Charlotte Hounds earn berth in MLL final game

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Chester, P.A. – The Charlotte Hounds beat the undefeated and top-seeded Denver Outlaws 17-14 in their Major League Lacrosse (MLL) semifinal matchup played at PPL Part in Chester, Pa. on Saturday.

The victory earned the Hounds, 7-7 in league play, their first-ever appearance in the MLL championship final game in only their second year of existence.

Charlotte earned a spot in to play in MLL Championship weekend after beating the third-seeded Hamilton Nationals 11-4 back on Aug. 3 led by Player of the Game (POG) and captain Matt Danowski, whose seven points (6g – 4g, 1 2-ptr, 1a) powered the Hounds into the postseason.

It was rookies Mike Sawyer (4g – 2g, 1 2-ptr), the POG, and Jake Tripucka (2g, 1a), along with Danowski (2g – 1 2-ptr), who helped to stun the Outlaws early on.

All three led the Charlotte offense as it filled the net behind All-Team Pro goalie Jesse Schwartzman to lead 8-2 after the first quarter of play.

Tripucka’s unassisted high-to-low shot early in the second quarter contributed to a Hounds offense that also got Matt White (3g, 1a) and Ryan Young (2g, 1a) involved, and kept building its momentum to allow Charlotte to carry a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Eric Law scored a game-high nine goals on 11 shots on goal to keep the Outlaws close throughout.

Denver maintained possession of the ball for long stretches of the third quarter, and slowly cut into the lead by outscoring Charlotte, trailing 14-10 to start the fourth quarter.

Similar to play in the third, both teams went scoreless during the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, and the slower play worked to the Denver’s favor.

Schwartzman helped lead Denver’s transition game that resulted in offensive opportunities that brought the Outlaws to within two goals of the lead.

Poor ground ball play from the Charlotte defense allowed Law and his teammates to take advantage of opportunities within the five-yard range, and they narrowed the score to 14-12 with seven minutes remaining.

However, it was Sawyer who started a quick three-goal run along with Young and Geoff Snider (1g, 12 gb) that extended the Hounds lead back up to 17-12 just three minutes later.

Down, but still now out, Denver’s Brendan Mundorf (2g, 1a) got away from his shadow, close-checking Charlotte defender Joe Cinosky (3 gb), and scored to bring the Outlaws one goal closer at 17-13.

Law finalized the scoring for the game with a shot past Hounds keeper Adam Ghitelman (17 saves) just under a minute later, but Denver ran out of time in staging a successful comeback.

With the Outlaws seeking to score quickly, former Tar Heels defender Ryan Flanagan intercepted one final pass and gave the Hounds possession of the ball as the game clock counted down.

Charlotte completed the upset and clinched a spot to play for its first-ever MLL championship title and trophy on Sunday against the winner of the other semifinal game of the day between the Nationals and the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks.