Outlaws, Lizards Clinch Last Two Playoff Spots; Pannell Breaks Own MLL Scoring Record

PHOTO BY BRETT DAVIS/PRETTY INSTANT

The Denver Outlaws held on to defeat the Atlanta Blaze 15-14 and clinch an MLL playoff berth when video review of a potential game-tying 2-point goal by Connor Kelly showed his foot was over the line.


Entering Major League Lacrosse’s final week of the 2018 regular season, three teams — the Denver Outlaws, Atlanta Blaze and New York Lizards — were tied for the final two playoff spots. Each team had the ability to win its game and get in; Atlanta was the only team that could not get in with a loss.

The Outlaws traveled to Atlanta to take on the Blaze. It was an epic showdown between Denver, an organization with a rich tradition of playoff success, and Atlanta, the third-year franchise looking for its first playoff appearance.

Denver midfielder Zach Currier scored the opening goal of the game, but the Blaze responded with five consecutive goals, including a 2-pointer from Scott Ratliff, ending the first quarter up 6-3. Atlanta scored twice to open the second quarter, getting out to a five-goal lead, but Denver responded strongly.

In a span of nearly 16 minutes stretching across the second and third quarters, the Outlaws scored seven consecutive goals, and they outscored the Blaze 6-1 in the third quarter.

The Outlaws were holding on to a 15-13 lead with 28 seconds remaining when Atlanta rookie Connor Kelly scored a long-distance goal that seemed to be a tying 2-pointer. After video review, however, the referees ruled Kelly’s toes were over the line, leaving the Blaze down by one; Denver won the game 15-14.

“If anybody is new to Major League Lacrosse, they certainly had a treat tonight,” Outlaws coach B.J. O’Hara said in a post-game interview on Lax Sports Network. “That was an epic battle between two awfully good lacrosse teams. Neither team wanted to lose, and it went right down to the wire.”

Eric Law led Denver with five goals, including the only two Outlaws goals in the fourth quarter. Denver will take on Chesapeake in the semifinals, its 12th trip to the playoffs in 13 seasons. The Outlaws will attempt to return to the championship game for the third consecutive year and fourth time in the past five years.







New York earns fourth seed in playoffs

With a playoff spot on the line and destiny in their control, the New York Lizards came out hot against the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Faceoff specialist Thomas Kelly won the game’s opening faceoff and took it down the field himself for a goal 18 seconds into the game. That would jumpstart the Lizards in outscoring the Bayhawks 6-2 in each of the first two quarters for a 12-4 halftime lead, eventually leading to an 18-11 win.

Kelly won 20 of 27 faceoffs for the game, while the Lizards were paced on offense by big games from Rob Pannell — who broke his own MLL single-season scoring record (see below) during a seven-goal, two-assist performance — Will Manny (three goals, four assists), Joe Walters (one goal, four assists), Joel TInney (three goals) and Paul Rabil (two goals, one assist).

The Lizards will play the Rattlers in Dallas in the semifinals, returning to the playoffs after missing out in 2017.

“It might be the best game we played in the last three years, start to finish, complete four quarters,” Lizards coach Joe Spallina said in a postgame interview on Lax Sports Network. “I’m really happy for our guys. We were 1-3. We were dead and buried in the league. Over our last 10 games we’ve been 7-3, a three-game winning streak going into the playoffs. We’re two wins away from a championship.”

Belisle, Seibald go out with a win

Earlier in the week, MLL veterans Mitch Belisle and Max Seibald, both with the Boston Cannons, announced they would retire after Boston’s Week 15 contest against the Ohio Machine. After rough 2017 and 2018 seasons, both were able to leave the league on a positive note, as the Cannons beat the Machine 23-14, ending the season on a two-game winning streak.

In their final MLL game, Belisle picked up one ground ball and caused two turnovers and Seibald led all players with four assists.

Earlier in the week, Belisle tweeted about his retirement, saying: “For the past week I’ve been trying to think of an appropriate response to all of the love from friends, family & fans. It has meant the world to me & I can’t say thank you enough. I am extremely lucky. I only hope I have, and can continue to make it better than I found it.”

Acquired from Ohio in a trade in May, Boston attackman Mark Cockerton had a huge night, scoring eight goals against his former team. In seven games for the Cannons, Cockerton scored 29 goals and added three assists, finishing second on the team with 32 points.

Boston also got seven points from leading scorer James Pannell (four goals, three assists).

Noteworthy

Dillon Ward made 13 saves in goal for the Outlaws. … Drew Snider, Zach Currier, and Matt Kavanagh each scored two goals and added two assists for four points apiece for the Outlaws. … Five Atlanta players — Connor Kelly, Scott Ratliff, Kevin Rice, Christian Cuccinello, and Tommy Palasek — tallied three points. … There was a 95-minute weather delay.

The Chesapeake Bayhawks were led by Myles Jones (one goal, four assists) and Lyle Thompson (three goals, two assists). Thompson played a role in every Bayhawks goal in the third quarter, scoring two and assisting two others. … Chesapeake attackmen Steele Stanwick and Josh Byrne each tallied four points. … Lizards goalies Drew Adams made 14 saves on 24 shots on goal. …

Dallas overcame a 7-2 deficit to beat Florida, 14-13. … Ned Crotty scored a 2-point goal with 20 seconds remaining to lift the Rattlers over the Launch. It was his third goal of the night, and he totaled a team-high four points. … Dallas goalie John Galloway made 17 saves on 30 shots on goal. … Kieran McArdle and Connor Buczek each scored three goals and added two assists for the Launch. … Florida goalie Austin Kaut made 17 saves on 30 shots on goal. …

In his first game back in Boston since being traded in May, Ohio attackman Davey Emala was held to a single assist. … Rookies led the way for the Machine in their disappointing season finale, as Bryce Wasserman had a team-high five points on four goals and one assist while Justin Guterding scored four goals. … Boston rookie Trevor Baptiste had his biggest MLL game to date, winning 30 of 37 faceoffs. … Along with Seibald, Shack Stanwick and Zed Williams each earned four points. … Earning his second consecutive victory, Boston goalie Nick Marracco made 12 saves on 21 shots on goal.

PHOTO BY DAN NILSEN/PRETTY INSTANT

New York Lizards attackman Rob Pannell finished the regular season with 78 points, breaking his own Major League Lacrosse record of 74 set in 2016 and doing so despite playing in one fewer game.

Player of the Week
Rob Pannell, A, New York Lizards

Pannell had nine points against the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the most from any player in Week 15. He finished the season first in the league in goals (43), assists (35) and points (78). His nine-point game helped him break the MLL single-season points record, which he set in 2016; he broke the record even though he played in one fewer game in 2018.

“It’s full swing, always moving forward, just thinking about what’s next and how I can improve,” Pannell said in a post-game interview on Lax Sports Network. “I guess with that attitude, it’s how I kind of got to this place. It’s pretty cool when you think about it like that. I think years down the line, when I’m retired and all done playing, I’ll take a look back and look at it, but at that point the record won’t be mine anymore.”

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