Jared Welsh, LTR Mid-Atlantic
Day three of the Major League Lacrosse week long tournament kicked off in Annapolis, MD as the winless Philadelphia Barrage took on the winless Connecticut Hammerheads in a must win game for both teams. Philadelphia has slightly more pressure for victory as they enter the game 0-2 dropping games to the Chesapeake Bayhawks and the Denver Outlaws. Connecticut got the day two bye, and coming off a 18-6 loss to the Outlaws would look to bounce back and get one in the win column.
Philadelphia trotted out #1 draft pick and Towson graduate Alex Woodall to control the opening face-off. It would take just 28 seconds for the Barrage to strike the first blow as Mark Matthews found the back of the net. On the ensuing possesion for the the Barrage, a Brendan Sunday rebound would get picked up by team make Tyson Gibson. Gibson with the quick reaction was able to find Shayne Jackson for the second Barrage goal of the game. The Barrage would continue to pepper Hammerheads goalie Sean Sconone with shots as Matthews buries his second of the game. The Hammerheads were not going to give up as Ryan McNamara would score their first goal of the game with 7:31 remaining in the quarter. However, Tommy Palasek would find Colin Minicus for the goal to answer back for the Barrage. With under six minutes to play, the Hammerheads would get a pair of goals from Will Sands and Noah Rak to pull the game within one.
Noah Rak would win the opening faceoff of the second quarter and get the ball into the offensive zone. Once again it was Sands finding paydirt and tying the game at four. The Barrage would answer as Jon Mazza would work the ball over to Brendan Sunday who used his athleticism and array of fakes to gain back the lead for Philadelphia. All game the long the bodies were dropping as big hits and big checks seemed to the order of the day. However, an unnecessary roughness call would give the Barrage the man advantage. It was Sunday receiving a pass from Matthews to build the lead to two. A faceoff violation by Woodall would give the Hammerheads possession and an extra man as Brett Craig would be called for slashing. Now Connecticut would take advantage of the man up when Will Sands found an open Bradley Voigt. It would be Voigt once again working himself open to get a wide open four foot goal to tie it at 6. It take just ten seconds for the Barrage to capitalize on a Alex Woodall faceoff win when Sunday found Matthews once again for a goal.
The Hammerheads came out of halftime ready to play. Noah Rak would win the opening faceoff and take it to the goal himself to tie the game at 7 in just six seconds. Connecticut kept the pressure one winning the ensuing face off and getting the ball to Dan Lomas for their first lead of the game just 14 seconds later. However, Mark Matthews would get the ball to the X and drive to the far side for a diving goal to tie the game at eight. The Barrage would work themselves into their set offense with Tommy Palasek passing from bottom to top to a wide open Brendan Sunday who connected on a streakin step down shot to regain the lead. Philadelphia long stick midfielder P.T. Ricci helped to push transition with a pivotal ground ball to allow the Barrage to once get work within their offense. This time it would be Hopkins standout Kyle Marr that would find Ryan MacSpayden if front of the net for a behind the back goal. The quarter ended on the longest scoring drought in of the game of 9:21.
The scoring drought would continue for three and a half minutes into the fourth when some crisp passing from the Barrages’ Shayne Jackson to Brendan Sunday grew their lead to 11-8. The Barrage would continue their run as Jon Mazza would score on the run shooting across his body. A few moments later Colin Minicus would start the possession by passing the ball to the top of the arc only to get it back from Matthews where Minicus buried the ball home. The Hammerheads would end a 25:12 scoring drought with a goal from Ryan McNamara who took it upon himself to get to the rack. Coming down the near side and falling on a cut behind the crease, McNamara was able to regain balance and dive in for the goal. The Hammerheads would chose the double the ball off the endline after an errant Barrage shot. This would allow Tommy Palasek to find a wide open Shayne Jackson for the 14th Barrage goal of the game. Noah Rak would win the following faceoff to give the Hammerheads possession. Cody Radziewicz would get the ball coming out of the substitution box and take it all the way down himself to cut the lead down to four. The Barrage would be able to hold the ball and use the shot clock to run time down and take their first win of the tournament with a final score 14-10.
Philadelphia head coach Spencer Ford said “We started off pretty hot, but had a couple of hiccups there, but I thought we fought on both ends of the field”. The Barrage were looking to get their offense clicking, whenever Connecticut would score, Philadelphia would answer back. “If they throw one we gotta hit them back with two punches. Everytime them came and got something we did everything we can to at least play good on the other end and get a good look”, Ford stated of his offense. Coach Ford, also a former MLL player, said of having a team back in Philadelphia, “I lost to them in ’07 Championship and I’ve said it before, if you can’t beat them, join them. As we push into 2021 we are going to play in front of those great fans, so our goal here is to step on the field and show some sort of toughness and grit”.
The Barrage improve to 1-2 and will take on the Boston Cannons tomorrow at 4pm on ESPN+. The Hammerheads fall to 0-2 and will play the New York Lizards on Wednesday at 4pm on ESPN+.