There’s a noticeable difference lately in the Charlotte Hounds.
For starters, the Hounds are coming up with clutch plays – a problem the team had during their 1-4 start to the 2014 Major League Lacrosse season.
Those clutch plays are also leading to wins, as Mike Sawyer and Adam Ghitelman both came up big in Charlotte' 14-13 victory over the Florida Launch on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Sawyer had three goals – two, including a 2-pointer, coming in a 15-second stretch at the end of the third quarter – and Ryan Young and rookie Mike Chanenchuk added two goals each for the Hounds (3-4).
“We seem to do well in those situations,” said Ghitelman, who had 14 saves in goal for Charlotte, including two big ones in the final 90 seconds. “We’re a close-game type of team. We have our core solidified. We may be young, but we’ve got a lot of fight in this group.”
The Hounds have now won two straight games – their longest winning streak since the closing weeks of the 2013 season – and have done so against two of the league’s frontrunners.
The streak began with an 18-15 win over the Denver Outlaws last week – ending that team's 25-game regular-season winning streak – and continued with the Launch (4-3), who beat Charlotte 11-8 on May 3 in Boca Raton, Fla.
“We’re in these tight games, and we’re finding ways to win them,” Hounds coach Mike Cerino said. “A lot of it has been defining roles, and the guys accepting those roles. With some of the rookies on board, we’re more dynamic and versatile, so we’re able to break down people different ways.”
Yet Charlotte still had its hands full with Florida, which fought back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the score four times before pulling ahead 9-8 on Casey Powell’s goal with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
However, Mason Poli's goal with 4:50 left kicked off a five-point run. Chanenchuk put the Hounds ahead 10-9, and Sawyer's back-to-back goals, including the 2-pointer with 6.6 seconds remaining, gave Charlotte a 13-9 margin.
“We’re getting our team back, and our team chemistry built up,” Sawyer said. “This gives us some momentum coming out of the midpoint of the season, so we can make a push towards a playoff run again.”
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