Friday, June 14, 2013

Game Preview: Denver at Chesapeake

Opponent: Chesapeake Bayhawks (4-2)
When: Saturday, June 15, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
Broadcast: CBS Sports (National)
 All-time vs. Chesapeake: 7-4 (Away: 4-1)

Matchup: The Outlaws return to the road after a three-game home stretch to take on the Chesapeake Bayhawks in a rematch of last season's Steinfeld Cup Championship Game. The Bayhawks beat the Outlaws 16-6 in that game to earn the MLL title.
This season, the teams find themselves atop the league standings entering Week 7 with the Outlaws out to the fastest start in team history at 6-0 and Chesapeake just two games back at 4-2.
History: The Outlaws are 7-4 all-time against the Bayhawks with a 7-3 record in the regular season. The team has alternated wins over its past six contests including last year's Steinfeld Cup meeting.

“Last time we played them, they completely took us apart," Head Coach Jim Stagnitta said. "We were outgunned, outmanned and outplayed. There were a lot of factors involved there, but they certainly got the best of us. A lot of the things we’ve tried to do as a team in the offseason – you have to shoot for the team to beat. Some of the things we’ve tried to do while building a team were to try to compete better with the Bayhawks. I think that’s a credit to Dave (Cottle) and what they’ve done with their squad."

Each team won on the road against each other in 2012. Chesapeake knocked off the Outlaws 18-16 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on June 2 and then Denver returned the favor with a 15-13 win in the season finale at Chesapeake to clinch the league's  top playoff seed.

Last Week: Denver took claim to the top spot in the MLL Standings with a resounding 22-9 win over previously unbeaten Hamilton. The 13-goal margin of victory tied for the second-largest in franchise history.

"I felt like we were able to prepare for what they do," Stagnitta said. "What they do is different from what everybody else does. I thought we really did a great job in defending that. Our defense was terrific and did exactly what we had worked on and practiced on Friday."

Five different Outlaws netted hat tricks, led by four-goal performances from Brendan Mundorf, Drew Snider, Zack Greer and rookie Eric Law.

"On the offensive end, we really started to pick up the pace and try to take advantage of our two-way middies and our athleticism in the middle of the field," Stagnitta said. "Those are the things that we stressed before the game. Except for a few times we shot ourselves in the foot, I was really pleased with the full game from beginning to end."

Law made his MLL debut in the game just hours after his college graduation and earned Player of the Game as well as Cascade MLL Rookie of the Week honors for his effort.

"We were impressed with the overall game that Law has and he showed it not just early, but he showed it late," Stagnitta said. "We started that second half and threw Eric in there and he immediately responded with a great off-ball cut. I think one of the reasons that he was able to integrate so well was just because of the way we play offense."

The Bayhawks also earned a 13-goal win last week, defeating the New York Lizards 21-8. Former Outlaw Drew Westervelt led the way with eight goals, adding an assist to finish with nine points. John Grant Jr. added four goals and Kyle Dixon assisted on four of the team's 19 tallies.


When Denver has the Ball: The Outlaws continue to pace the league with 114 points scored on the season -- 28 more than the second place team, which happens to be Chesapeake.
Denver boasts three of the top-five scorers in the league this year. Brendan Mundorf ranks third with 25 points and Chris Bocklet and Drew Snider are tied for fourth with 24 points. Bocklet leads all players with 19 goals on the season.
"If you are open and you are off-ball, our guys are going to give you the ball," Stagnitta said of the team's offensive strategy. "We constantly talk about that – not the first shot, the best shot." 
The Outlaws have topped the 20-point mark in their past three games to represent a franchise record.Their margin of victory in those games has been 13, 10 and 13, respectively.
Defensively, the Bayhawks have allowed just 57 goals on the year - seven fewer than the Outlaws, who rank second in that category. 
When Chesapeake has the Ball: The Bayhawks have scored 86 goals this season, ranking second in the league in scoring offense. Chesapeake's offense is led by Ben Rubeor, who ranks third in the league with 17 goals on the year.
The Bayhawks have three players -- Rubeor, Westervelt and Kyle Dixon who rank in the league's top 10 in points scored this year. 
"We have to stop the midfielders first," Stagnitta said. "First and foremost – I say stop, we need to control them – Rubeor really hurt us last year in the playoffs. We will focus on trying to contain Ben and certainly (Steven) Brooks has always been a handful for us."
Two-pointers have been part of the Bayhawks identity over the past two seasons as they set a league record with 28 long-distance scores in 2012. Kyle Dixon netted 15 two-pointers a year ago and leads the league with four this season. Denver has been the league's best team at defending the two-point shot, having only allowed one on the season, which occurred in Week 1.
We have to defend the two better than we have," Stagnitta said. "That is something that they do a little better and a little differently than anyone else. Despite the fact that maybe they aren’t as productive there as they were last year, they certainly are capable. We don’t want to open up that floodgate. The key is just to keep their big, strong middies down the side and to be able to defend their off-ball play. Westervelt did a great job last week and they design some great ways to get him his hands free. When you get that, he has a quick of a release as I’ve seen."
When Nobody has the Ball: Denver's Anthony Kelly continues to rank second in the league in faceoff percentage, having won 101-pf-170 attempts (.594 pct.) this season.
Chesapeake will likely counter with Adam Rand, who is 73-of-153 (.477 pct.) on the season. 
Kelly was 20-of-32 (.625 pct.) in Denver's Week 6 win. Rand went 13-of-31 (.419 pct.) last in the Bayhawks' win last week.

Battle in Net: Saturday's matchup pairs two of the top goalies in the league this year.
Jesse Schwartzman ranks second in the league with a 10.6 goals-against average, third with a .549 save percentage and is tied for fourth with 67 saves through Week 6.
Schwartzman suffered a minor injury during last week's win over Hamilton and was relieved by Charlie Cipriano, who played the final 26:17 in net. In his most extensive action of his MLL career, the second-year goalie saved 7-of-11 shots, including six in the final quarter. Before he left, Schwartzman stopped 7-of-12 shots.

“I have not heard anything that would make me think that he is not playing," Stagnitta said. "By now I would have heard. Usually I would have heard from a trainer or from Tony (Seaman) or from Jesse. It was minor. As Jesse said to me, ‘Coach if this was a playoff game, I could stay in.’ But we have a long season. Honestly, our other goalie, ‘Cip (Charlie Cipriano) has been terrific. In practice, he has been great. We are very comfortable with him and it was a nice opportunity for him and he played very well. Our expectations are that Jesse will be in the goal.”
For the Bayhawks, Kip Turner leads the league with a 8.32 goals against average this year, having allowed just 41 goals including one two-pointer. He has made 68 saves , which ranks second  and his .624 save percentage is tops among all MLL goalies.

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