The Charlotte Hounds on Saturday night punched their ticket to Philadelphia for the Major League Lacrosse playoffs with a 14-11 victory over the Hamilton Nationals in front of 4,317 fans at American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte. The win, coupled with a loss by the Boston Cannons (5-8) earlier in the day, guarantees the Hounds (7-6) a spot at Championship Weekend. Matt Danowski was named Player of the Game for a seven-point performance, including a career high six-goal game.
The Nationals jumped out to an early lead off a two-point goal from Kevin Crowley, but after penalties were dished out to both teams, the Hounds quickly cut the deficit back to one as Ryan Young scooped up the rebound from Brian Carroll’s shot and wrapped it around the cage for a power-play goal. The momentum was short lived however, as Garrett Thul tallied the Nationals’ second 2-pointer and Joe Walters followed up with a goal of his own to put the visitors up 5-1.
The Hounds responded with a great individual effort from Danowski to score his first of the night, but that was matched by a goal from Roman Lao-Gosney to keep the Nationals in front 6-2. Danowski tallied his second of the night before Matt White eluded his defender with a spin move to bounce one past Nationals goalie Brett Queener and pull the Hounds within two, 6-4. Crowley responded with his second of the night to put the Nationals back in front by three, but the Hounds closed the gap as Danowski ripped a 2-pointer and Jake Tripucka found the back of the net with just 18.2 seconds remaining in the quarter to tie the game at 7.
The second quarter went scoreless for nearly seven minutes before Danowski tallied his fourth of the night to give the Hounds their first lead of the game, 8-7. The advantage didn’t last long though, as Martin Cahill followed up with a 2-point goal to reclaim a 9-8 lead for the Nationals. But Danowski again took the game in to his own hands, making some nifty moves to elude a double team and knot the game at 9 heading into halftime.
Stephen Keogh scored just 35 seconds into the third quarter, but Tripucka matched with his second of the night to keep the game tied at 10. Young then got a feed from Carroll behind the cage and worked his way in front to beat Queener and put the Hounds back in front 11-10. It was a lead the Hounds would not relinquish the rest of the night. The advantage was extended to two, as Danowski took a shot that bounced out over Queener’s stick and dribbled over the goal line.
Tripucka opened the fourth quarter with his third of the night, the first hat trick of his MLL career, to push the Hounds ahead 13-10. Crowley responded with his third of the night, but it would be the final goal the Nationals would score in the game. Young completed the hat trick to solidify a 14-11 victory and send the Hounds into the playoffs.
Saturday night’s win was the third straight for the Hounds, a new team record. Goalie Adam Ghitelman had 13 saves on 21 shots, while Geoff Snider and Tim Fallon combined to go 13-25 at the faceoff X.
The Hounds next week close out the 2013 season on the road against the Chesapeake Bayhawks. The Bayhawks (8-5) are coming off a 12-8 win over the Rochester Rattlers. If the Hounds beat the Bayhawks, they would claim the third overall seed in the MLL playoffs through the league’s tie breaker. Faceoff is set for 7:00pm ET at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The game can be seen in the Charlotte area on WMYT My TV 12, in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area on Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic and streamed nationally through ESPN3.com and the WatchESPN app.