The Machine led 5-3 early in the second quarter before the Outlaws’ young guns got loose. Second-year attackman Matt Kavanagh, rookie midfielder Zach Currier and third-year attackman Wes Berg ignited a 7-1 run spanning nearly 20 minutes.
Kavanagh got it going with consecutive goals, grabbing an errant shot by Law for the putback and then freezing Ohio defenseman Jackson Place with an inside split dodge with a diving finish to tie the game at 5.
Holman’s extra-man goal — the Machine’s only goal during this stretch — put Ohio up 6-5.
But on the ensuing faceoff, Currier came streaking in from the wing, snared the ball one-handed, darted into the offensive zone, faked a drop pass, scored and drew a penalty when he absorbed a late hit from Place — all in a matter of 11 seconds.
Then as the second quarter ended, Currier threaded a long feed from the top of the box to attackman Michael Bocklet on the doorstep. Bocklet faked twice and scored at the buzzer to give Denver a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Outlaws opened the third quarter with three more unanswered goals. Kavanagh, who had six assists in Denver’s semifinal win over Rochester last week, took over as the distributor. He drew slides and set up Eric Law and then Berg for goals to give Denver a 10-6 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
“I’m not going to lie. I kind of got into the guys,” Holman said of the Machine’s mid-game swoon in a post-game interview on CBS Sports Network. “We were playing selfish lacrosse, I thought. We got here by playing team ball.”
Peter Baum provided the spark. The midfielder who tied Law for MLL’s regular season scoring crown ended the drought with a goal at the 2:45 mark. Less than a minute, operating behind the goal in an inverted set, Baum fed line mate Kyle Harrison for a goal. Then he finished a Mark Cockerton feed across the top with a righty time-and-room blast from about 12 yards out to pull Ohio within one at 10-9 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
Kavanagh scored twice in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter — sandwiching a beautiful diving backhanded goal by Machine rookie Connor Cannizzaro — to put Denver ahead 12-10 with 10:30 remaining.
But it was all Machine from there.
Midfielder Jake Bernhardt took another invert feed from Baum and deposited it to make it 12-11. Seven seconds later, it was tied, thanks to faceoff specialist Greg Puskuldjian, who won the draw and scored untouched to knot it at 12 apiece.
The turning point came after a questionable pushing penalty on Outlaws midfielder Noah Molnar, who defended a diving Cannizzaro on a play at the crease. Ohio converted on the extra-man opportunity, as Holman froze the defense with a stick fake, stepped in and sent a righty rocket past Kelly, giving the Machine a 13-12 lead with 7:15 left.
Seventy-three seconds later, Holman scored again, this time finishing a feed from Bernhardt on the restart after the Outlaws committed a costly over-and-back turnover while clearing.
Sixty-six seconds later, Holman made it three in a row, taking a pass across the top from Schreiber and scoring with a righty overhand release that was nearly identical to the first goal of the flurry.
Just like that, Ohio led 15-12 with 3:56 remaining. When Cannizzaro connected 48 seconds later to make it 16-12, it became clear the Machine would not relinquish the lead this time — the specter of their collapse in last year’s final now a distant memory.
Ohio, which moved into a new stadium outside Columbus this season, punctuated its sixth season as a franchise with its first MLL championship.
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t learn from that and use it as experience and fuel,” said Holman, who was drafted out of North Carolina in 2013. “I love these guys, and I’m very thankful to be a part of this organization and this team.”
Holman finished with four goals and two assists. Cannizzaro added four goals, Baum had two goals and three assists, and Schreiber, named MLL MVP for the second consecutive season Friday, contributed a goal and three assists. Puskuldjian held his own against Tom Kelly, finishing 15-for-32 after going just 3-for-16 in their encounter July 23, to go with his timely fourth-quarter goal.
Kavanagh led Denver with four goals and two assists. Berg (three goals, one assist) and Currier (one goal, three assists) added four points apiece in the loss. The Outlaws, appearing in a league-record seventh championship game, are now 2-5 all-time in MLL finals.
The Machine went a combined 2-24 in their first two seasons before making their first playoff appearance in 2014. They lost in the semifinals to Rochester that year and again in 2015 before earning their first playoff victory in 2016.
The ultimate comeback in the fourth quarter with seven goals to give Ohio the 17-12 victory over the Denver Outlaws. Connor Cannizzaro, Marcus Holman, Greg Puskuldjian and Jake Bernhardt would score the goals in the fourth to make the Machine the MLL Champions for the first time in Machine history.
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