The Philadelphia Barrage manhandled the Denver Outlaws in the 2006 MLL Championship game, 23-12. Roy Colsey received the Bud Light MVP of the game for his six-goal (two 2-pointers) performance and threw in two assists to boot for 10 points. The scary part is that Paul Cantabene should have been MVP. Cantabene wound up on the stat sheet as 27 for 36 at the face-off circle (though it was really 26 of 35 because Greg Peyser took one). Cantabene added a goal on top of that. In the first half he won 17 of 20 face-offs where he won all draws, but the Barrage couldn't control the possession.
Carson, CA – Philadelphia headed into the game a fired-up team. The players gathered, yelling and screaming as Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” blared on the Home Depot Center Track and Field Complex speakers. As the player introductions began, the group stormed out together, not individually.
(n.b. The music switched between Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” and Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” when the Barrage scored, whereas it stayed the same for Denver from Friday, playing “Outlaw Baby” by the Lordz.)
“The team chemistry is real similar to our team last year in Baltimore where everybody just gets along, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals,” said face-off extraordinaire Paul Cantabene. Cantabene has only been on the team for a little over a month and noticed the connection.
The Barrage stormed out of the gates. After trading possessions, Matt Zash took a feed from Roy Colsey in an unsettled situation and put Philadelphia on the board. The 2nd goal started when Kyle Sweeney stripped Denver’s Brendan Mundorf as he was trying to go to the goal. Goalie Brian Dougherty picked up the looseball and hit a streaking Bobby Horsey. Horsey finished the transition and put Philly up 2-0.
Denver didn’t waste much time getting back in the game. Their deep midfield has the ability to score in bunches. Less than a minute after Horsey’s goal, Mike Law made a right-to-left split dodge and buried a lefty shot putting Denver on the board. 40 seconds later, Brian Langtry was given some room by Philly shortstick defender Joe Ceglia. Langtry made him pay with a nice righty shot along the ground past Dougherty. The two scorers then combined a minute later as Langtry hit Law in an unsettled clearing situation and Law blasted a righty past Doc. The game swung from 2-0 Philly, to 3-2 Denver in under two minutes.
Unfortunately for Denver, that would be their first and only lead of the day.
Philadelphia started to take over the game. First, Roy Colsey laid a pass across for BJ Prager who finished tying the game. Then Trevor Tierney stopped a Colsey shot. The rebound ricocheted out to Matt Striebel in two-point land. Striebel buried it. The next time down, Ryan Boyle drew a shortstick defender, Casey Cittadino. Boyle started to iso, drawing a quick slide, opening up Justin Smith. Smith buried a shot from just inside the two-point arc. The 3-2 Denver lead became a 7-3 Philly lead. Striebel wound up with 9 points on four goals (one 2-pointer) and four assists.
Casey Cittadino would add a goal for Denver at the tail end of the 1st quarter. He picked up a loose ball on the defensive side, made a nice swim move and took it the length of the field, finishing it himself. His goal ended the 1st quarter 7-4 Philadelphia. Following Cittadino’s goal, Paul Cantabene won yet another face-off. Clearly frustrated, Denver’s Geoff Snider decked Cantabene long after he had gotten rid of the ball, drawing yells from the Philadelphia bench and a flag from the refs.
Two more Striebel goals stretched the Philadelphia lead to 9-4 in the second. Brian Langtry came off a Mike Law pick getting his hands free and cutting the lead again, 9-5. Both teams traded goals again to make it 10-6 before Roy Colsey would start to put the game out of reach. He hit two 2-pointers in the last four minutes of the half to send the game into the half, 14-7 Philadelphia. At halftime Paul Cantabene was 17 of 20 on face-offs, with the official scorer saying one loss was due to an illegal procedure call. The other two Cantabene controlled the draw, but they didn’t come up with the possession.
“I only lost two draws straight up,” explained Cantabene. “It felt good, you know, going against Snider with the World Team and everything just re-confirms that I would have done a good job against him I think if I was in those games.” Remember Snider was World Games MVP winning over 70% of his draws as Team Canada went on to upset the US. Snider was only 5 for 15 on the day, while Denver’s other stud FOGO Chris Cercy was just 3 of 19 on the day.
Philadelphia scored six goals in the 3rd quarter to put the game away.
You may remember Cantabene retired before this season. He said he will not return to the MLL next year…but we’ve heard that before.
“Before I came out, I wasn’t really working out at all. The World Team wanted me, so I had to try and get in shape in a month. I was a little slow, but the more games I played, the better I got. Five games, six games into it, I felt I was right on top, better than I was last year and the year before and doing a lot of things. I feel great. I was talking to Striebel and Boyle at the World Games. They said, ‘if we can trade for you, would you play?’ I said ‘Maybe, if you can trade for me. I know Baltimore won’t let me go,’” said Cantabene.
“The first game was crazy, because I was sitting on my couch at like 9:30-10 o’clock at night drinking a beer and Mecca [Philly GM] calls and said, ‘we just traded for you,’ and the game’s at 1 o’clock the next day. I had no equipment, I didn’t have a stick, and I played horrible. Once I got myself together, I played pretty well for the next four games. I got MVP of one game up in Rochester, scored some goals and helped these guys get better. It’s their team. It’s Boyle’s team, it’s Striebel’s team, Doc’s team, and I just helped them get a little bit better.”
