Turns out the third time was indeed the charm for the Machine.
After back-to-back 2-12 seasons, years in which Ohio finished last in the league, the squad punctuated what was a memorable 2014 regular season by handling visiting Florida 14-10 Saturday at Selby Stadium.
The win, which improved its record to 8-6, was the Machine’s fifth straight and, oh yeah, one which helped the team punch its first-ever ticket to the postseason.
“It feels great,” Machine attackman Marcus Holman, who clinched the MLL goal-scoring title in the win, said. “We set our goal at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs and we’re here now. But I don’t think anybody in this organization is satisfied. We want to get a win next week in Rochester.”
Ohio’s furious 5-0 season-ending surge included a thrilling 17-15 road win against the Rochester Rattlers — a team which had previously been undefeated at its own place. A team, as Holman pointed out, the Machine will play next weekend in the MLL semifinals.
Machine head coach Bear Davis said seeding is irrelevant when it comes to the second season, at least for his team, as all four squads left alive are chasing the same thing. His guys, who’ve already made quite a statement, aren’t satisfied just yet.
“I think we want to kick the door down and say, ‘hey, here we are, we’re going to be a player in this,’” Davis said. “I don’t think the seed matters in our mind, we just want to go in and play.”
That’s exactly what the Machine did Saturday against the Launch when, aside from a lengthy scoreless stretch, did more than enough to keep its season alive.
Florida attackman Kieran McArdle broke the scoring seal before Launch midfielder Roman Lao-Gosney was sent off the field after being saddled with a three minute non-releasable personal foul for an illegal stick. Holman made the most of the man-up opportunity with back-t0-back tallies before midfielders Dominique Alexander and Peter Baum added goals to balloon the Machine advantage to 4-1 by the end of the first quarter.
Florida started the second stanza as it did the first, closing the margin when David Earl found the back of the net early in the period. Ohio got the goal back thanks to a long-range laser from defenseman Steven Waldeck, though, then closed the half on a 3-2 run highlighted by a pair of goals from attackman Steele Stanwick and another off the stick of Holman to take an 8-4 lead into the break.
The Launch made things interesting with three quick goals to open the second half to pull within one, but the Machine stepped up when it needed to most. Stanwick put an end to what was nearly a 15-minute scoring drought to give his team a 9-7 lead heading into the final quarter — a frame the hosts won 5-3 to smooth out the scoring summary and punch the ticket to the postseason.
“Our players and coaching staff have all worked so hard this year to get to where we are today,” Machine President and General Manager John Algie said. “Our fans have been great, sticking with us the entire time. Now we’re ready to head to the playoffs and try to get two more wins and bring a championship back to Ohio.”
Holman led the way with four goals while Stanwick added three and Baum finished with two. Baum also led the team with four assists on the night.
Machine goalie Brian Phipps tallied eight saves, but only allowed 10 goals, and made six of his eight stops in a key fourth-quarter stand. Face-off man Bobby Dattilo led the team by going eight-of-14 at the midfield X and picked up six groundballs.
McArdle’s three goals led the Launch. Goalie Adam Fullerton had 17 saves on 31 shots on goal for Florida in the loss.
The 2014 MLL Playoffs are scheduled to begin Saturday with two semifinal games. The first semifinal will start at 3 p.m. with the second facing off at 5:30 p.m. The 2014 MLL Championship Game is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga.
The other semifinal matchup will be between the Denver Outlaws and New York Lizards.
Theohiomachine.com’s Tim Moody contributed to this report.