Friday, May 10, 2013

Game Preview: Denver at Boston

Opponent: Boston Cannons (0-2)
When: Saturday, May 11, 7 p.m. EDT
Where: Harvard Stadium in Boston
Local Broadcast: Live on Altitude 2 and ESPN3.com
All-time vs. Boston: 4-8 (Away: 3-3)

Game Notes
Head Coach Jim Stagnitta Conference Call Transcript

Matchup: The Outlaws (2-0) travel to Boston (0-2) this weekend for their first game of the season against the Cannons.

Last Week: Denver improved to 2-0 with a 13-8 win at Ohio, while the Cannons dropped their second-straight contest by a score of 15-8 vs. Hamilton.

History: The Cannons own a 4-8 all-time advantage against the Outlaws, but the teams are an even 3-3 in games played in Boston. The Cannons have won three of the last four games played between the two teams. Denver earned a 17-13 win the last time the two teams squared off on July 19, 2012.

Preview: The Outlaws close out their three-game road trip to start the 2013 season with Saturday's game in
Boston.

Winning games early is important and the Outlaws feel fortunate to start the year with back-to-back victories while playing without several players due to NLL commitments.

“I think it’s important to win early," Stagnitta said. "I think last year when it went to eight teams, it made a difference where you could probably stub your toe a few times early and make up for it later. The fact that there are eight teams now, these early games are important. We tried to build our roster last year and were successful with it and we tried to build our roster this year to try to be able to supplement for those indoor guys that we weren’t going to have and those pieces of the puzzle that we were going to be missing for a couple weeks. We feel that it’s very important to win these games and to get out of the box quickly and get these under your belt."
The Outlaws expect to have midfielder Greg Downing back in the lineup this week as he returns after missing the 2012 MLL season due to injury and the first two games of 2013 due to NLL play.

"Our short-stick D-middies have been terrific," Stagnitta said. "I think we even get better there this week when we add Greg Downing to the mix.”

The Cannons have struggled early in the season as they rank second-to-last with just 9.5 points per game thus far. A year ago, Boston finished second to Denver with 15.5 points per game.

Despite Boston's early scoring woes, Outlaws Head Coach Jim Stagnitta knows that the Cannons are capable of breaking out of their slump at any time.

“Boston is a talented group and a veteran group," Stagnitta said. "We’re expecting that they’re going to come out with more purpose and more passion than they have thus far. Their backs are against the wall a little bit. They have talented players with a lot of pride and a lot of ability, so we’re expecting that it’s going to be a tough game from the first whistle.”

When Denver Has The Ball: The Outlaws have surged to the league lead with 34 goals and also pace

Major League Lacrosse with 101 shots.

Of those 101 shots, only 60 have been on goal, leading Denver to rank fifth with a shots-on-goal percentage of 59.4. Increasing the team's accuracy is a goal that Stagnitta pointed out in his weekly conference call.

“I don’t think we’ve shot particularly well," he said. "But I also don’t think we’ve taken poor shots."

"We’ve taken good shots," Stagnitta continued. "We’ve been able to get opportunities. One of the reasons we’ve probably taken 101 shots is because we’ve missed the cage so often on good opportunities."

Individually, attackman Chris Bocklet leads the league with nine goals and nine total points through two weeks of play. Attackman Brendan Mundorf returned to the lineup last week from NLL action and scored two goals while assisting on two others in the victory.

"Obviously (Brendan Mundorf) is going to draw a lot of attention," Stagnitta said. "But I feel like we have a lot of guys who can get off shots and beat their men and create offense on their own. When you look at it, we have a pretty good number of assisted goals. That is a stat that we do look at.”

When Boston Has The Ball: After surrendering 16 goals to Charlotte in Week 1, the defensive focus has been turned up for the Outlaws.

Leading the way as usual is reigning MLL Defenseman of the Year, Lee Zink.

Last week, the Outlaws used Zink to match up against Ohio's Steele Stanwick and the veteran defender held one of the top young players in the game to just one goal and zero assists.

"We use Lee Zink in a way that it allows us not to have to make big adjustments for other team’s great attackmen," Stagnitta said. "We went into last week and put Lee on Steele and said we’re not sliding and we’re just going to let Lee handle that matchup. And he did. He did a great job on Steele last week. That’s why he’s one of the premier defensemen in the world."

Cannons attackman Ryan Boyle enters the game one point shy of tying Casey Powell for first place on the MLL's all-time points leaderboard.

"Obviously Ryan is a quarterback of that team and he is a guy that makes the adjustments on the field and has an unbelievable lacrosse IQ," Stagnitta said. "That is going to be our Lee Zink matchup, certainly. We are lucky enough too that Dillon Roy has become a real force in this league. I’m not sure people realize just how good a one-on-one and team defender he is. We really feel like we’re strong and stable down there. Ryan is the key to the attack and (midfielder Paul) Rabil is the key to the midfield. If we can control those two guys, it is going to go a long way to giving us an opportunity to win that game.”

Keeping Rabil and Boyle in check is easier said than done. Last year the two finished first and third, respectively in total points. Boyle led the league with 39 assists and Rabil was one behind him at 38.

Despite Boston's struggles, Rabil is tied for the league lead with 9 points and attackman Ari Sussman is tied for sixth with seven.

When Nobody Has The Ball: A pleasant surprise for Denver early on this year has been the production
off of faceoffs.

Anthony Kelly ranks second in the league with a .653 winning percentage (32-of-49) on faceoffs and has added a goal.

He has posted franchise top-10 faceoff performances in each of Denver's two games this year. In the opener at Charlotte, Kelly won 19-of-29 faceoffs (.655), which is the eighth-best single-game performance in team history. Last week he went 13-of-20 (.650), which ranks 10th in team annals.

Stephen Robarge has had success spelling Kelly at times this year, as he is 9-of-15 (.600 pct.).

For the Cannons, former Outlaw Chris Mattes handed faceoff duties in their opener, but struggled going 7-of-28 (.250). Chris Eck returned to the lineup last week and went 11-of-25 (.444 pct.) against the Nationals.

Last time the two teams faced off, Eck won 18-of-32 (.563 pct.) against Kelly.

When the ball is on the ground, look for  Matt Bocklet to be nearby. The 6th-year defenseman ranks second in the league with 15 ground balls - the most by a non-faceoff man.

Battle in Net: Jesse Schwartzman has played all but 11 seconds in net this season for Denver. He has allowed 23 goals and one two-pointer. His 11.52 goals-against average ranks second among players who have spent more than 90 minutes in net.

Jordan Burke has allowed the same number of goals as Schwartzman, but has done so in about 20 fewer minutes. Burke's goals-against-average of 15.24 is second-worst in the league through Week 2.

UPDATE: On Thursday, the Cannons placed Jordan Burke on the two-game injured reserve list. In his absence, look to see Boston deploy Mike Gabel in net. Gabel has played 29:26 this season and made eight saves with five goals allowed with a save percentage of .615. Burke left last week's game early in the third quarter and Gabel closed out the contest.

Gabel is in his eighth MLL season in 2013. He has posted a 12-36 career record with a 15.03 goals-against average and .535 career save percentage.

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