Saturday’s Major League Lacrosse championship game at Atlanta’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium came down to the final seconds — and a play that Denver Outlaws had never practiced.
And it worked.
With 12.9 seconds to go, Outlaws attackman Eric Law scored a decisive goal, giving Denver a 19-18 edge over the Ohio Machine to win the 2016 MLL title, its second in three seasons.
"That's just making a big time play. Crashing the crease, which Eric does well, handling the ball, and dunking it," Outlaws attackman Michael Bocklet said.
The game-winning score wasn’t just impressive — it was pivotal.
The goal was Law’s fifth of the game and fourth of the second half. That score stuck after a brief but intense possession from the Machine. But they couldn’t score before time expired.
“Jeremy [Sieverts] made a good look and I managed to scoop it off the ground,” Law said. “Somehow, someway I got it past [Scotty] Rodgers.”
Law’s sinking game-winning shot stole the headlines. But the 59:47 of game that built to that climax had its own form of drama.
The start of the game was up-tempo, despite a weather delay due to lightning. Five goals were netted in the opening 5:09, three of which were scored by Ohio.
After the initial offensive fireworks, each squad scored in sets. The first big wave came from the Machine, which delivered three goals in 44 seconds late in the first quarter.
Denver, the 2014 champions, put one back on the board, but it couldn’t stop another spurt of three in a row for Ohio. That made it 9-3.
But then came a torrential rainstorm that brought the game to a screeching halt for 96 minutes.
The weather was so bad there were serious doubts that the game could continue. The field was littered with puddles.
“At one point I was looking at the field and thought there was no chance we would play,” said Outlaws head coach B.J. O’Hara. “It was a miracle they got this game in.”
They did. And it was an instant classic.
At 9:32 p.m., action finally resumed. The trend of runs pressed on with the Outlaws scoring four goals in 2:09. But Ohio punched back with five goals in 4:45 to make it 14-7 Ohio at halftime.
An abbreviated halftime seemed to be just the jolt of energy Denver needed for the third quarter. The penultimate period saw Denver play shutdown defense and blistering offense to outscore Ohio 8-1.
The flashpoint instant of the frame was the lone two-point goal of the game.
“I think we put a little more pressure on them,” Bocklet said. “We came out, got on their hands a little bit, made some key saves, and pushed transition on them.”
Three goals from Law, as well as a two-point rocket from Drew Snider, aided this tighter defense. Ohio scored three straight goals, including one from attacker John Grant Jr., in a fighting effort.
Grant set the MLL postseason career goal record with 30 after scoring a second time in the set.
But it was Law’s clutch shot that made all the difference. And his performance earned him the championship MVP award.
“Sieverts found Eric on the doorstep for a hard notched goal, and Eric's pretty good at that,” coach O'Hara said. “He has made a living doing that kind of finish."
And on Saturday, Law’s skills helped make Denver reigning MLL champs once again.
Photos: Major League Lacrosse