Shawn Williams tied the game in the closing minutes, then netted the winning goal with 45 seconds remaining, lifting the Toronto Nationals, a first-year expansion team, to a 10-9 victory over the top-seeded Denver Outlaws in the Major League Lacrosse championship game Sunday in Annapolis, Md.
The Outlaws (10-4) entered the MLL semifinals as the team to beat after rolling to the league’s best regular-season record. They had won two of three games against Toronto this year.
“We made some dumb plays in the fourth quarter,” Denver coach Brian Reese told Lacrosse Magazine. “We just couldn’t find a rhythm on offense.”
But the Nationals (9-5) weathered a second period in which Denver scored four consecutive goals to rally in a frenetic fourth quarter. Josh Sims scored midway through the final frame to give the Outlaws a 9-8 lead. But Williams scored twice in the closing minutes to propel Toronto.
Jeff Zywicki, who played with Denver in its expansion season in 2006, scored three goals and added an assist to lead Toronto. John Grant Jr. added two goals and an assist for the Nationals.
Denver was led by Brendan Mundorf’s three goals and two assists. Sims added two goals.
The 4-year-old Outlaws are winless in three trips to the MLL title game.
Toronto led 3-1 early in the second quarter, but two goals from Mundorf, one from Matt Brown and another from Brian Langtry brought the Outlaws back. They had a 5-4 lead at halftime. The teams traded goals in the third quarter, and Denver led 8-7 heading into the final period.
Merrick Thomson also scored twice for Toronto, a day after his four goals helped Toronto edge Long Island 14-13 in a semifinal game. He was named the playoff MVP.
Toronto goalies Doc Schneider and Brett Queener combined for 23 saves. Jesse Schwartzman stopped 14 shots for the Outlaws.
Along with Denver’s 11-10 victory over Boston in the other semifinal, all three games in the two-day playoff weekend were decided by one goal.