For the first time ever, the Denver Outlaws are your 2014 Major League Lacrosse champions.
Led by a three-goal, one-assist performance from John Grant Jr. and a late winner from Drew Snider, the Outlaws mounted an epic comeback to defeat the Rochester Rattlers 12-11 Saturday night in Kennesaw, Georgia. It marked Denver's first ever MLL title, coming after four championship game defeats.
A big-time game from Drew Lawson wasn't quite enough for the Rattlers to hold onto a four-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter. It was a heartbreaking loss, as Rochester led virtually all game long before falling victim to an improbable Outlaws comeback.
Major League Lacrosse tweeted the outcome:
The Rattlers led by four goals after one quarter, two goals at the half and entered the final 15 minutes with another four-goal lead. But Denver never gave up, putting the lockdown on defense and exploding for six goals in the fourth to win the title.
As Inside Lacrosse's Kyle Devitte noted, the monkey of championship defeats is off the Outlaws' backs:
Brutal end for the Rattlers. Amazing comeback from the Outlaws. That monkey? He dead. He really really dead. 12-11 is your final.— Kyle Devitte (@TheKyleDevitte) August 24, 2014
Chris Bocklet put the Outlaws on the board first with an early goal, but that would be the last time they would lead until the final minute of regulation. The goal just seemed to just wake Rochester up, as Lawson netted two in the first and the Rattlers went on to lead 5-1 after just one quarter.
Early on, it was Denver's offensive woes that put the team in an early hole, per Devitte:
Story of the game so far has been Denver being unable to move the ball efficiently on offense. Sieverts and Snider need more touches.— Kyle Devitte (@TheKyleDevitte) August 23, 2014
After retaking the momentum early on in convincing fashion, the Rattlers looked like they might run away with the game. But Denver had other ideas. The Outlaws closed the gap with a three-goal outburst in the second, but Rochester remained in control at the halftime break, 6-4.
It took no time for the Rattlers to put the pressure on and extend their lead in the second half. They took a four-goal lead multiple times in the third, taking a 10-6 advantage into the final frame—15 minutes from the title.
The Outlaws were throwing the kitchen sink at goalie John Galloway, but the Rattlers' netminder turned back almost everything in sight as told by this tweet from Denver's team account:
Lots of great shots by the Outlaws Offense, but lots of big saves by Rochester's Galloway. #MLLChamp— Denver Outlaws (@DenverOutlaws) August 24, 2014
Just when you thought they were done, the Outlaws came back to life early in the fourth with two goals in under a minute-and-a-half. Not long after, Eric Law netted another. Suddenly, Denver had scored three straight and was down just 10-9.
With his team's lead in the title slipping away, Lawson decided it was the perfect time to score his third goal of the championship. Mark Cockerton fed him at the top of the scoring area, and he fired one past the Denver goalie for Rochester's 11th goal.
But once again, the Outlaws showed their resiliency by racing back into a tie with the Rattlers. Jeremy Sieverts ripped off a two-pointer and yet again, Denver was in a tie for the lead.
Once the Outlaws closed the gap completely, they refused to relinquish their opportunity to win the franchise's first ever title. Snider scored with just 56 seconds left and a late push from Rochester proved unsuccessful.
The moment was unmistakably vital for Denver's coaches and players. After falling short in their first four appearances in the championship final, it was only fitting that the Outlaws had to mount an impossible comeback to win the title.
A huge amount of people were there to witness, as MLL noted:
Four championship losses have created uncertainty in Denver despite remaining one of the top teams in MLL, but it's safe to say that Saturday night made all of the struggles worth it. The Outlaws finally made it over the hump.
For Rochester, the defeat is nothing short of gut-wrenching. With 15 minutes left and four goals in front, the Rattlers were well in position to win their second league title before falling apart late.
A Rattlers' title would have made it the first time that the National Lacrosse League (indoor) and MLL (outdoor) champions presided in the same city, but the Outlaws decided they would write their own history and pulled off the improbable win.