DENVER – Another win, another league record for the Outlaws, who improved to 12-0 on the season with a 14-12 victory against the Chesapeake Bayhawks in Denver’s 2013 home finale.
Deadlocked at 10 entering the final tram, the Outlaws scored four goals in four minutes to open the period and take a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish on their way to clinching the Major League Lacrosse top playoff seed and setting a league record for best winning percentage in a single season.
“It's awesome, but in reality, it doesn't matter,” goalie Jesse Schwartzman said about clinching the No. 1 seed. “You have to win two games in two days against two good teams, whoever they may be so we're happy to be there. We're thankful for it. We put in a lot of hard work and it's nice to see it pay off.”
At 12-0, the worst the Outlaws can finish is 12-2 (.857 pct.), which would top the previous 10-2 (.833 pct.) mark shared by four teams. Denver’s 12 wins tie the league mark and represent the most in the MLL since 2002.
Early on, it looked like the Bayhawks, who were playing to clinch a playoff berth, could end Denver’s league-record win streak at 17.
After midfielder Jeremy Sieverts started the scoring 43 seconds into the game, the Bayhawks responded with a 5-0 run to open up a 5-1 lead early in the second quarter.
Denver answered with a 4-0 run of its own that included a pair of goals from midfielders Drew Snider and Sieverts, who would finish with four and earn Player of the Game honors.
All of the Outlaws’ points came from the midfield as the attack trio of Brendan Mundorf, Chris Bocklet and Eric Law were held without a single point in the win.
“We took advantage of our opportunities our D-middies stepped up,” Head Coach Jim Stagnitta said. “Some different guys stepped up and made big plays there. (Will) Mangan and Justin Pennington, scored some big goals for us that we needed to make our run.”
Midfielder Zack Greer found the back of the net 1:39 into the fourth quarter to give Denver a 11-10 lead. Just 45 second later, Mangan scored to give the Outlaws a two-goal cushion. Pennington and Snider added back-to-back goals to push Denver’s lead to four with just under 10 minutes to play.
At the other end of the field, Schwartzman came up with clutch saves to keep the Bayhawks off the board for the first half of the period.
“I think at the beginning of the game we came out flat,” Schwartzman said. “We were worried about too much. We were overthinking everything and we weren't doing. When we play our best ball, we just go out and play Outlaw ball and we're running and having fun. We talked about it at halftime. We started to have fun and I think it really showed when we went on our run in the fourth quarter.”
After a pair of Bayhawks goals cut the lead to one possession, Chesapeake defenseman Brian Spallina picked up his second illegal cross check penalty of the game and the Outlaws were able to run the clock down to 18 seconds.
The Bayhawks never even got a two-point shot attempt off as the Outlaws’ defense swarmed and forced a turnover to close the game and push the team’s win streak to 18 games.
“It was a huge game, but like we've been saying all year, one game at a time,” Schwartzman said. “We are 12-0, which is nice, but in reality we have two more big games left and then it really counts. We're going to do whatever it takes to play our best ball in about four weeks for Championship Weekend.”