On January 21st, 2011, Major League Lacrosse announced the addition of a MLL team in Columbus, Ohio. One year and almost eight months later, the expansion franchise the Ohio Machine finished up its inaugural season in MLL.
The Machine’s season began on May 5th when Ohio traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, to play the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Ohio started off strong in the first quarter by scoring five goals, including the team’s first ever goal scored by midfielder Matt Casey. The team found themselves down 11-6 right before halftime when attackman Jim Connolly scored his second career MLL goal. Midfielder Brett Garber followed Connolly’s goal with the team’s first two-point goal of the season. The Machine fell off in the second half, but the team’s first game featured midfielder Matt Witko’s first career goal and Connolly’s first career hat-trick. The team may have lost its first ever game but Head Coach Ted Garber saw the positives in the defeat. “I knew we had a team that could be resilient and handle the adversity we would face during the season,” said Garber.
Two weeks later the Machine welcomed the Rochester Rattlers to Selby Stadium for the team’s first ever home game. In front of 6,126 fans the Machine jumped to a 9-3 lead over the Rattlers and went into the third quarter leading for the first time in franchise history. The Rattlers began to come back in the second half but a goal from Chazz Woodson ignited a four-goal run by Ohio and gave the Machine its first win in team history. Woodson had four goals and was named Bud Light Player of the Game. Goalie Stefan Schroder was spectacular in goal for Ohio, only allowing eight goals while picking up 17 saves. Schroder’s career day earned him MLL Defensive Player of the Week.
The electric home crowd for the first game helped set the tone for home games the rest of the season. “Our first home game showed everyone what this team was capable of on and off the field,” said Machine President and General Manager John Algie. “We beat a good Rochester team and showed people unfamiliar with our sport how good of a product we have. It was very important to get off to such a great start in front of so many people.”
In the team’s third home game of the season against the Long Island Lizards, the Machine debuted two of its top players from its inaugural season draft class, Steele Stanwick and Marshall Burkhart. Stanwick was selected second overall in the 2012 draft and shined in his debut. Stanwick scored his first career goal in the second quarter to give Ohio a 3-2 lead. Stanwick finished the day with two goals and one assist. Burkhart, the 50th overall pick in the draft and an Ohio Native, made an immediate impact netting an assist and helping the defense hold the Lizards to two goals in the fourth quarter.
Both rookies made significant contributions to the team but according to Garber there was still room for improvement. “The initial impact they made was good but making the transition [to the MLL] is not easy,” said Garber. “Once they figure out the flow of the game they are going to be really strong players. As an offensive player, Steele learned a lot and utilized his feeding skills and Burkhart learned to get up on his man and play physical.”
The Machine’s promising first half of the season led to the selection of several of its players to the 2012 MLL All-Star game. Defensemen Greg Bice and Kyle Hartzell and attackman Chazz Woodson were named to Team Old School along with Head Coach Ted Garber. Attackman Jim Connolly was named to his first All-Star Game and played for Team Young Guns.
After the All-Star break the Machine continued to improve. During the second half of the season the Machine allowed 1.99 less goals per game than the first half of the season. The Machine also earned their second win during the second half of the season, defeating the Hamilton Nationals 13-12. The Machine clung to a one-goal lead throughout the game until Stanwick scored in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for Ohio. Stanwick finished the game with two goals and goalie Brian Phipps, who was named Budlight Player of the Game, had 18 saves.
The team finished its historic inaugural season on Saturday, August 11th, against the Boston Cannons. Machine defenseman Kyle Hartzell started off the game with his historic ninth two-point goal of the season. Hartzell’s goal gave him 21 points on the year, which set the MLL record for most points in a season by a defenseman. Hartzell also finished the year with the records for most goals and two-point goals by a defenseman. Hartzell’s contributions to the team extended beyond his records. “Hartzell is the kind of guy that leads by example and is known for his work ethic,” said Algie.
The team’s last game also marked defenseman Brett Hughes’ last MLL game. Hughes played in 13 games for Ohio in 2012 and announced his retirement prior to the game.
Ohio ended its inaugural season ranked second in the league in power-play percentage and two-point goals scored and fourth in shooting percentage. The Machine also had 24 different players throughout the season register a point and six players score 10 or more goals. Throughout the season, Ohio had nine rookies dress this season and six of them recorded at least one point. Three of those rookies had 10 or more points and Stanwick led all MLL rookies in assists with 17.
The Machine was anchored by a strong veteran presence throughout the season. Six Machine players who had played for previous teams set career highs in points. Attackman Chazz Woodson led the team in points with 38 and set or tied career highs in points, goals, assists and shots and midfielder Connor Martin set career highs in goals, assists, points and shots, as well as groundballs.
With 35 points on the season attackman Jim Connolly enjoyed a breakout year. Prior to joining the Machine, Connolly only had one goal in two games for the Boston Cannons. This year Connolly led the team in goals with 27 and had five assists. Connolly was also a threat on the extra-man opportunity, netting six power-play goals, which tied him for second in the league.
Ohio’s goalies also had career years. Last year goalie Brian Phipps was named to the MLL All-Star team but he posted a lower goals against average this year. During this season Phipps split time in the cage with goalie Stefan Schroder. Schroder played in a career high 495:00 minutes and also had 99 saves.
Now that the season is over, the team is preparing to cut the roster down to 23 and getting ready for the 2013 MLL Collegiate Draft. Even though the season just ended Garber is already looking forward to next year. “I have some ideas of things we have to key on after training camp,” said Garber. “The good thing is that we will have the guys who haven’t played in training camp before in camp and that will be a huge difference.”
Despite the 2-12 record, the team proved it could compete with the best teams in the MLL and built a foundation for the future. “Throughout the season we proved that you can’t tell a book from its cover,” said Garber. “These guys have great things ahead of them. All they have to do is stay positive, committed and to be there when it counts.”
Season ticket deposits for the Machine’s 2013 season are available now to put down. Visit www.theohiomachine.com/tickets to put down your $10 deposit and secure your seat for all of next season’s action.