MLL Notebook: Iwamoto Becomes First Japanese Citizen to Play in League

PHOTO BY RON CHENOY

Kai Iwamoto made nine saves on 19 shots in just over 49 minutes of action for the Outlaws.


While the Japanese men’s national lacrosse team impressed at the FIL World Championships in Israel and earned a place in the Blue Division for the 2022 tournament, another Japanese lacrosse player made history Sunday in Denver in Major League Lacrosse.

With goalies Jack Kelly (United States) and Dillon Ward (Canada) playing in the gold medal game at the World Championships, Kaisuke Iwamoto became the first Japanese citizen to play in Major League Lacrosse when he started for the Outlaws in their home finale against the Dallas Rattlers.

“Kai has been with us all year. He tried out last year (2017) in the open tryout. We are pretty confident in our assessment of him that he can help us,” Denver head coach B.J. O'Hara said in an article on MLL's website. “We have been hosting these open tryouts for a while and we’ve been able to get some pretty good players out of it. That's something that we feel really good about.”

Iwamoto was born in Tokyo and began playing lacrosse as a freshman in high school. He moved to the United States in 2015 and enrolled at UC Irvine in 2016. He tried out for the Outlaws in the spring of 2017 at the team’s open tryouts. He didn’t make the final roster but tried out again before the 2018 season and made the team, even earning a spot on the active roster for the team’s May 4 game against the Lizards.

Although the Rattlers defeated the Outlaws in Week 13 – pushing Denver’s opportunity to earn a playoff spot back another week – Iwamoto made nine saves on 19 shots in just over 49 minutes of action before giving way for Matt Hanley, also making his MLL debut. Iwamoto made four saves in the second quarter, helping hold Dallas scoreless until John Sexton’s two-point goal in the final minute of the quarter.

“It would be a lie if I said that I wasn't honored to play in the MLL as the first Japanese lacrosse player. I will be playing for my family, friends, and everyone who has supported and encouraged me,” Iwamoto said in the article prior to the game. “However, more importantly, I would just love to win this game, to clinch the playoffs and to [go on to] win the championship. That’s the reason why I’m here.”

Streaks Snapped

When the Bayhawks met the Hounds on the field in Week 13, the matchup was a tale of two teams trending in different directions. The Bayhawks, sitting in second place in the league standings, were winners of seven consecutive games. The Hounds, once the top team in the league and undefeated, came into the game holding on to the last playoff spot with a four-game losing streak and losers of five of their previous six games.

This is why they play the game, however.

Charlotte handily defeated Chesapeake, 20-10, sweeping the season series with the Bayhawks (Chesapeake’s last loss was against Charlotte, on May 3).

After two consecutive games of failing to score more than 10 points, the Hounds offense exploded with 11 players earning at least one point. The team was led by five points apiece from Mike Chanenchuk (two goals, one two-point goal, two assists) and Kevin Cooper (four goals, one assist).

Hounds attackman Dylan Maltz continued to have Chesapeake’s number, scoring three goals. Of his 17 goals in the 2018 season, six have come against the Bayhawks.

“It’s how we started the season. It was a team-win at both ends of the field,” Hounds head coach Jim Stagnitta said in a post-game interview on Lax Sports Network. “Pierce was great in the cage. Our defense slid and recovered. We won some faceoffs, and we were patient on offense. We’re going to win as a team, not as individuals. We’ve had a little trouble with the lineup, as we’ve talked about, but the guys shared the ball tonight and they really stepped up.”

For the Bayhawks, head coach Dave Cottle did not use the heavy rains or the numerous lineup changes as an excuse for missing an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot.

“I thought the Charlotte Hounds made every effort play and were more alert than the Bayhawks. They definitely got what they deserved,” he said in a press release sent from the team. “Without question, the better team won tonight, and we have to move on.”







Who’s Who in Week 13

With many MLL stars in Israel for the World Championships, there were a number of holes in the rosters for teams playing in Week 13. Reminiscent of the beginning of the year, when the MLL season overlaps with the NLL and NCAA seasons, however, new players got opportunities to make an impact and force their way into the roster moving forward.

Rookie Matt Prater scored a goal for the Hounds. Five rookies debuted for the Outlaws (Iwamoto, Hanley, Peter Conley, Zack Melillo, and Connor O’Hara), while Jake Pulver made his MLL debut with the Rattlers. Jeff, Justin, and Troy Reh all debuted with the Lizards (with Jeff registering one goal and one assist), and Bryce Wasserman made his debut for the Machine and scored his first goal.

A couple NLL stars also made long-awaited returns to the league.

Cody Jamieson played in his first MLL game since 2016; that season he played two games, the only two he had played from 2014 through 2017. Jamieson scored in the third quarter. In Dallas, Zack Greer scored three goals in his first MLL game since 2014.

Noteworthy

Four players tallied three points apiece in the Rattlers 13-12 victory over Denver: Ben Reeves (two goals, one assist), Jordan MacIntosh (one goal, two assists), Ryan McNamara (three goals), and Zack Greer (three goals). … Reeves’s second goal was the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining in the game. … Rattlers faceoff specialist Drew Simoneau won 20 of his 28 faceoffs and picked up seven ground balls. … Dallas clinched a home playoff game. … Matt Kavanagh led the Outlaws with five points (three goals, two assists). … Charlotte goalie Pierce Bassett made 11 saves on 21 shots on goal. … Matt Rambo (one goal, three assists) and Tim Rotanz (three goals, one assist) each had four points apiece for the Hounds. … Bayhawks leading scorer Colin Heacock scored four goals against Charlotte. … Jay Carlson scored one goal and added two assists in his first game of the 2018 season. … Joe Walters scored five goals and added one assist in New York’s victory over Boston. … Former Cannon Will Manny had two goals and two assists against Boston, including scoring the game-winning goal. Boston’s James Pannell, also playing his former team, scored six goals and added one assist. … Zed Williams scored three goals and added two assists in Boston’s loss. … Atlanta defender Liam Byrnes covers Ohio’s Justin Guterding and held him to three shots; Guterding was efficient, however, scoring a pair of goals on just those three shots. … Blaze goalie Adam Ghitelman made 12 saves. … Kevin Rice scored three goals and added one assist for Atlanta.

Players of the Week

Blaze Riorden, G, Dallas Rattlers

With the season’s end quickly approaching, wins are at a premium. With many top players in Israel for the World Championships, those wins are even harder to come by. Riorden put together a strong performance in the absence of starting goalie John Galloway to help lead his team to a one-goal victory.

Riorden made 16 saves on 28 shots on goal while picking up seven ground balls. His biggest impact came in the fourth quarter, where he made seven saves including several close-range shots.

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