Tricks look good only when they work; they look even better when they are in the finals, televised live, and done by the winning team. Champions deliver, and Rochester delivered with speed, exacting vengeance, and the unchecked audacity of making it look easy, perhaps even painfully casual. The Rattlers held high tea schooling an Outlaw squad on the social graces of stepping up in prime time and forcing Denver’s hand with a demoralizing grip.
The preview looked promising: East vs. West, Brother vs. Brother, Team Canada vs. Team USA. The first half repartee was solid finals material and could have been an excellent final, if Denver had showed up in the second half. Rochester led Denver 6-5 at the half and then smoked the Outlaws 10-1 in the second half. If it had not been for the insanely risky, entertaining acrobatics, and heroics of second half Rattler goalie Brett Queener, the game would have been lost to the mind-numbing boom of the Rochester guns.
Rochester out shot Denver 29-21 and took 16 of the 25 face-offs. Denver failed to convert on any powerplay opportunities while Rochester cashed in on two. On an attack replete with talent, all of whom were having a good day, it’s hard to call out any one member of the Rattler squad. Grant Jr. is always a safe bet; he had five points to Zywicki’s six goals, and Walters, who could easily have been the MVP in the semis, only had four points. In fact, Rochester had 28 points to Denver’s nine – a telling metric about the ball movement, team offense starting with the goalie, and the gaps in the Denver roster. The match ups weren’t there. Rochester was too much to handle.
Rochester gained possession of the face-off and worked the ball around creating space and getting several good looks at the cage. The Rattlers were quick to the loose ball. Despite the patience on possession, play did get a little sloppy. Denver gained possession and got a shot on goal; there was no back up. Denver was sliding well to the ball and managed to be aggressive without over committing. Neither team scored for nearly six minutes of play with Rochester exploiting most of the time on possession. Grant ended the drought with a massive ISO lefty behind-the-back from X going off stick top corner (1-0). Jeff Zywicki caught the defense ball watching and scored low to high (2-0). Long pole defender Brodie Merrill scored on Denver after the defense collapsed too far in (3-0). Ryan Powell responded putting Denver on the board. Powell shot top side off the d-man’s hip (1-3). Grant Jr. fired passed Levin low left near pipe (4-1). Denver’s Brian Langtry put his team within one with a two-point shot from Matt Brown. Langtry hit lower left pipe off the sidearm crank (3-4).
The drama continued in the second quarter with both teams locked in a 2-2 standstill. Zywicki (Powell) and Grant Jr. (Schiller) scored for Rochester. Smith controlled the face-off with Schiller dishing off to Grant Jr., who faked high and shot low (6-3). Both teams were scoreless for the next 10 minutes. The third quarter also had the most penalties. Peter Striebel scored unassisted at 12:56 (4-6). Drew Westervelt put the Outlaws within one. Powell passed to Westervelt off the back door cut (5-6).
Rochester demonstrated a kind of patience in the first half that may have been on the conservative end. Their second half approach was anything but that. The Rattlers dominated the second half 10-1. Rochester went 6-0 in the third half. Walters, Hall, Grant Jr., and Zywicki all scored. Zywicki posting a hat trick in the quarter. Doyle dished to Walters behind the back. Walters scored on the bouncer through the five hole (7-5). Hall found the back of the net off a pass from Grant Jr. going lefty one-on-one. Zywicki banked a pair of goals, one on a powerplay from Doyle and the other off a pass from Walters. Grant Jr. scored on the powerplay. Walters hit Grant Jr., who finished with a lefty rip stick side (11-5). The Rochester momentum was gaining full speed until it hit turbo mode. Queener came up with the save and charged up the field showing off his tremendous speed. Queener charged passed the 50 and found Zywicki down low. Zywicki shot low past Schwartzman. The crowd only got louder the farther Queener got away from his crease (12-5).
Rochester continued to control the tempo winning the fourth 4-1. Walters, Bucktooth, Zywicki, and Dutton scored for the Rattlers. The response of the Outlaws could be read in the body language, primarily on the shoulders of the defenders. The Prout-Walters combo at :34 was yet another 1-2 punch that took a hit out of the Denver defense, Walters shot low off-stick side (13-5). Powell dished off to Bucktooth on the doorstep. Schwartzman heaved the ball downfield in what could only be frustration and was called for the foul. Queener took a shot at the pass throwing his stick in the air to catch the ball. With every shot, Denver looked more defeated. Zywicki scored his last goal of the game giving the Rattlers 15-5 lead. Queener electrified the crowd again with a save that he cleared at full speed up field, absorbed some hits, and passed the ball up between his legs. Rochester got its last goal from Dutton off a pass from Powell. Denver got their last goal at 11:45 from Matt Brown of an assist from Ryan Powell. Brown shot lefty overhand off stick high. As the clock ran out, both teams conceded the results. Rochester celebrated their first MLL Championship win, while Denver walked off the field. Final score Rochester 16 Denver 6.
Rochester Rattlers vs. Denver Outlaws
|Jeff Zywicki||(6, 0)|
|John Grant||(4, 1)|
|Joe Walters||(2, 2)|
|Colin Doyle||(0, 3)|
|Casey Powell||(0, 3)|
|Chris Schiller||(0, 1)|
|Brett Queener||(0, 1)|
|Brett Bucktooth||(1, 0)|
|Brodie Merrill||(1, 0)|
|Jordan Hall||(1, 0)|
|Pat Dutton||(1, 0)|