The Denver Outlaws started and finished strong, while allowing the Long Island Lizards to climb back into the game in between. Denver used two 2-point goals, a single goal and an assist from midfielder Jeff Sonke to get the win. The Lizards kept the game close thanks to the performance of Greg Cattrano in cage. Cattrano made 28 saves as the barrage of shots started early and remained steady throughout. He even took it end-to-end to draw a penalty for the Lizards. The Lizards are all but surely eliminated from playoff contention, while the Outlaws have guaranteed their place in the semi-finals in Los Angeles on August 25th.
Uniondale, NY – In front of 2,874 fans, the Denver Outlaws secured a playoff spot in the franchise’s first season of play at the expense of perennial MLL contender Long Island Lizards. Denver jumped out early, holding leads of 3-0 and 5-2. Long Island hung in there and fought its way back. It helped that almost every offensive push by Denver was thwarted by Greg Cattrano. Cattrano played on his head to the tune of 28 saves. When the defense from Team USA bent, Cattrano, who was able to tryout for Team USA due to a hamstring injury, was there to bail them out.
While the Bud Light Player of the Game was given to Denver’s Jeff Sonke for his six-point performance, the runner-up had to go to Long Island’s Tim Goettelmann. The middle of the game became the Goettelmann show as he notched a goal, assisted on two and scored two more himself as part of Long Island six-goal run. The run took a 5-2 Denver lead with four minutes to go in the first half and made it an 8-5 Long Island ead with just over seven minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. Goettelmann left Long Island in the Expansion Draft at the end of 2005 for Denver, only to be re-acquired by Long Island in April.
The face-off game proved one of the most interesting aspects of this game. Denver’s Chris Cercy dominated the draw control early against Long Island’s Peter Vlhakis. That continued until a cheap shot by Lizard midfielder Tim Byrnes on a weird play in the middle of the game. Cercy won a face-off to himself and dished the ball. Byrnes, coming off the wing, made a late hit on Cercy. The hit didn’t seem particularly vicious, but as you can see from the pictures, caught Cercy off-guard and left him struggling on the ground.
At the tail end of that play, Denver got a fast-break and a shot. The shot drilled Lizard defenseman John Gagliardi in what appeared and sounded like the back of his helmet, but judging by the way the trainer was evaluating him was really the middle of his back. At the end of the play, both players were writhing on the ground. Gagliardi got up and continued. Cercy wasn’t seen for awhile.
The official stats are off because Benson Erwin and Casey Cittadino each took at least one face-off in his stead. The stats, however, say that Cercy was 11 of 24 on face-offs. When Cercy did return, he wasn’t quite as dominant. He was still controlling enough that both teams’ wing players were on the side of the field to his rake side. Meaning that there were four players on Cercy’s left side on the face-offs for a lot of the game.
Lizard midfielder Jay Jalbert played in his first MLL game of the season. He recently received Midfielder of the Tournament at the ILF World Championships while playing for Team USA, but had been previously sidelined from the MLL with a concussion. In his first game back, Jalbert didn’t have a particularly good day shooting. He took 9 shots with five of them sailing wide, three saves by Denver’s Trevor Tierney and only one finding the back of the net. In the waning seconds of the game, Jalbert had the ball with Long Island down one. He looked to the sideline for some direction as to what they were supposed to run and lifted his hands. Getting no response, he drove the cage and got his hands free for a decent shot. The shot sailed wide of the mark. Stephen Berger also got a late chance but wasn’t able to capitalize on it.
Long Island is effectively eliminated from playoff contention as they trail the Los Angeles Riptide for the San Francisco Dragons for the last spot by two games with just two games to go. The Lizards have a home-and-away series with the New Jersey Pride, who are riding high coming off an upset of the Boston Cannons.
The Outlaws clinched a playoff berth along with the Philadelphia Barrage. Denver travels next weekend to Chicago, who is due for a win. The last weekend of the regular season has them traveling westward to battle with the Los Angeles Riptide, who may still be in playoff contention at that point. Right now the San Francisco Dragons sit a game ahead of the Riptide, with both teams set to face each other next weekend. If LA wins, the LA-Denver match-up may have some serious playoff implications. Of course, if San Fran wins, then the playoff pool will be set with Philadelphia, Denver, San Fran and Boston. Mathematically, all of the remaining MLL teams (except Chicago) has a shot at the playoffs, though it would take a lot. Boston controls its fate, as all it has to do is win once more and they’re guaranteed a playoff spot.
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