It wasn't pretty, but it doesn't't have to be. The Boston Cannons opened the 2020 MLL "season" with an impressive 16-14 comeback win on Saturday afternoon. Boston looked sloppy at times, but 2020's been nothing but sloppy anyways so the positive result is all that matters at this point.
The Cannons and rest of the MLL all play five games (four after Saturday) over the next week. Then, the semifinals (four teams) are set for Saturday the 25th, and Championship Sunday is set for the 26th.
Boston committed 20 turnovers, had five penalties and lost the ground ball battle 46-31. But, in the end, they got the W.
The Cannons trailed 12-9 at halftime and 14-12 heading to the fourth quarter. Former Duxbury goalie, and now captain Nick Marrocco was magnificent in the third and fourth quarters to keep it close. Marrocco made 14 saves in the win. Mark Cockerton and Bryce Wasserman led the way on offense with four goals each.
"I thought in the second half we played more composed," Cannons head coach Sean Quirk said. "We got some stops on defense, consecutive stops that we really needed. That allowed our offense to work. At the end, we've got some veterans that have played together. I think that really helped us there."
The Cannons struck first as Cockerton made it 1-0 with 9:48 left in the first. New York quickly tied it and took the lead, but Wasserman made it 2-2. The Lizards built a 4-2 lead but a low bounce from Challen Rogers cut it to 4-3. New York scored again late to take a 5-3 lead after one.
Ben Spencer made it 6-4 early in the second, but the Lizards responded quickly again making it 7-4. Reilly O'Connor made it 7-5, but New York soon pushed it to 8-5. A lefty rip on the run for Wasserman a bit later made it 8-6. Another Wasserman goal for his hat trick off a great dodge from X cut it to 8-7 with 5:36 to go.
"I thought this was an interesting game for us as a team," said Wasserman. "There's a lot of guys here from this Cannons team last year. But, obviously myself included there's a lot of new pieces. We only had four hours (two days) to mesh together as a team. It was a unique game because we were learning how to play with each other while playing against another team."
The Lizards had an answer almost all day, and made another run to push it to 10-7. A huge two-point goal for long stick middle Scott Corcoran cut it to 11-9. The Lizards added one more late for the 12-9 halftime lead.
The third quarter was again sloppy for Boston in terms of turnovers. However, some huge saves from Marrocco kept it close. Cockerton had the first two goals of the third, cutting it to 12-11 with 7:56 to play. Yet another New York run made it 14-11. Kyle Jackson potted a highlight reel behind the back goal late in the third to cut it to 14-12 heading to the fourth.
Face-offs were huge all day (Boston won 18 of 32) and in the fourth quarter in particular. Combine that with more stellar play from Marrocco at times and the comeback possibilities became more and more real.
A fast break goal from Randy Staats cut it to 14-13 early in the fourth. A ridiculously tough pass from Staats followed and ended in a dink-and-dunk goal for Jackson, tying it at 14-14. The Cannons took their first lead since the first quarter on Cockerton's fourth of the game with 1:41 remaining. Wasserman added an insurance goal with 42.7 seconds to go. Boston won the huge ensuing face off and Zach Goodrich ran out the clock for the win.
"I think overall the first half was rough for everyone," Marrocco said with a sly chuckle. "Wasn't totally seeing (the ball) as well as I usually do. I think defensively we just had to fix a few things, try to be a little more aggressive out there.
"Trying to develop team chemistry in two days isn't an easy thing to do. But, we've been talking for weeks and weeks about coming out here and what that would mean. So I think we're all on the same page about the mentality coming in, it's going to be a fricken grind."
CLOSING THOUGHTS & WHAT TO WATCH FOR
As many of the quotes highlighted, building team chemistry in a pro sport in two days is nearly impossible. The second half looked much different than the first for Boston, and that speaks to getting adjusted to one another.
The penalties, lack of discipline (staying out of the box) and losing ground balls should and will get fixed under a Quirk coached team. The face-off numbers were a bit skewed since most of the wins came on illegal procedures, could be something to watch for going forward. Overall the offense looks extremely fast and was more cohesive in the second half. Most importantly, Marrocco in the cage keeps them in any game.
The Cannons take on defending MLL champ Chesapeake Monday at 7 P.M. on in their second game.
(All quotes used from Boston Cannons PR department)