John Uppgren scored five goals and Mark Cockerton had three to lead the Boston Cannons to a 13-10 victory over the Denver Outlaws in Sunday’s championship game of Major League Lacrosse’s pandemic-shortened season in Annapolis, Md.
MLL began its season on July 18 and concluded it just eight days later. A round-robin series of games was scheduled to be followed by elimination-style playoffs, but the Cannons and Outlaws advanced to the championship game after the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Connecticut Hammerheads withdrew Saturday following positive COVID-19 tests inside the MLL bubble.
The Cannons (4-2) built a 13-10 lead in the first three periods and then the teams played a scoreless fourth quarter. Cannons goalie Nick Marrocco had 10 saves.
“Our guys just did a great job today,” said Boston head coach Sean Quirk, who guided the Cannons to the second MLL title in the history of the franchise. “They played a complete game.”
“It feels great. It’s definitely a wild time in the world right now, but to be able to come down here and compete like we did, and to be the last team standing, it’s awesome,” Uppgren said. “It’s a great feeling individually as a player, but it also feels great to bring back the trophy to the people of Boston and Quincy as a reward for all of their support.”
Cannons midfielder Frank Brown a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pounder out of Hobart College, also withdrew from the tournament Saturday, citing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason he would not play in the league championship game Sunday.
“COVID-19 is terrifying,” Brown wrote on Twitter Sunday morning. “The thought that I could contract the virus or give it to someone else while not knowing is terrifying. That being said, I made the decision to leave Annapolis yesterday and not compete in today’s game.”
“At the end of the day, those guys who did opt out, they are just as much a part of the team as the ones who were out on the field [Sunday],” Uppgren said. “It was great playing with them all year, and while we knew that every player had to make their own decisions, we were going to support them no matter what they decided to do.”
Despite losing personnel, Uppgren and Quirk credited captains and veterans like Marrocco, Cockerton, Zach Goodrich, Mike Skudin, Challen Rogers, Kyle Jackson, Justin Pugal and Timmy Edwards as players who had a sizable role in helping the team keep its focus.
Quirk said because of the lineup changes, they were making tweaks to their game plan as late as Saturday night.
“Honestly, I give these guys a lot of credit,” Quirk said. “We didn’t have three starters, essentially, but these guys bought in, man. They bought in and grinded it out [Sunday]. I’ve been coaching a long time, and for these guys to do it the way they did, it made me extremely proud.”
The Cannons were originally scheduled to face the top-seeded Denver Outlaws in the semifinals Saturday, but the game was postponed after an unidentified MLL player tested positive for COVID-19.
The league immediately placed all players on the four remaining teams into quarantine and tested all at-risk individuals Saturday morning.
Chesapeake and Connecticut, who originally were scheduled to face off in Saturday’s other semifinal, dropped out of the tournament after receiving results of tests conducted Saturday morning, meaning the Cannons would face Denver in the championship.
Uppgren conceded that there was some history between the two teams — Denver knocked Boston out of the playoffs last year — but in the end, he was just happy to be part of the team that was left holding the trophy at the end.
“There was a revenge storyline there,” he said with a laugh. “But in the end, we just focused on ourselves, playing one minute at a time and doing our jobs. Nick was phenomenal in goal — that Denver offense was very talented, and they were pouring it on all week. The face-off group did a great job scrapping for loose balls, and on offense, we were able to capitalize on our opportunities.”
Globe correspondent Jenna Ciccotelli contributed to this report.