Outlaws Stay Alive, Outlast Barrage, 15-13

Outlaws Stay Alive, Outlast Barrage, 15-13

Outlaws Stay Alive, Outlast Barrage, 15-13

Outlaws Stay Alive, Outlast Barrage, 15-13

With revenge on their minds from last year's championship game defeat, the Denver Outlaws kept themselves in contention for a playoff spot, defeating Philadelphia on Saturday at Invesco Field at Mile High, 15-13.

In a game that had grave playoff implications for both teams – the Barrage trying to keep pace with the suddenly unbeatable Rochester Rattlers, and Denver just trying to get in – the Outlaws were able to overcome a handful of mental mistakes and a nearly perfect Philadelphia man-up unit to hand the Barrage their first loss in four games in front of nearly 8,000 hometown fans.

Although Philadelphia kept it close the whole way, led by game MVP Brian Langtry (4, 1) and Trevor Tierney (17 saves) in net, the Outlaws only trailed once in the contest early in the first, and were able to take ultimate control by making good on both their offensive opportunities and a solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter. The game was an up-and-down affair from the onset, and was quite chippy throughout proving that there was no love lost in only the second-ever meeting between the two teams.

Denver scored first on a rifle off the stick of attackman Drew Westervelt (2, 1), but the Barrage looked unruffled by having to play on the road and controlled the tempo of the game for almost the entire first quarter. They would go on a 3-0 run before the Outlaws would claw themselves back into the game with a three-goal run of their own to take back the lead, 4-3.

Then with only about 15 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Philadelphia midfielder Matt Striebel, covered by defenseman Sean McCarthy, made one of the more impressive individual efforts of the game. Bull dodging right over McCarthy, Striebel blew past the slide around the net and then dove, flinging the ball past Tierney on the backside to score his second of the night and knot the game up going into the second, 4-4.

The second quarter was primarily highlighted by the match-up between Denver attackman Brendan Mundorf (2, 1) and Barrage defenseman Brian Spallina.

Mundorf, who also added an assist in the quarter, got the better of Spallina a couple times, wrapping the crease from X and scoring on two diving attempts. However, the aggressive play of Spallina helped to shut down Mundorf the rest of the way, including a notable yard sale turnover later in the fourth.

Philadelphia rookie attackman Ian Dingman also netted his two goals of the game in the second, including an unassisted backhand shot after beating his defenseman underneath near the crease to close out the first half down one, 8-7. Barrage netminder Brian Dougherty, two-time Goalie of the Year award winner (2003 and 2006), really kept Philadelphia in the game going into the half, making 12 saves on 20 Outlaw shots on goal, several of which were utter head scratchers. The southpaw goalie just makes it look easy and exudes total confidence for his team in the defensive zone, whether he is making an amazing stop, regularly talking trash to the opposing team’s attackmen, or barking at fans in the first row. Unlike most MLL games where the emphasis is run-and-gun and fast breaks, this one had a very slow-paced, possession-type college feel. Each coaching staff was exploiting particular match-ups, including bumping poles to dodging middies and Denver utilizing one on the wing during face-offs.

The belief that it was still really anybody's game was widespread, and it seemed that whoever could weather the storm and put one more away than the other would be the eventual winner. In the third, the Outlaws continued to find their spots for four goals, two from Langtry, and the other two from Josh Sims (2, 0), who still did not appear 100 percent, playing injured the last couple weeks.

But Philly would not go away. Attackman Michael Springer tallied a quick one to tie the game up again, at eight, and then the eastern squad converted on three Denver penalties in the quarter to move to 5-for-5 on the night. Still, neither team was quite able gain an edge as the Outlaws maintained their one-goal lead heading into the final period, 12-11.

After a Denver win on the first draw of the fourth from back-up face-off man Lou Braun, Langtry shuffled his feet and dodged down the left alley to put his fourth of the night past Dougherty only 26 seconds into the quarter.

A little later, Langtry hit the Canadian cherry picker, Matt Brown (3, 0), on the crease, who finished his second of the night. Brown notched his third of the game in a very similar fashion about three minutes after that to give the Outlaws a four-goal lead, 15-11, their biggest advantage of the game.

From there, the Outlaws turned defensive on the back of Tierney who stepped up and made eight game-saving stops in the quarter, including four absolutely phenomenal saves on great shots right on the goal line. Langtry may have been named the MVP, but the night was Tierney’s as he returned from injury to start and guide his team back to the chase for the last playoff spot. Philadelphia gave the Outlaws a scare at the end after a seventh Denver penalty with just over a minute left in the game.

Striebel started with the ball on the whistle, took two steps and threw a screened, two-point rocket past Tierney – his only hiccup of the quarter – to bring the game within reach, 15-13. The Barrage won the ensuing face-off, called a timeout and set up their play. But it was too little, too late as Denver thwarted a shot attempt, cleared the ball and iced the game’s last 30 ticks in the stick of the speedy Sims to move to 4-1 at home this season.

With Los Angeles pulling away in the West, it looks like Denver will have to settle for one of the at-large bids into the playoffs, based on overall record. With both Long Island (4-5) and Washington (5-5) losing on the same night, and the Outlaws getting the win, Denver (5-4) moves into sole possession of the fourth and final spot, with the potential of catching the team they just beat, (6-3) Philadelphia.

If Denver hopes to land one of these last spots, they will have to improve on their poor 1-3 road record. They will head to Long Island this upcoming weekend to face the Lizards, who are also 4-1 at home, in the biggest game of the year for both teams.

Look for whoever wins between these two to likely punch the final ticket to Rochester for championship weekend.

And still not totally out of the picture, Washington has two games remaining, but both are against Philly in a home-and-home series starting in two weekends. The Bayhawks will need some help, but if they win out, they could take hold of one of these spots, as well as potentially knock the Barrage out of their chance of defending their crown.

A couple final notes. Both Denver and Philadelphia’s starting face-off men, Geoff Snider (Denver) and Andy Corno (Philadelphia) were absent from their respective line-ups. Braun (15-32) and the Barrage’s Jason Motta (17-32) filled in for their teams and split draws about evenly.

Additionally, on kind of a down note, this was the smallest crowd in franchise history for Denver, still an impressive 7,841, but a significant drop off from their league-leading 11,078 average, especially for being the 2006 championship game rematch.

Photos: Tim Head

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8000 fans?????
    by (#157093) on 7/28/07 @11:39AM
i dont understand how 20,000 people could go watch a Denver game, then a week or so later, not even 8,000 go...... how does that happen??? they were in denver right? because they got an unbelievable fan following there, i just dont see how the number of people going to games could be cut down by more then half in no more then 2 weeks.
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