It’s really hard to put into words the clinic that Cantabene performed at the face-off X. The most dominant performances I had witness this summer had been by Geoff Snider at the World Games winning over 70%. Then I saw Chris Cercy dominate against the Long Island Lizards in August. Cantabene was automatic against both of them. His moves differ slightly from the other two. Both Cercy and Snider generally plunge and look to push the ball forward. Cantabene favors a much more possession oriented move. He’ll fight to get control of the ball and then put it to one of his wing guys. The wing guys were generally Matt Zash and Greg Peyser, two rookies that stepped up in that role for Philadelphia. If you’re a young, aspiring face-off man, get a copy of this game and watch it.
Snider was able to get a couple late in the third quarter, but at that point it didn’t matter. Early, Snider and Cercy, both frustrated, were taking shots at Cantabene. Snider decked him out-of-bounds to end the 1st. Cercy was trying to lift and force Cantabene off the ball to no avail. In a classy move, Snider went out of his way after the game to find Cantabene and embrace him.
One of the most exciting parts of the day was a combined shot contest between the Boston Cannons’ Chris Fiore and former NHL player Al Iafrate best known for his rocket slapshot, which set a record at 105.2 mph. Likely, this was a way to increase awareness that Warrior also makes hockey equipment (which you can buy through hockey.lax.com). So Fiore, who had the hardest shot at the MLL all-star game, and Iafrate who had the hardest shot in the NHL back in the day, went head-to-head.
It started with a slapshot contest, using a flat piece to take away from the grass and Warrior Hockey sticks. Iafrate of course won that section. Then in the lacrosse portion, Fiore shot a blistering 108 mph. His shot gave him a combined 172 mph, whereas Iafrate’s combined score was only 162 mph. It was definitely an interesting concept to mix the two.
Some areas that deserve mentioning: Philadelphia’s defense played outstanding. Denver never seemed to be able to get in a rhythm because of it. Granted, they didn’t see the ball off face-offs, but still when they did, they weren’t able to get anything done. Sweeney limited Mundorf. Spallina slid hard. And the shortsticks all did solid jobs. Then when that failed, Dougherty was big in net. Trevor Tierney wound up with 20 saves compared Brian Dougherty’s 18, but Doc had the better day. Tierney also spent three minutes in the penalty box for 2 slashes and a cross check. Makes you wonder if US Lacrosse is re-thinking snubbing Cantabene and Dougherty (though he wasn’t even able to try out) after today’s performances. After Kyle Sweeney’s early takeaway on Brendan Mundorf, Dougherty saying to Mundorf, ‘Thanks for playin!’ provided some good entertainment.
As for attendance and atmosphere, it was night and day compared to Friday’s semifinal games. The crowd was much better and seemed happier to be there. The announced attendance was 5,374. I’d say that was highly exaggerated yet again, but who’s going to sit there and count all in attendance. Take a look at the pictures of the stands and end zones and make your best guess because it’d be hard to add up to 5,000 in those. Also notice the picture of the field. It was a very patchwork field. Some of the grass was thick, while other areas were completely burnt or worn out, made for the constant changing of surfaces.
The 2006 Philadelphia Barrage are a team that likely got lost in the shuffle this year and overlooked with the Western expansion. That’s not something that went past the notice of the Philadelphia players.
”Denver’s offense is not high-powered. They scored 12 goals, we scored 23, we’re the best offense in the league,” said Philadelphia Barrage and 2006 MLL Championship MVP Roy Colsey.
”We’re tired of hearing about the West Coast and Denver and all the two-pointers. We had a statement to make. The East Coast is a tough league; we’re beating the heck out of each other. I’m happy the West Coast teams are here, but we didn’t get a lot of respect this year,” he added. “We didn’t get a lot of respect in the media; we didn’t get a TV game. I just felt like we didn’t get the respect we deserved and we had to come out here and earn it. I think we proved today that we’re the best defense, we’re the best defense and we’re the best all-around team.”
One of the things that head coach Tony Resch and the rest of the team talked constantly about was their composure, balance and sense of team.
“I think we had good composure all over the field. Paul Cantabene did a great job on face-offs. We felt like if we got possessions we’d be able to do good things offensively. When that didn’t happen, we had great defense,” said Resch. “Brian Dougherty in goal has been tremendous all year. We just felt like the balance was there from front to back. We showed all those fronts today.”
Even in his short time with the Barrage, Cantabene noticed how special they were.
“These guys shoot the ball so well. The team chemistry is real similar to our team last year in Baltimore [2005 MLL Champions] where everybody just gets along, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. They’re extremely unselfish; everybody on the team gets along. It’s extremely similar to last year’s team,” said Cantabene.
“And they’re great kids and they’re young. You get to know guys like Zash and Peyser, Ceglia and Horsey, who I call Beener’s men because they were great on the wings and they’re great kids. I love to get to know them and get to know all these guys. I did battle against them all the time. Me and Doc were making fun of each other because we used to go to battle so much and yell at each other so much and now we’re together.”
Colsey’s feelings were summed up pretty succinctly: “I’ve never enjoyed playing more with a group of guys than I do with these guys.”
Despite all the talk of Philadelphia in this article, the Denver Outlaws took the MLL to the next level. They shattered attendance records and have set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the MLL. They have a core of great players: Josh Sims, Lee Zink, Trevor Tierney, to name a couple. Then a bunch of other guys you better get used to hearing about. One of the best stories was back-up goalie Alex Smith. Smith received no varsity letters in college. Instead, he played his college ball at the club level at Colorado State. Congratulations go out to all of the Denver organization because they did a great job this year, and while the Championship game didn’t show it, they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.