Boston Cannons fall short to Denver Outlaws in MLL semifinal

The ageless wonder of Major League Lacrosse nearly single-handedly willed his Denver Outlaws team back into Friday’s semifinal against the Boston Cannons, and his younger — much younger — supporting cast finished the job, completing a 17-15 come-from-behind win at the University of Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Chris Aslanian will be listed as scoring the official game-winning goal, and Zach Currier added the insurance marker for the Outlaws, but there is no doubting that 44-year-old veteran John Grant Jr. was the star of Friday’s contest.

“I’m just glad I get to play another one,” Grant Jr. told ESPN after the game. “I didn’t want this to be my last one.”

With the Cannons enjoying a 14-11 advantage late in the third quarter, Grant Jr. went to work. He netted three consecutive goals — all three from inside of 10 feet and one behind his back — to even the game. Even when Boston responded to start the fourth, Grant Jr. was there again, scoring on a ridiculous over-the-shoulder, no-look snipe from the right side of the cage as he ran away from the keeper.

Aslanian then put the Outlaws ahead for the first time in the final frame with 5:40 to play, and Currier beat Boston keeper Nick Marrocco as he flew through the air at the top of the crease to extend the Denver advantage to 17-15.

Grant Jr. had retired from professional lacrosse but came back to the game in May of this season, saying he wanted his children to be able to watch him play. Now, they’ll watch him compete in the MLL final against the Chesapeake Bayhawks on Sunday in Denver.

The Cannons started well Friday. Will Sands scored a pair of goals and Ryland Rees added a two-pointer as Boston jumped out to a 7-3 advantage through 15 minutes. Sands, known more for his assist game than his scoring, managed his 20th and 21st goals of the season in that first frame to put the third-seeded Cannons in front.

Cal Dearth, Zed Williams and Kyle Jackson also scored in the opening quarter for the Cannons.

Williams added his second of the game early in the second quarter to push the Cannons’ lead to five at 8-3. Just past the four-minute mark of the second, Williams added this third of the night, his 35th of the season, and pushed the Boston advantage to six.

But Denver started to chip away. Buoyed by a pair of man-up situations, the Outlaws closed the gap to 10-7, and then 11-9 and 12-10 as the teams traded goals while having a tough go of it on defense. Leading the comeback charge for the Outlaws was Mikie Schlosser, who had two great shots from in tight that beat Marrocco.

The Cannons wrested momentum back in the final seconds of the half when Mark Cockerton beat the buzzer in tight for a 13-10 advantage. The 13 goals in the first two quarters were four more than the Cannons scored in their entire previous game against the Outlaws in Denver back on August 31, a 22-9 setback.

Aslanian led Denver with three goals in the opening half. Williams led the Cannons with four.

In the third quarter, the teams started to play a little more conservatively and take more time on their offensive possessions. The Cannons also started getting banged up. Kyle Denhoff and Jackson were both big losses, the latter hurt on a collision officials deemed a one-minute, non-releasable penalty. They were unable to take advantage of the 60-second man-up situation, but Dearth buried a chance not long afterward to push the lead to 14-10 with the first score of the third quarter.

Zach Currier’s shot from the high right side beat Marrocco just shy of the 10-minute mark of the third to close the gap again to three at 14-11.

And then the ageless wonder took over the latter minutes of the third.



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