Saturday, June 8, 2013

Outlaws Claim MLL Lead with 22-9 Win Against the Nationals

Photo by Getty Images

In a battle of the best, the Denver Outlaws came out on top. The Outlaws handed the Hamilton Nationals, who entered the matchup as the only other unbeaten team in the league, a 22-9 defeat Saturday evening in front of 4,796 fans at Mile High Stadium. Denver reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth time this year, breaking the franchise single-season record.  

“In all my time [in the MLL], I can’t remember a team going 6-0 to start the season,” said faceoff specialist Anthony Kelly. “It’s a great step in the right direction. It’s a step for us to go to that next level and continue moving forward, and hopefully we stay at that No. 1 spot the rest of the way.”

In his MLL debut following his graduation from the University of Denver earlier in the day, Eric Law was named the Player of the Game. The attackman netted four goals after earning the starting nod in the second half. 

“To be able to get the opportunity to play [at Mile High Stadium] from [general manager] Tony Seaman and Coach [Stagnitta] is unbelievable and a lifelong dream come true for sure,” he said.

 Three other Outlaws—Zack Greer, Drew Snider and Brendan Mundorf—also posted four-goal performances to lead the team to victory in Saturday’s game. Kelly won the faceoff battle, going 20-of-33 at the X.

“We had made some stupid mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot, and it felt like Anthony bailed us out,” head coach Jim Stagnitta said. “All day he gave us possession and kept the ball out of very good offensive hands.”

A 7-of-7 first-quarter performance by Kelly at the X and a pair of tallies each from Greer and Mundorf powered Denver (6-0) to an early 4-0 lead. Hamilton’s lone goal of the period, scored by Kevin Crowley, came on a powerplay. Snider closed out the quarter with a score to give the Outlaws a 5-1 advantage going into the second period.

After Josh Hawkins put the Nationals (5-1) on the scoreboard 21 seconds into the second quarter, Denver rattled off four consecutive goals to take a 9-2 lead. But Hamilton didn’t let the Outlaws open up the game, notching three of the last four second-period tallies.

Law found the back of the net just 18 seconds into the second half. Crowley answered by completing a hat trick, but three Denver markers pushed the Outlaws’ lead to 14-6. In the first game of his professional lacrosse career, Garrett Thul ended their three-goal run, but Denver responded with four straight to enter the final quarter with an 11-goal lead.

The Outlaws outscored Hamilton 4-2 in the fourth period. Three of their fourth-quarter tallies were assisted, which is a testament to their unselfish play—a hallmark of the team.

“When we’re moving the ball and making the extra pass, our team is at its best,” Kelly said. “It’s fun watching the ball move around. Guys never play selfishly. It seems like guys would rather make the extra pass than shoot it themselves. It’s exciting. It’s how you win championships—playing like a team.”

With the win, Denver is the sole leader in the league. The Outlaws have extended their regular-season win streak, which dates back to last year, to a franchise-best 12. They hope to build on their success next weekend when they hit the road to take on the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the defending MLL champions. 

“[The guys] are on a mission,” Stagnitta said. “They want to get back to that championship game, and they want to bring a championship back here. Every game is important to them, and certainly winning six in a row is a big accomplishment at this point.”

--Lopa Rahman

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