By Derek McLean
The Denver Outlaws will enter their home opener against the Long Island Lizards on Saturday, looking to regain the dominance of last year. The Outlaws played their season opener in Boston against the Cannons, the same team they defeated in the semifinals, of last year’s playoffs. The Cannons however got their revenge, earning a hard fought 16-13 victory without the league MVP Paul Rabil.
Denver who had a league best 9-3 regular season record last year, could not match the fire power of the cannons attack. Denver took a 5-4 lead after the first quarter, in large part thanks to Max Seibald, who scored 3 points in the quarter, including a 2 pointer. However the Cannons responded in the 2
nd going on a 5-0 run, giving the Cannons a 10-7 half time lead. The game was tightly contested from there as both teams finished the scoring with 6 goals apiece in the second half. Outlaws goalie Jessie Schwartzman finished the game with 15 saves.
The Outlaws will play their home opener against the Lizards without last year’s Major League Lacrosse coach of the year Brian Reese. This comes after a one game suspension was handed down to him from the Commissioner’s office. This was following an altercation he had with a referee during last week’s loss to the Cannons.
The Lizards enter Saturday’s game following a lackluster performance last week against the Chesapeake Bayhawks, losing 16-8 in Annapolis. The Lizards are led offensively by former Duke Teammates Zach Greer and Matt Danowski, as well as midfielder Stephen Berger. Defensively, the Lizards will need a solid performance from veterans Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina. Goalie Drew Adams, will be making only his second career start of his career.
Expect Saturday to be a physical game. The two teams have a history of bad blood. Several fights and altercations broke out during last season’s matches. “Every time we seem to play these guys it gets pretty physical,” says Outlaws attackman Drew Westervelt. “We can’t get caught up in it. We have to play our own game.” Last week, The Lizards received 10 penalties in a loss to the Bayhawks. Three of the penalties were called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Denver will be playing in a high energy atmosphere in front of their home crowd. Don’t be surprised if emotion takes the best of some of the players.
The Outlaws will look to win the faceoff battle against the Lizards. Denver’s Shane Walterhoefer won 17 of 30 face-offs against the Cannons last week. The Lizards’ Greg Gurenlian, who won only 8 of 24 face-offs against the Bayhawks, will be replaced by Peter Vlahakis this week. The Outlaws will want to capitalize on this area and use it to create fast break opportunities and help keep possession.
Denver’s ability to keep possession of the ball will be essential to beating the Lizards. The Long Island’s attack is very skilled, so the Outlaws will want to limit their scoring chances as much as possible. “The Key for us is ball movement,” says Westervelt. “Being a little more consistent and having quality possessions will really help out this weekend.” If Seibald, Brendan Mundorf and Westervelt stay patient with their possessions and use good ball movement, they will be able to create more high percentage shots on the inexperienced Adams.
Game time will be at 9 pm Saturday at INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. The game can be seen on the Universal Sports channel and ESPN 3. Check your local listings.