By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)
Last season, seven teams finished atop the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) standings with identical 8-6 ledgers.
And one of those teams happened to be the Boston Cannons, which captured four of their final five contests, including a come-from behind season finale win over the Florida Launch.
Yet, despite an exciting 11-10 win over the Launch last August, tie-breakers among the league’s nine teams ousted the Cannons from the 2016 MLL playoffs, providing head coach Sean Quirk and his team with some motivation heading into the 2017 season.
“The parody is absolutely ridiculous in the league,” Quirk said earlier this week during his team’s Media Day at the New Balance Headquarters in Boston. “Anyone can win on any given day, (but) I think how we prepare for that (first game) is going to be critical.”
Getting off to a hot start will be critical for the Cannons, who look to return to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. And to avoid any end of season tiebreakers, earning early season wins will help the local squad position themselves for a chance to contend for the Steinfeld Cup.
“We really hit our stride last year probably mid-way (or) maybe a little bit after that (point in the season), but we finished really strong,” said Quirk, who will be entering his second season with the Cannons.
“We beat New York at home, we finished beating the Florida Launch at home … so we put ourselves in every position to make the playoffs, but we didn’t do that early on in the season … so our goal is we have to be prepared better than we were last year early on to have success.”
Boston began positioning themselves for a successful 2017 campaign by recently inking Brodie Merrill, John Uppgren, Mike Begley and Joe Nardella to new contracts, while welcoming back John Tucker as an assistant coach.
Tucker, who began the 2016 season as the Atlanta Blaze’s first-ever head coach, spent a trio of seasons in Boston (2013-15) and was tabbed the squad’s head coach midway through the 2015 season.
The Cannons also acquired Matt Landis from the Florida Launch last month – he will be one of many defenders on Boston’s backline that will attempt to lock-down the league’s top attack.
Boston will welcome back a slew of key players from last season, including Will Manny, Josh Hawkins, Kevin Buchanan, David Emala and Tyler Fiorito, who will be spotted between the pipes this season. Manny paced the squad with 50 points last season, while Max Seibald led the unit with a quartet of two-point goals.
Hawkins enjoyed his best season a pro, netting career-best in goals (11), points (14) and ground balls (51). He is one of many Cannons eager to return to the field in a few weeks when Boston visits Florida in their season-opener, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 23.
“Every game is a playoff game,” said Hawkins, when asked about his team’s outlook for the upcoming season. “That’s how it is … it’s always playoff games for us.”
Following a visit to Florida, Boston will head to Atlanta on Saturday, April 29th before entertaining Chesapeake on Saturday, May 6 at Harvard Stadium. Roughly one month after the Cannons’ home opener, Boston will welcome the defending champion Denver Outlaws on Saturday, June 3rd.
Boston will close out its season at home with back-to-back games against Florida (July 29th) and Atlanta (August 5th). Following their season-final against the Blaze, the Cannons hope to return to the field the following week for a playoff game.
“You have to approach every game with a winning mentality,” said Buchannan. “We just have to find a way to win week-in and week-out.”