6/21/10 12:00 AM
The wait is over. The Toronto Nationals finally earned their first win of the season Saturday June 19 in an 11-9 victory over the Long Island Lizards.
Toronto came out on top in a tightly contested game highlighted by defense and goaltending. Toronto’s Scott Rodgers had a solid first half in net giving up six goals and making five saves, but it was Brett Queener who stole the show in the second half. After an outing that was cut short the week before due to injury, Queener came in Saturday and dominated, allowing only three goals while making eight saves. Queener and the Nationals held Long Island to just one goal in the fourth quarter.
Queener’s play has been somewhat up and down this year; take away a two game stretch in which he let up 27 goals and he’s only allowed 15 in the remaining four games.
“Maybe his numbers aren’t where they should be from his perspective, but sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story,” said Toronto head coach Dave Huntley.
On offense, attackmen Corey Small and John Grant Jr. led the way with three points apiece against Long Island. Saturday’s victory was one of the more exciting games of the weekend, especially since it finally put the defending MLL Champions back in the win column.
“If I wasn’t on the sidelines coaching and I happened to be in the stands and I bought a ticket I would’ve felt like I got my money’s worth,” said Toronto head coach Dave Huntley.
With the much anticipated first win of the season the Nationals improved to 1-5 while the Lizards dropped to 2-4 on the year. Both teams are on the outside looking in on the playoff hunt with Boston, Chesapeake and Denver all tied for first place at 4-2. The Nationals will need to play near perfect lacrosse from here on out and receive a little help if they hope to sneak into the playoffs. With six games to go in the season the Nationals are currently three games out of first place and will need to leapfrog a couple of teams in order to reach the postseason. The fourth and final playoff spot is currently occupied by Chicago at 3-3, meaning there is still a chance for Toronto to find its way in.
Long Island came into the game with the lowest goal output in the league, which is currently at 60, just one behind Toronto’s total of 61. However, the Nationals were more than aware of the Lizards’ potentially dangerous offense, especially their attack core. Toronto held the Lizards’ top scoring options Tim Goettelmann and Matt Danowski to just five points combined. Shutting those two down was huge for the Nationals, especially after Danowski went off for six points himself the weekend before.
Their first win was not an easy one as the contest was back and forth the entire way. Toronto led after the first quarter, Long Island led at halftime and then the two were deadlocked 8-8 heading into the final frame. The Nationals cranked up the defense though and held the Lizards to just one goal in the fourth, while putting away three goals of their own to seal the victory.
Looking ahead to this week, the Nationals will be squaring off against the 4-2 Chesapeake Bayhawks on Thursday June 24. Toronto and Chesapeake have had quite the interesting series of matchups in the 2010 season thus far. In the first head-to-head meeting the Bayhawks smoked Toronto by a score of 25-12. Chesapeake dominated the entire game, at one point scoring nine unanswered goals, while also going on two separate runs of four straight goals. The Nationals were victimized by midfielder Kyle Dixon who had seven points in the game.
After the Week 2 blowout the Nationals began to noticeably improve each week. “You don’t like losing any games,” Huntley said. “I think we played pretty well the last four weeks. I don’t think we played that well the first two weeks.”
The two sides faced off again on June 12 in another Chesapeake win, but one that was much tighter the whole way through. As was the case in many of Toronto’s games, it was a back and forth game with both sides going on runs. Toronto scored five unanswered goals split between the first and second quarters, but then allowed the Bayhawks back in it with five straight goals of their own. Trailing in the fourth quarter, Toronto shut Chesapeake out in a desperate comeback bid, but fell just shy.
This time the Nationals will most certainly be keeping an eye on Dixon, who is notorious for his eagerness to shoot from deep, especially from behind the two-point arc. Dixon already has eight two-point goals on the year, through just six games. If they can keep Dixon under wraps that will go a long way in stopping the Bayhawks, but that still leaves midfielder Peet Poillon, who is second in the MLL with 26 points.
The Nationals will have to pick their poison with Chesapeake, while also picking up the slack on the offensive end. Toronto will need to step up its scoring from weeks past to topple Chesapeake’s high octane offense, which is tied for tops in the league with 87 goals. Huntley kept it simple though when discussing what his players must do to prepare for Chesapeake.
“I think it’s really just about our guys worrying about themselves and coming mentally prepared [and] ready to play,” he said.
The two sides meet up for their third matchup of the year Thursday night June 24 in Annapolis, MD. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and it can be seen live on Universal Sports and ESPN3. Thursday’s contest can also be seen live on Time Warner in Rochester, N.Y., Cox Sports Rhode Island and Cox Sports New Orleans. It will also be broadcast on tape delay June 25 at 3:30 p.m. on BrightHouse in Florida and again June 27 at 2 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic.
You can also follow the action with our Live Blog and Chat presented by Warrior.com at www.majorleaguelacrosse.com
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com