps made his third start of the season, making 13 saves. … MVP candidate Lyle Thompson scored two goals and added one assist. He has a league-leading 44 goals. … Shane Simpson (two goals) and Steele Stanwick (one goal, one assist) each had two points for the Bayhawks.

Denver goalie Dillon Ward made 15 saves against the Lizards. … The Outlaws were led on offense by Ryan Lee (four goals) and Mikie Schlosser (three goals, one assist), who each had four points. … John Grant Jr. continued his incredible comeback season, scoring a goal and adding two assists. … Outlaws faceoff specialist Max Adler went 14-for-29, picked up six ground balls, scored one goal and added two assists.

Kevin Crowley finished the night with five goals. Two other Lizards — Rob Pannell (one goal, four assists) and Brendan Kearns (three goals, two assists) also had five points. … Dylan Molloy scored one goal and added three assists. … Lizards goalie Austin Kaut made 16 saves.

Play of the Week
Randy Staats, A, Atlanta Blaze

Staats is known for being one of the best passers in the league, and he routinely throws behind-the-back passes. What makes this play special is that he hits a cutting Tommy Palasek. Hitting a moving target with a BTB is certainly no easy feat.

Player of the Week
Liam Byrnes, D, Atlanta Blaze

Atlanta has so many players on the offensive side of the ball that put up eye-popping statistics and highlight-reel plays. Byrnes, however, once again showed just how strong of an overall player he is, helping the team in so many facets of the game. The defenseman scored two goals, added an assist, picked up two ground balls and caused a team-high three turnovers. Through Week 14, he leads the league in caused turnovers with 25.

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