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Week 9 Preview: Outlaws at Nationals

March 18, 2016
By Heather Crowley, Major League Lacrosse Writer

After downing the Chesapeake Bayhawks on their home turf in front of a record crowd of 23,433 fans on the Fourth of July, the Outlaws will again hit the road to take on the Toronto Nationals. Sharing first place in the league with the Boston Cannons, Denver will try to grab the number one spot that has eluded them thus far.

Although there is no clear-cut top team in the league, this bodes well for Denver. On the flip side, it also gives hope to a Toronto team that struggled early in the season. Toronto started 0-5 but has come storming back to find themselves back in the playoff hunt. The defending champs have turned their season around dramatically over the past three games.

With the Nationals sitting at 3-5, the Outlaws are looking at a very different team than the last time they played on May 29. The Nationals have defeated the Bayhawks, Cannons and Lizards in their quest to get back into the Championship chase. In Denver’s first matchups against the Nationals, the Outlaws grabbed the 15-12 win at home and set a good tone for the series.

The game started as a back and forth affair, tied 3-3 halfway through the second quarter. At that point, Denver’s rapid fire offense took over and put the Outlaws in control with four goals in just over two minutes. Despite the Outlaws putting together a seven point lead, they survived a final Toronto push and pulled out a win.

In the first meeting, Captain Max Seibald failed to score a goal; something he has accomplished in every other game this season. The second year player is second on the team in points with 25 and second in goals with 16. Seibald needs to be on his game against Toronto or the Outlaws offense will suffer. From his rookie year to second year, Seibald improved his shooting percentage from .237 to .333.

“Last year we asked Max to do a lot of different things for us,” Denver head coach Brian Reese said. “Playing offense may not have been the number one thing we needed from him. This year we need his offense and he has worked hard on his game. The thing that stands out the most this season is his shooting. When he has gotten his hands free, he has finished his shots. He has gone against some very good defenders and has won the match up.”

The game also figures to be chippy and intense. Toronto is a team looking to get back to the top, where they were last year, and every game is essential to pushing them back to .500. The last time these two teams met, the game yielded a slew of penalties, 11 in total, with five falling into the unsportsmanlike conduct category. Denver sits with 49.5 penalty minutes on the season, just shy of Long Island’s league leading 53.5 minutes.

Another key for the Outlaws will be face-offs. Against the Bayhawks, Midfielder Andrew Hennessey bested the league’s top face-off man in Alex Smith. By winning 54 percent of his face offs in the win over Chesapeake, Hennessey earned MLL Rookie of the Week honors. If he continues his torrid progress, the Outlaws will prove to be tough to handle for Toronto.

Finally, the Outlaws need sharpshooter Attacker Matt Brown back on the score sheet. The Bayhawks held the precision shooter to zero points despite his seven total shots, four of which were on goal. This was the first time the entire season that Brown had not scored at least two goals in a game. The key contributor can not be missing from the matchup or it could stall Denver’s power play.