MLL Notebook: Sunday's Game-Winner Wins All-Star Game for Team Ice

Brendan Sunday, wearing No. 24, scored the game-winning goal for Team Ice to seal the MLL All-Star Game victory.


The hero of the 2019 MLL All-Star Game played for Team Ice and wore No. 24.

On first thought, one would associate that number 24 with the legendary John Grant Jr., playing in his first All-Star game since 2007. Even though he scored two goals in the 2019 contest, it was not Grant who provided the late-game heroics; that honor went to Atlanta Blaze rookie Brendan Sunday.

Sunday — who also scored the first goal of the night — scored in overtime to give Team Ice the 16-15 victory.

“I had some success earlier in the game sneaking from X on the backside pipe,” Sunday said as he described his game-winning goal. “Lyle Thompson and Brendan Bomberry were running the two-man game up top. Lyle garners so much attention. [The defense was] looking to slide early. I saw my guy fill in as the second slide. I snuck in right behind him, and Lyle has some of the best vision in the world so he found me on the backside and I was fortunate enough to get the finish.”

Sunday’s goal at the beginning of the game was followed by a goal from Team Ice teammate Max Adler to take a 2-0 lead. Team Fire would score nine of the next 12 goals in order to take a two-goal lead into halftime.

Team Ice never regained the lead in regulation, but they outscored Team Fire 4-1 in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to a two-point goal from Justin Pugal and the equalizer from Bryce Wasserman with 1:18 remaining in the quarter.

“Things started getting a little tense at the end of the fourth quarter, going into overtime,” Sunday said. “It got really competitive. It was a great feeling seeing the ball go in the back of the net.”

Sunday finished the night with four goals and one assist. His helper went to none other than John Grant Jr., a man Sunday idolized growing up and who was wearing the same number as him on Saturday.

“We talked about it in the locker room,” Sunday said. “He looked down at me. I looked down at him. I said, ‘You’ve got my number.’ He was like, ‘No, you’ve got my number.’ It was funny. He’s one of the best to ever do it. It’s amazing he’s still doing it at this age, and you just have to respect everything he does. It was an honor to play with him tonight, and I look forward to playing against him again at some point this season.”







Alumni Return

There were some familiar faces on the sidelines for the All-Star Game as the league had three MLL alumni act as assistant coaches for the All-Star Game.

Joining B.J. O’Hara on the Team Fire sidelines were Paul Cantabene and Spencer Ford while Brian Reese was a part of Bill Warder’s staff with Team Ice.

Ford played eight seasons in Major League Lacrosse. He won the Most Improved Player award in 2007 when he set the single-season assists record, a mark that still stands. He currently works in the league as the Atlanta Blaze Vice President of Player Personnel and as Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Alumni Development.

In five MLL seasons from 2001 to 2005, Reese was selected to play in the All-Star Game four times. Reese then spent time as the head coach and general manager of the Denver Outlaws, winning Coach of the Year honors in 2009. He joined the Chesapeake Bayhawks as general manager in 2011 and took over head coaching duties in 2016 and 2017.

“To see guys like Rob Pannell, Lyle Thompson, John Grant Jr., I played against Junior and played with him a little bit,” Reese said. “I coached Lyle, but to see them on the same field and the same offense, every time you step on the field you see something new and different from those guys. I think that should be worth the price of admission.”

Cantabene was another member of the inaugural MLL season, playing six seasons. He won three MLL championships, was an All-Star five times, and was a two-time All-MLL selection. When he retired, he held league records for career faceoff wins (1,015) and career ground ball (538).

“I thought it was a really cool thing to do since I was involved in one of the first [All-Star games],” Cantabene said. “To help out a little bit in this scenario, I think it’s a special thing to do that and see where these guys have come from, from where we’ve come from.”

Faceoff Specialists Shine

Each team in the All-Star game had two faceoff specialists: Greg Puskuldjian and Alex Woodall for Team Fire, and Max Adler and Kevin Reisman for Team Ice. Even though three of the four were making their All-Star Game debuts, the group was impressive.

Adler won nine of 15 faceoffs for Team Ice, and he scored the second goal of the game when he won the faceoff, picked up the ground ball, and took it to the other end himself. Not to be outdone, Woodall and Resiman scored the first two goals of the third quarter when each won the faceoff and took the ball on the fastbreak themselves.

“All the faceoff guys, the four of us, got our fair share of faceoff wins, so all-in-all it was a great night,” Woodall said. “It was cool because we’ve all coached together before. Getting to know each other at the game all at the same time, all on one field, was good. It’s a challenge. It gets all of us better. It’s competitive. It was fun.”

Noteworthy

The 2019 MLL All-Star Game was the ninth time the game was decided by one goal, and it was the fourth to go to overtime. Neither of those figures include the 2012 MLL All-Star Game, when the Old School All-Stars beat the Young Guns in a shootout. … Each team’s captain had an impressive night as Rob Pannell (three goals, two assists) and Lyle Thompson (four goals, one assist) each had five points. … Two long-poles scored in the game, both of whom play for the Boston Cannons: Pugal and Ryland Rees. The Cannons led all teams with four different goal scorers: Pugal, Rees, Reisman (one goal), and Mark Cockerton (two goals, one assist). … Rookie defenders Rees and Jake Pulver led all players with three caused turnovers. … Chesapeake Bayhawks goalie Niko Amato, playing on his home field, led all goalies with 11 saves and only six goals allowed.

Player of the Game

Dylan Molloy, A, Team Fire

No, his team did not win the game, but there’s a legitimate reason Molloy was named New Balance Player of the Game and rewarded with a $10,000 check. Molloy led all players with five goals and six points. He also provided plenty of material for the highlight reel with his behind-the-back goal in the first quarter and the way he just ran through defenders and shrugged them off.

Play of the Week

You expect great plays in an all-star game, and the 2019 MLL All-Star Game didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of behind-the-back goals and great one-on-one saves from goaltenders to keep viewers excited. Mark Cockerton’s second-quarter goal was extra impressive. There is a smoothness to how he goes into the behind-the-back shot directly from the catch that is incredibly appealing. A bonus to the video is Rob Pannell’s reaction as he comes over to celebrate with his teammate.

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