The lines of players in front of each team's bench during the national anthem were shorter than usual.
In Thursday night's Major League Lacrosse matchup between the last place Chesapeake Bayhawks (3-8) and the first-place Rochester Rattlers (8-3), the teams were without a combined 12 players who were competing in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Commerce City, Colo.
On a night when Chesapeake's season was on the line, with the team needing to win all four of its remaining games to make the playoffs, seven Bayhawks players were in Colorado.
In the end, Rochester dug deeper with its limited roster to grind out a 10-7 win and officially eliminate Chesapeake — the two-time defending MLL champion — from playoff contention.
"We knew this was a playoff game for us. Guys came out of the locker room and I thought there was darn good effort," said Bayhawks attackman Ben Rubeor. "I thought we picked up some tough ground balls and made some tough plays, but it's not about making those plays. It's about executing when you gotta execute."
Added Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle: "We're just not very good and we're not playing very well. That's a reflection of me. I gotta do a better job. Our guys wanted to win but the first half was brutal."
Bayhawks attackman Drew Westervelt got things started with a goal just 47 seconds into the game, assisted by midfielder Joe Walters (Maryland).
Then Rochester took over offensively, first by capitalizing a miscue from its opponent. Chesapeake midfielder Kyle Dixon got called offsides and 13 seconds later, Rattlers attackman Mark Cockerton found the net on the power play to tie the game at 1.
By the end of the first quarter, Cockerton had made quick work to fill the scoring void left by Rochester attackman Kevin Leveille (U.S.) and midfielders Dave Lawson (U.S) and Jordan McIntosh (Canada), who were playing in the championships.
Cockerton scored all three of his team's first-quarter goals — two on the crease and one in transition — to outscore the Bayhawks 3-1.
Chesapeake found its footing on defense for most of second quarter until Cockerton added his fourth goal with 2:27 left in the first half to give the Rattlers a 4-1 lead that held until halftime.
"He's just a pure finisher," Bayhawks defenseman Brian Megill said.
As the Bayhawks defense struggled to contain Cockerton on long Rochester possessions, Chesapeake stood helpless on the opposite end of the field without the ball. When the Bayhawks did get the ball on the attack, their attempts were thwarted by a stout performance from Rochester goalkeeper Joey Galloway, an alternate for the U.S. team who didn't make the trip to Colorado.
Galloway had seven saves in the first half while Chesapeake, missing leading goal scorer Brendan Mundorf (UMBC, Mount St. Joseph) to the world championships, found the net just once despite nine shots on goal.
"Seventeen shots in the first half, two weeks off, with each team [missing] seven or eight starters. It was an ugly first half for sure," Cottle said.
The Bayhawks bounced back offensively after halftime, scoring more goals in the third quarter than they did in the entire 30 minutes of the first half.
Chesapeake outscored Rochester 6-3 and took its first lead since the opening minute of the game after a goal from attackman Ben Rubeor with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
But Rochester ended the game on a 4-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to secure the 10-7 win.
"It just seemed liked the fourth quarter our offense was clicking, clicking and we were like, 'Oh, they're going to bail us out,' but we didn't focus to much on ourselves [as a defense] at that point," Megill said. "When the offense started getting going, we started slacking."
Cockerton had a game-high five goals for the Rattlers while Westervelt led the Bayhawks with three goals and Walters had a team-high four points with two goals and two assists.
With just three games left in the season, it'll the first time since 2009 the Bayhawks will finish with a losing record.
"Right now, we're earning our way to the first pick in the draft," Cottle said.