By Heather Crowley (Major League Lacrosse writer)
Playing in Harvard Stadium has not been kind to the Denver Outlaws (3-2), as the Outlaws had déjà vu in a 17-12 road loss to the Boston Cannons (3-2.
Outlaws Attacker Matt Brown continued to stay hot as he netted four goals on the day, bringing his total to nine goals in his past two games. For Denver, the game also introduced two of its newest draftees, Ken Clausen and Sean DeLaney, to Major League Lacrosse in their rookie debuts.
“The young guys came on, the rookies, and hit the ground running,” Midfielder Max Seibald said. “They did a bunch of positive things and they were holding it down.”
The two newcomers took the field for the first time of the MLL careers, making their presence felt. DeLaney grabbed two ground balls while Clausen got a shot, although it was off goal. Playing Boston on the road may not have been the easiest scenario for a first game, as the Outlaws have lost to Boston twice on the road this season, but these rookies will need to grow up fast for their next challenger; The Chesapeake Bayhawks.
“I thought they both played well,” Denver Head Coach Brian Reese said. “You could tell they were a little hesitant at first but once they got going, they were fine. DeLaney didn’t get too many runs and that is my fault. I need to get them both in the game more so they can get comfortable.”
The Outlaws road trip does not get any easier as they face the best team in the league, the Bayhawks, next. Chesapeake is arguably the most complete team in the league and the matchup will shakeup the standings no matter the outcome. This will be the first meeting between the two teams, as the Outlaws look to knock the Bayhawks out of the top spot.
“They have the best record in the league and we will have our work cut out for us,” Reese said. “They have the highest scoring offense in the league and great talent there, so our defense will have to be sharp.”
Bayhawks Midfielder Peet Poillion leads the league in points, with 24, and has the ability to either score his own goals or create for his teammates
Despite the stingy defense and high scoring offense of the Bayhawks, the biggest test for the Outlaws will be the man between the pipes. Denver needs to be sharp when they face Goalie Chris Garrity, who has the league leading GAA of 11.30 and came off a stellar game versus Toronto. While facing the Nationals, Garrity made 18 saves and allowed just 9 goals. The week five Defensive Player of the Week has also made 85 saves on the season and currently has a .620 save percentage, both good for best in the league.
Coach Reese said that Jesse Schawartzman will return to goal for the Outlaws, after Adam Fullerton took over goaltending responsibilities against Boston and for half the game against Long Island. So far the Outlaws are 1-2 on the season while on the road.
The Outlaws currently sit in second place and look to return to the playoffs. Denver has made the Championship game three out of its four seasons and has never missed the playoffs. With the post season set for August 22 in Annapolis, MD, the team looks poised to make another run. The Bayhawks should offer a good test for the Outlaws.
Another key element for the Outlaws will be taking advantage of their opportunities on the power play. In their first two games, the Outlaws struggled on the power play, going just 1-for-9. In their past three games, the Denver attack has picked up significantly and improved to 8-for-11. If there is a weakness in Chesapeake’s game, it is their 66 percent penalty kill rate. If Denver can get and take advantage of the power play, it gives the Outlaws a chance against Chesapeake.
The matchup figures to be the most intense of Week 6 and will surely impact how the rest of the season plays out. The critical matchup for the Outlaws means back to .500 or a share of the lead. The Outlaws will take on the Bayhawks at 5 p.m. MST and can been seen on ESPN3.com.