The Boston Cannons made a strong statement in the offseason, making a series of aggressive acquisitions designed to bolster their defense after a disappointing season in 2013.
The biggest move — the addition of six-time MLL Defensive Player of the Year Brodie Merrill — was certainly a step in the right direction. While the moves looked good on paper, coach John Tucker still figured it would take some time to get the chemistry settled.
In the Cannons’ season opener Sunday, those offseason moves translated into immediate on-field success as Boston beat the Chesapeake Bayhawks, 15-9, at Harvard Stadium.
The Cannons deployed their new-look unit with great success, holding the defending champion Bayhawks to a scoreless first quarter and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
In the offensive end, five players scored for the Cannons, led by veteran Kevin Buchanan, who had seven goals.
“I thought our guys played really well, especially defensively,” Tucker said. “We improved that side of the field and it was evident in some of those acquisitions we made.
“[Merrill] has no problem fitting in anywhere he goes. He’s such a large figure, and people have such respect for his efforts and all he’s able to do and he helps us in every phase of the game.”
Merrill, who finished his indoor season with Philadelphia Saturday night and flew into Boston Sunday morning, was happy to join his new team.
“It’s only one game, but it’s been an easy transition so far,” Merrill said. “It is strange just competing against Boston for so long, but it’s an organization I’ve respected from afar. I feel a little bit rejuvenated being here.”
Buchanan, who scored 20 goals last season, delivered six of his strikes in the first half.
“Things were just dropping for me,” Buchanan said. “I think I shot well today, I mixed up my shots and went low a couple of times. I think what’s really important is we were sharing the ball.
“The defense played phenomenal. I think everything fuels from the back end.”
Goalie Jordan Burke, who was hampered by a broken hand last season, was strong in the cage. He made 15 saves — six of which came in the opening 15 minutes.
“You can see it in his eyes at the start of training camp, he had a little redemption factor and he’s ready to go,” Tucker said of Burke.
The Cannons, who last year trailed in seven of 14 games at halftime, went into the break with a 9-4 edge over Chesapeake.
Buchanan, who scored two of the Cannons’ first three goals, went on a tear to finish the first half, scoring the last four of the second quarter.
With Boston leading, 5-2, Buchanan took a pass from Ryan Boyle and fired a hard shot from just inside the arc to score his third of the game with 5:35 to play in the half.
Chesapeake responded just more than a minute later when Matt Mackrides bounced a shot past Burke to make it 6-3, but Buchanan scored two goals a minute apart to stretch the lead to 8-3.
With 1:43 to play in the second quarter, Matt Abbott got one back for the Bayhawks. But Buchanan had his way again, this time fielding a pass from Paul Rabil (two goals, three assists) for an easy score.
The Bayhawks seemed rejuvenated in the second half when Ben Hunt scored 56 seconds into the third quarter. Almost immediately, Rabil took the wind out of Chesapeake’s sails, scoring 19 seconds later to make it 10-5.
Rabil’s strike sparked a five-goal run that spanned the final two quarters, two of which were scored by Will Manny, as the Cannons opened a 14-5 lead.
The Bayhawks responded with four goals, but by then it was too late.
The 2013 season was muddled in disappointment, as the 5-9 Cannons finished on a four-game losing streak. With Sunday’s win, Buchanan and the Cannons started washing away the bad memories of last season.
“It just feels great,” Buchanan said. “Hopefully we can continue to roll on that momentum.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a.