By Heather Crowley, Major League Lacrosse Writer
The Denver Outlaws will attempt to clinch a playoff berth when they take on the Chicago Machine Saturday without some of its top players. With the World Games taking place in Manchester, England the Outlaws will be missing three of its top scorers, as Drew Westervelt, Brendan Mundorf and Max Seibald will all be playing for Team USA across the pond.
“We are not going to make excuses about who is missing,” Head Coach Brian Reese said. “We are a team and the guys going out there are going to do what it takes to win. I think one of our strengths is our depth. Guys who do not play every game have gotten in there and stepped up. So it’s really about us getting on the same page and knowing our roles and what to expect from our teammates.”
The Outlaws are currently riding a two game win streak, with its last loss coming to Chicago. This will be the first of a three game home stand to close out the season. In this week’s matchup, it will be even more important that the two remaining attackmen, Dan Hardy and Matt Brown, assert themselves on the offense. Against Toronto the two combined for four goals and four assists.
Steve Giannone, who hit the over-time winner against the Nationals, is a player who has quietly contributed to the Outlaws. In the six games he has played in this season, he has scored six goals and one assist. Giannone could play a major role this week, as the last time the Outlaws played Chicago the former Virginia Cavalier posted the first hat trick of his career.
“Steve can do a lot of different things to help us,” Reese said. “Some games, his focus is more on defense or face-off wings and sometimes it’s offense. He has stepped up in different roles and produced when he has gotten his chance. I think he gains confidence with each game.”
Denver goalie Jesse Schwartzman will get a second crack against the team he allowed a season high 18 goals to in week seven. Last time the two teams met, the Leveille brothers combined for a stunning nine goals en route to an 18-14 victory over the Outlaws. Luckily for Schwartzman, the Leveilles, Ned Crotty and Matt Striebel will also be deactivated for week 10 while in England.
The battle between the two teams may not be full strength but it is one that is of extreme importance for the Chicago Machine. All tied up with three other teams at 4-5, the Machine are fighting for their playoffs lives and entering uncharted territory. Since entering the league in 2006, the Machine had never won more than three games nor made the playoffs.
That all changed in 2010. Chicago has already won a franchise best four games and is in position for their first ever playoff berth. By forging forward and racking up more wins, the Machine is making history. This won’t be easy, however, as two of their final three games are in Denver.
With both teams missing key offensive players, the matchup figures to be a low scoring affair. The play of the defense and goalies might decide the winner. Someone may have an opportunity to become the offensive hero in a matchup that will most likely be close.
“I think we are definitely very pleased with the way the last couple of weeks have gone for us,” said Outlaws Defenseman Matt Bocklet. “I feel like we’ve dealt with a lot this season as far as injuries or guys not being able to make games. I thought we’ve handled it quite well. I think the biggest thing is that some of our rookies stepping up and playing like veterans. Going into the end of the season with three home games is definitely a big plus for us.”