The Charlotte Hounds on Saturday afternoon ended the Denver Outlaws’ bid for a perfect season, with a 17-14 upset of the No. 1 seed at PPL Park in Chester, PA to advance to the MLL Championship Game. It will be the first Championship appearance for the second-year team. Hounds rookie Mike Sawyer was named Player of the Game after leading the team with four goals, including a 2-pointer.
The Outlaws got on the board first, as Adam Ghitelman made an initial save on Jeremy Sieverts’ shot, but Eric Law was right there to bury the rebound. It would be the only time the Outlaws would lead the contest. The Hounds answered back two minutes later, as Jake Tripucka scored on the run to make it a 1-1 game. Ryan Flanagan then forced a turnover to set up Peet Poillon, who used a great individual effort to find the back of the net and gives the Hounds a 2-1 lead. That advantage was pushed to 4-1 less than two minutes later, as Sawyer rifled a 2-pointer past Jesse Schwartzman. The Outlaws immediately answered back, as Law scored his second of the game, but it would be the last goal they would score for 10:30 as the Hounds built up a three-goal run. Matt Danowski got it started with a 2-pointer, and Sawyer added back-to-back tallies to put the Hounds up 8-2 at the end of one.
Just over two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter, Ryan Young laid out Schwartzman and was hit with a 2-minute illegal cross-check penalty. The Outlaws capitalized on the man-up opportunity, as Justin Pennington delivered an impressive feed to Law who easily found the back of the net to cut the Hounds’ lead down to 8-3. The Outlaws’ momentum didn’t last long however, as the Hounds tallied three straight from Tripucka, Matt White and Danowski to go ahead 11-3 with 7:23 remaining in the half. But that lead was cut back down to six, as Chris Bocklet and Law combined for two straight goals. The Hounds responded with back-to-back goals of their own from Young and White to make it a 13-5 game in their favor. However, the Outlaws closed to half with another two straight, one from Sieverts and the sixth of the day for Law to cut the Hounds’ advantage to 13-7 at the half.
Despite both teams coming out firing at the start of the third, the quarter went scoreless for nearly six minutes before Tipucka was able to feed White for his third of the day and put the Hounds in front 14-7. But the remained of the quarter was dominated by the Outlaws. Brendan Mundorf got a low shot past Ghitelman and Law notched his seventh goal of the day to pull within 14-9. Flanagan was then called for interference with 30 seconds to play in the quarter, and Zack Greer was able to score as time expired to make it a 14-10 game in favor of the Hounds heading into the final stanza.
The fourth quarter got off to a slow start, until commotion in front of the net resulted in Law’s eight goal of the day. That tally was followed up by one from Pennington and suddenly the Outlaws were within two, 14-12, with 6:24 to play. But the Hounds within three minutes were able to rattle off three goals, including a tally off the faceoff from Geoff Snider to push their lead to 17-12 with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Mundorf looked to spark a comeback for the Outlaws with his second goal of the day. A scrum broke out on the field and the Hounds were hit with multiple penalties that would force them to play the remainder of the game man-down. The Outlaws immediately capitalized with a goal from Law to cut the Hounds’ lead down to three, 17-14, with 1:06 left on the clock. The Outlaws won the ensuing faceoff, but Flanagan intercepted a pass and was able to run down the clock to seal the win for the Hounds.
The Hounds on Saturday were aided by a dominant performance at the faceoff X. Snider went 17-25 on draws while Tim Fallon was 5-7. Meanwhile, Ghitelman backstropped the victory with 17 saves, which is tied for his highest total this season. The 13 first-half goals put up by the Hounds is a new team record.
The Hounds now will face the winner of Saturday’s 4:00pm semifinal between the No. 2 Chesapeake Bayhawks and No. 3 Hamilton Nationals on Sunday, August 25 at 3:00pm ET. The game will be played at PPL Park and be televised live on ESPN2.