Attacker Ari Sussman did all he could, but the hole the Boston Cannons dug for themselves in the opening 30 minutes against the Hamilton Nationals proved too deep.
Sussman scored three goals and Paul Rabil added a 2-point shot in the third quarter, but Hamilton got four goals and three assists from Kevin Crowley and went on to a 15-8 victory over the Cannons Saturday night at Harvard Stadium in front of a crowd of 8,192.
“Any time you go down, 10-3, at halftime, you have to play with a sense of urgency, something you hope your team comes out with from the start,” Sussman said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t come out that way. We gave up a big lead.”
Sussman opened the second half with a goal just 34 seconds into the third quarter to cut the deficit to six, but Hamilton (1-0) answered with a pair of goals, from Crowley and Roy Lang, to stretch the lead to 12-4.
“We played against [Crowley] in the past and had success with him, and what we did tonight obviously didn’t work,” Cannons coach Steve Duffy said. “He’s a good player and we’ll have to change up on him next time.”
Sussman answered with another goal, only to be countered by Nationals attacker Martin Cahill, who tallied a hat trick in the victory.
Trailing, 13-5, Sussman scored a third time and Rabil rifled in the 2-pointer to make it 13-8. It appeared as if the Cannons (0-2) were priming themselves for a fourth-quarter comeback, but Kevin Ross scored with less than a second remaining to stretch the margin to six.
Hamilton defenseman M.J. Kiekebelt provided the only goal in the fourth quarter and the Nationals spent the majority of the final 15 minutes draining the clock.
“Seven-goal leads aren’t safe in Major League Lacrosse,” Duffy said. “We talked about playing better in the second half, and at halftime I said we’re lucky to only be down seven goals. We’ve been able to dig out of a bigger deficit than that.”
Rabil scored 30 seconds in to give Boston an early lead, but the Nationals quickly took control.
After Rabil’s opening strike, the Nationals scored eight unanswered goals while the Cannons were entrenched in a 19:54 scoring drought that spanned the first two quarters.
With Lang sent off for a body check, Matt Poskay scored a power-play goal to cut the Nationals’ lead to 8-2.
The teams traded power-play goals two minutes apart, and then Crowley scored his third goal of the quarter with 6.1 seconds remaining to give the Nationals their commanding halftime lead.
At the start of the third quarter, Duffy pulled Cannons goalie Jordan Burke (nine saves) and replaced him with Mike Gabel (eight saves).
The Nationals won 35 groundballs to the Cannons’ 24, and Matt Dolente won 14 of 25 faceoffs for Hamilton.
“We didn’t play well,” Cannons attacker Ryan Boyle said. “I’d love to say we played better the rest of the game but we really didn’t.”
Boyle, who tallied an assist, brought his career points total to 398, just 1 shy of Casey Powell’s MLL record of 399.
“I just want to get it over with,” Boyle said. “It means a lot and it’s not lost on me, but my focus is on winning the game.”
The Cannons return to Harvard Stadium next Saturday to play the Denver Outlaws in the second game of a three-game homestand.