7/16/13 3:50 PM
Cannons vs. Bayhawks
Face Off: Thursday at 7:30 pm EST
Broadcast: Live on Comcast Sports Net
The Boston Cannons and the Chesapeake Bayhawks will take the field on Thursday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis for what will inevitably be a high-intensity contest. The match-up features the 5-5 Cannons, who are currently in fourth place in the standings, and the 6-5 Bayhawks, the third place team. A lot is on the line for both teams.
"This is a key, key game for the remainder of our season," said Cannons coach John Tucker. "Being able to beat Chesapeake would give us a lot of advantages--it puts us above .500 and puts us in a virtual tie with them, but puts us ahead on tie breakers. It would be difficult to lose both these games [Chesapeake and Hamilton] and still make the playoffs. To lose our momentum, it would be very difficult to pull out of that."
A win for Boston would mean a tie for third place with Chesapeake, and a loss could return them to a fourth place tie with either Charlotte or Rochester, or both. Rochester faces red-hot Denver this week, while Charlotte squares off with New York, but there are never any guaranteed wins in the MLL. Boston can only control how they play, and the Cannons will need to be as prepared and as focused against Chesapeake as they’ve ever been.
"We've broken down a lot of film and having the extra days to prepare is a blessing for us because of how talented they are. We've had the chance to lick our wounds a little bit, heal up, and get ready to play a great team on Thursday night."
To intensify the stakes, both teams are in the midst of a winning streak. The Cannons are riding a four-game run, while the Bayhawks have rattled off two wins in a row. Coach Tucker remains undefeated since being promoted from an assistant position, but he is quick to mention that the Cannons' recent success has nothing to do with him.
"Credit goes to the players. They were able to write the ship themselves. Doesn't have much to do with me, but redesigning some roles and a few minor tweaks and they've been able to get it done and get on the right page philosophically."
Boston isn’t the only team reaping the benefits of its talented rookie class. Chesapeake first-year attacker Kevin Cooper won Cascade’s Rookie of the Week in his week ten debut against Ohio. The University of Maryland alum made his presence known with three goals and an assist in the win for Chesapeake.
However, Boston had its own weekly award winner during week ten. Paul Rabil was named the Warrior Offensive Player of the Week for his eight-point explosion in the Cannons’ overtime victory against the Hounds. On his way to becoming the Cannons' all-time points leader (289), he scored a season-high five goals and dished out three assists, including the game-winner to newest Cannon Stephen Berger. Berger's immediate impact was welcomed by teammates, coaches, and fans alike.
"Berger is a very versatile player and has a number of things he does well. It depends on how they play us, how we use him. He's an effective off-the-ball player, crease attackman, and he can beat people off dodges, as well. The good thing is, and the reason we got his services, is he's versatile, a great locker room guy, and plays with energy."
If you’re still unsure what to expect from this game, here’s a guarantee: it will be physical. The last time these teams met, 11 penalty minutes were handed out—5.5 minutes per team. Three of the top four penalty earners this season are on these two teams—Chesapeake’s Brian Spallina (10.5), Boston’s Jon Hayes (8.5), and Chesapeake’s Kyle Dixon (7). With numbers like those, it is no surprise that a fierce rivalry has emerged between these two teams.
"It's exciting to be in a game where there are so many stars and guys want to prove themselves to one another. it won't be different than any other game--they're all hotly contested and emotional. Both franchises have been ultra successful and have a history of winning, so it just boils down to two excellent teams playing against one another. Intensity is at a high pitch, so it's exciting to be a part of it as a coach."
Two months ago during the first meeting, the then 0-3 Cannons came away with an overtime win, their first of the season, sending the then 3-0 Bayhawks back to Chesapeake with their first loss. The Bayhawks will no doubt be trying to avenge the frustrating loss that ended their undefeated streak.
Rabil recorded seven points in the victory against Chesapeake and Boyle, who has recently cooled off after beginning the season on fire, notched the game-winning goal in overtime.
The Cannons will need to be wary of the Bayhawks’ long-range abilities. They are tied with the Hounds for the most two-point goals this season (11). And Boston is the worst in the league in defending two-pointers, letting in 11 from downtown. Cannons’ goalie Jordan Burke has given up ten from behind the arc, the most in the league thus far. Charlotte connected on two two-pointers on July 6 against the Cannons.
"Our matchup against them will change because our own personnel has changed. They have an interesting group of guys, extremely talented. Casey Powell, who knows, hasn't played in a long time, but is a great player. We've expected he'll play. They have eight all-stars, he just makes nine. We'll have to figure out a way to stop John Grant Jr. who has been a killer against us and a hard test offensively. We feel like we've seen some things on tape and in our personnel that we can take advantage of."
If you think the blood was boiling during game one between these two, then make sure you tune in at 7:30pm on Thursday on Comcast Sports Net to see whose winning streak will be preserved.
Buy tickets here for the two remaining home games!