8/7/13 12:00 AM
Cannons vs. Rattlers
Face Off: 7:00 pm EST
Fan Zone Opens: 5:00 pm
Broadcast: Live on ESPN3.com
In the final regular season game on Saturday, the Boston Cannons and the Rochester Rattlers will battle for fifth place—and there’s no better place for a battle than at Harvard Stadium’s Colosseum. While the summer is ending early for both teams, and for the first time since 2008 for the Cannons, the future looks bright.
The Cannons have three promising rookies in attackman Will Manny, midfielder Cam Flint, and long-stick middie Scott Ratliff. All three have had immediate contributions after being drafted into the MLL. Both Manny and Flint have recorded at least one point in every one of their MLL games. Ratliff has collected 30 ground balls—that’s more than Cannons’ veteran defenders Kyle Sweeney (29) and Mitch Belisle (20)—in just nine games.
“I had zero to do with picking those three guys,” said Coach John Tucker. “All the credit goes to Kevin Barney and Steve Duffy. I think those three guys have been three of our better players over the course of the season. They came in in a difficult situation and played at a very high level. Last week, Manny had three goals, Cam had three points, and Ratliff has done very well. I was very impressed with the Boston draft last year. We’re going to need another good one next year to try to get us back to championship weekend.”
Rochester boasts a pair of their own first-year pure scorers in Dave Lawson and John Ranagan. A 2013 Duke graduate, Lawson has 18 points (15 goals, 3 assists) in seven games for the Rattlers, including two five-point performances, one of which earned him Rookie of the Week. Ranagan, a Johns Hopkins alum, has 16 points (15 goals, 1 assist) in nine games this season.
Saturday’s matchup will be a classic contest between old versus new. Four of Rochester’s top seven points leaders, which include both Lawson and Ranagan, have a combined eleven years of MLL experience. Ned Crotty, the Rattlers’ leading points getter and fourteenth in the MLL with 33 points, has been in the league for only four years.
Boston, by the MLL’s standards, is a team of veterans. Three of the Cannons’ top seven players in points (Matt Poskay, Ryan Boyle, Stephen Berger) have a combined 27 years of MLL experience. Two others in that top seven (Paul Rabil, Kevin Buchanan) have both been in the league for six years. Five of the Cannons’ top seven points leaders have a combined 39 years of MLL experience, staggeringly more than Rochester’s top points men.
The youngsters were victorious in Atlanta in the first meeting between these two teams. A very back-and-forth first quarter saw eleven goals, including a one-handed, behind-the-back strike from Poskay and a two-pointer from Rochester’s Matt Streibel. The Cannons held a 6-5 edge after one. In the second, Rabil scored two in a row and the Cannons held court at the beginning, but the Rattlers came back with three goals at the close of the quarter to keep it tight with Boston leading 10-9 at the half. The teams continued to exchange goals in the third frame and Boston entered the fourth up 13-11. Poskay was the only Cannon to score in the final frame as the Rattlers dominated the fourth to complete the comeback, despite a 21-save performance from Cannons’ goalie Jordan Burke.
This first contest perhaps perfectly demonstrates the age gap between these two sides. The Cannons had control early on, but faltered in the fourth quarter, only scoring one goal, while allowing five. Fatigue could definitely have been a factor for the veteran Cannons, a team who has struggled, especially recently, with closing out games. Three weeks ago against Chesapeake and two weeks ago against Hamilton, Boston suffered a number of sloppy, unforced turnovers late in regulation, squandering their comeback chances.
“We’re going to make some adjustments to the lineup to see some guys we’re really trying to determine who we’re going to go with,” said Tucker. “I wouldn’t know that without seeing some adjustments but we’re not going to completely change over the roster, nothing drastic.”
It hasn’t just been ending the game that the Cannons have had difficulty with. Many times this season, Boston has come out of the gates with a significant limp. Once the hole is dug, it’s an uphill battle the rest of the way. Two weeks ago, Hamilton netted four straight goals to open the game. Last week, Ohio sprinted out to a 4-0 lead just six minutes in.
“Credit to Ohio, I thought they played really well,” said Tucker. “I think Bear and his staff have done a very, very good job of keeping their team together and improving every week. The result speaks for itself, we didn’t play as well as we needed to. Again our start was poor—we’ve been addressing that every week. We’re sorry to see the season end without a playoff berth, but we’re going to right the ship for sure and play real, real hard on Saturday.”
One big question still looms: Will Rabil be able to end the season as the MLL’s points leader? Despite having been held points-less in two games this season, most recently last weekend against Ohio, he remains tied with Hamilton’s Kevin Crowley for second in the league with 49 points. Denver’s Chris Bocklet is first with 50 points. His recent lack of production is due in part to an injury he suffered midway through the season, but expect Rabil to be on top of his game vying for the points crown.
“He had a frustrating day shooting and a lot of it I’d like to give credit to [Ohio goalie] Scott Rodgers, I think he had 22 saves,” said Tucker. “Paul has been great all season long and he’s still one of the top point-getters in the MLL despite playing, in my opinion, with a very severe injury without taking any time off. That’s just the competitive nature of his makeup. I think what has hurt him most is his inability to follow through on shots because of the location of the injury. He absolutely competes and tries as hard as he can. He’s given us everything he can.”
Can the Cannons avoid being swept by the Rattlers, which hasn’t happened since the 2008 season, and snap their three-game winless streak to end the season on a positive note? Come to Harvard on Saturday at 7pm to find out and to celebrate the Cannons’ season by supporting them one last time. Make sure to catch the Cannons’ Team Awards immediately following the action!