People say that hitting a baseball traveling at 100+ MPH from a Major League Baseball pitcher from 60 feet away is the hardest thing to do in sports. Anyone who says that hasn’t taken a step down shot from 13 yards from the likes of Connor Buszek, Myles Jones or Ryan Brown. Being an MLL goalie has to be the toughest job and sports and there is no wonder why every week commentators are marveling at the fact that these men have the courage to step in between those pipes. Every goalie in the league and throughout lacrosse deserves all the praise in the world. In the 2017 MLL season, three goalies have separated themselves from the bunch to be nominees for the Brine Goaltender of the Year: Jack Kelly (Denver Outlaws), Kyle Bernlohr (Ohio Machine), and John Galloway (Rochester Rattlers).
Jack Kelly, G, Denver Outlaws
Jack Kelly, one of the heroes from the amazing championship run just a season ago, has returned in his second year as a pro and has taken his play to a whole other level. In his sophomore regular season, he has nearly doubled his total number of saves while increasing his save percentage to just shy of 55 percent. Kelly commands a defense ranked third in defensive efficiency, giving up only 13.81 points per 45 possessions, all while leading the Outlaws to the best record in the MLL and a trip back to the Championship game. Kelly has stood on his head all season for the Outlaws and has come up big when it has mattered most. Late in the season against both in Ohio and then at home against Chesapeake, Kelly helped the Outlaws secure the number one seed in 2017 MLL playoffs by having a combined 46 saves and only giving up 22 goals. His stellar play continued into the last week’s playoff game against the Rattlers where he boasted an 80 percent save percentage and gave up a season low four goals. Kelly has shown this year that he is ready to play his best on big stage and will get a chance to prove it this Saturday for a chance at back-to-back MLL championships.
Kyle Bernlohr, G, Ohio Machine
Kyle Bernlohr, who is also a nominee for the Maverik Most Improved Player of the Year, has been everything the Machine thought they were getting when they drafted him 11th overall in 2016. After a rookie season playing behind Scott Rodgers, Bernlohr has taken full advantage of the opportunity to be the Machine’s number one goalie. In his nine starts in the regular season, the Machine went 7-2 and earned the number two seed in the MLL playoffs. In these nine games, Bernlohr has posted the second best save percentage, 55.79 percent, among goalies with more than 5 games played.
Bernlohr has been the picture of consistency this season, steadily leading the Faceless Men to 11.61 points per 45 possessions. Throughout the season, Bernlohr has had a save percentage better than 50 percent every game but two, where he posted a save percentage of 47.6 percent and 45.8 percent in two wins over Boston and Chesapeake, respectfully. The Faceless Men and Bernlohr will need to be at the top of their game come Saturday’s Championship game, but if the season has been any type of model, it will be nothing but hard nosed consistency from the men from Ohio.
John Galloway, G, Rochester Rattlers
The reigning recipient of the Brine Goaltender of the Year had another solid year for the Rattlers as he led them to an 8-6 record and a playoff birth. The Rattlers enjoyed an offensive explosion late in the season but the defense had been their foundation the whole season. While giving up only 12.99 points per 45 possessions throughout the whole season (2nd best in MLL), John Galloway and the Rattlers’ defense held teams to an average of 9 goals a game during the last four games of the regular season.
Galloway, like the other two nominees for this award, played his best when his team needed him most. In a win or go home game to close out the regular season, Galloway played his best game of the season; 23 saves later and only 13 goals against, the Rattlers were bound for the playoffs thanks to an amazing game from their long time leader and field general. Galloway, a seven-year veteran, has over 1200 career saves and shows no signs of slowing down. He ranks second with 10 run outs this year and is tied for the most caused turnovers as a goalie. Galloway’s lightening quick reflexes creates more possessions for this team than just those coming from saves. If the Rattlers can continue to put pieces around Galloway, they will find themselves in the hunt for the Steinfeld Cup for years to come.
Combining the amazing end of the 2016 season with a stellar 2017 season, I believe the Brine Goaltender of the Year will go to Jack Kelly of the Denver Outlaws. All three goalies have had phenomenal seasons and deserve the recognition, but I believe Kelly has gone above and beyond expectations and has been incredibly consistent throughout the season.