By Matt Scully | 9/1/11 10:45 AM
The Boston Cannons won their first Steinfeld Trophy this past weekend in Annapolis, Md. after defeating the Chesapeake Bayhawks 14-13 on Saturday in the semi-finals, and the Hamilton Nationals in the championship game on Sunday by a 10-9 score.
Having qualified for the MLL post-season for the ninth time in eleven years, the Cannons were still without a coveted league title entering this year’s postseason. Holding the top seed for the second straight year, the pressure was on for the team to bring home the hardware.
“This victory was just a great cumulative team effort,” said Paul Rabil. “You know I’ve been asked in years past about the Cannons breaking through [in the playoffs], and how the team has had some unfortunate finishes but that’s really a credit to the talents of the rest of the league. There are great players on all the teams and the Cannons have just come up short. But the way this team played in the present is such a great testament to the effort of everyone on the team.”
With the victory, the Cannons were able to add to the city of Boston’s “title-town” reputation. Over the previous decade the Patriots have won three Super Bowls, the Red Sox have two World Series, and the Celtics and Bruins have each won championships. The Cannons now belong to the same championship fraternity.
“We are really proud to bring the Steinfeld Trophy back to Boston,” said Bud Light Championship MVP Jordan Burke. “Our fans are the best in the league and have come out in droves to support us at home and even on the road. So it’s great to be able to show them our gratitude by bringing a championship back home. The entire city has been great to us. We are getting a lot of local press and are being honored this weekend at a Red Sox game.”
Paul Rabil expressed how much the team was “happy to be a part of title-town” and talked about the victory over Rochester in the final game of the season as a key point in the team’s development, saying that “the way we came back in the Rochester game really set the tone for the playoffs for us, we proved to ourselves that we were resilient and could finish teams off – even in a game that had no impact on the standings.”
Defensive mid-fielder JJ Morrissey – who grew up in the Boston area – was equally excited about helping bring another championship to city of Boston. “Bringing the Steinfeld Trophy back to Boston means a lot to me,” Morrissey explained. “It's my hometown, I love this city and its sports teams, and playing for one of those teams is a dream come true. It's great that we can now throw our name up there with the B's, Sox, Pats and Celts when it comes to championships. Our fan base is passionate and they’ve been there for us all season long so being able to bring the trophy home for them is extra special.”
The thrill of the championship run has still not worn off for many of the Cannons’ players. “The fact that we won the championship [last] weekend really hasn't settled in,” said attackman Kevin Buchanan. “We as a team accomplished exactly what we set out to do. Through hard work and dedication we fought through some great adversity. If you reflect back on a number of games this season, its evidence of this teams perseverance. My father has actually coined the term "Cardiac Cannons" for this team because of the fashion we win in. Games like Rochester in week 12 and Chesapeake in the semi's, are just over the top exciting wins.”
Goalie Jordan Burke also talked about the memories he’ll take from the championship run. “I'm always going to remember these games, especially the rush of emotions after Quinzani's goal to send us to the finals and the final whistle blowing during the Championship game,” expressed Burke. “But what made this championship special for us was definitely how tight-knit of a group we were off the field as well. Winning it all with the group of guys that we had makes the entire experience very memorable.”
As final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Cannons were able to hang on for the 10-9 nail-biting victory on Sunday, the celebration and hoisting of the Steinfeld Trophy began. The players have enjoyed the perks and benefits that are afforded to the champions and have enjoyed celebrating together.
“We all spent a couple hours in the locker room with the trophy after the game and that was special,” Rabil explained.
JJ Morrissey described the post-game events as well saying, “We celebrated together in Annapolis at a local watering hole. The trophy came along and we all had a good time. The Cannons are like a family and it felt that way all season long. It was tough to go our separate ways, but at least we left Annapolis as champions.”
Locally in greater Boston, the Cannons have received unprecedented acclaim and attention in a home-town market saturated with sports passion. The team has been highlighted on local newscasts all week and will be acknowledged on the field prior to this Saturday’s Red Sox game at Fenway Park. For many of the players this tribute will be special. Boston-native Morrissey explains, “being welcomed by the Red Sox for a pregame celebration on the field is something I’m really looking forward to. I've been going to Fenway since I was a kid, and walking on that field, representing the MLL Champion Cannons will be a special moment.”
The 2011 Cannons’ season was memorable from start to finish. From the team’s 6-1 start, to closing out their championship run with five straight victories – four by a one-goal margin – this Cannons team proved to themselves and the league that they were clearly the elite team in Major League Lacrosse and one that will be remembered for years to come.