Lizards coach Joe Spallina has labeled Sunday's game at the Rochester Rattlers as a "must win."
With six games remaining in the MLL regular season, the Lizards (3-5) are in a three-way tie for fifth place, one game out of playoff spot. With a talented roster featuring Rob Pannell, Max Seibald, Mark Matthews and Tommy Palasek on offense, the Lizards were expected to have more wins. Yet much like with other teams in the league, outside commitments prevent the Lizards from practicing more than once a week. Therefore, establishing continuity has been an issue.
"Clearly the level of expectation has not been met yet," Spallina said. "There's a lot of disappointment from the top to the bottom. It's eating me alive."
The Rattlers and Cannons are the other two teams tied with the Lizards. The Cannons beat the Lizards last Friday, 16-12. Sunday will be the first of two meetings between the Lizards and Rattlers this season. Another loss could jeopardize the Lizards' playoff chances.
"Our backs are against the wall," Spallina said. "We know the importance of this game. It's a playoff game for us and we need to approach it as such."
Trade adds faceoff depth
The Lizards acquired face-off specialist Matt Dolente from the Nationals Wednesday in exchange for Hofstra graduate and midfielder John Antoniades, a sixth-round draft pick.
The move was made to essentially provide depth at the faceoff position, explained Spallina. Dolente, who'll be available to play Sunday, has won 67 of 140 faceoffs this season, is third in the league, and was an all-star last year. The Johns Hopkins graduate will backup all-star Greg Gurenlian.
"We got great value here because he's an all-star guy in the league," Spallina said. "It gives us depth at an important position."
Despite leading the Lizards in scoring with 18 points (14 goals), Palasek was not selected as an all-star by MLL coaches and general managers.
Spallina took to Twitter on Monday shortly after names were announced to express his disappointment that the Rocky Point graduate was left off the team.
"Sorry but no Pally in the all-star game is wrong," Spallina tweeted from his account, @JoeSpallina.
"All I can say is this," Spallina said, "In our three wins, I believe he's been the player of the game in all three games."