By Steve Danylyshyn | 8/13/13 10:44 PM
The current MLL is made up of college greats. Division I standouts, First-Team All-Americans, and even past Tewaararton Award winners fill the rosters of the MLL today. With the top to bottom talent of all eight teams in the league, it’s not everyday that a Division III player becomes a standout player in the league. Sure, there are household names like Boston’s Stephen Berger and Ohio’s Kyle Hartzell, but players like those don’t come around so often. But after an impressive debut MLL season, it looks like Rochester’s Kyle Denhoff could be adding to that list very soon.
The 6’0, 190 pound midfielder played his entire lacrosse career in Rochester, starting at local Penfield High School, and continuing his career at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. Denhoff was excellent for the Cardinals, tallying 43 points, and picking up USILA All-American honors in his senior season. Despite that success, Denhoff still had no MLL plans in sight. “He suffered from mono in his junior season, and some injuries in his senior season, and really just didn’t get the looks he deserved,” said Head Coach Tim Soudan.
Denhoff finally caught his break when the Rattlers picked him up in the 2013 MLL player pool for a chance to try out for Rochester, but still, nothing was a guarantee. “I didn’t have huge expectations for him when we first picked him up,” said Soudan. The St. John Fisher graduate also didn’t know what to expect, “Coming in as an undrafted free agent, I was really uncertain about my status on the team going into training camp,” said Denhoff. “The first time I walk in, I see guys like Galloway and Crotty who I watched going through college, and to see what some of those guys can do with the stick in their hand is pretty amazing.”
In his first ever training camp, it didn’t take much time at all for Denhoff to prove he was in fact picked up for a reason. “I watched him play against our guys, and he’s got one of the quickest split dodges I’ve ever seen,” said Soudan. “I thought, this guy might work out.” It wasn’t long before Denhoff got his first opportunity to suit up for real, dressing for Rochester’s opening game of 2013 against Chesapeake on April 27th. “The speed of play was the biggest adjustment,” said the rookie. “The ball is moving every second, and there is a lot to pick up.” But speed wasn’t a factor, as Denhoff fit right in, scoring twice in his MLL debut. “After that first game, I thought to myself, is this a fluke, or is he going to be able to do this every game,” said Coach Soudan.
It turns out that performance was not a fluke at all, but just Kyle doing what he knows best. Denhoff went on to dress in another seven games for Rochester this season, and quickly became one of the Rattlers’ top offensive threats. “At the end of the season there was no way I wasn’t dressing him,” said Soudan. “He was automatic.” In his next seven games, Denhoff would tally another six points for a total of eight on the season, including a multi point performance against Hamilton on June 22nd, and a two-goal effort against New York on July 27th.
With his seven goals on the season only falling short to fellow Rattlers Rob Rotanz and Dave Lawson who played the same number of games, the Cardinal quickly became a dangerous player for Rochester and important part of the team. “He was never intimidated by the level,” said Soudan. Denhoff embraced the new level of competition, capped off by a final goal in Rochester’s end of the season rout of Boston on August 10th.
Denhoff could not have asked for a better first year in the MLL, and is thankful for his opportunity with Rochester. “I used to go to Rattlers games, and I’ve watched coach Soudan play when he was playing for them and now getting to play in front of your home crowd was a pretty cool experience,” said Denhoff. “Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I grew a lot as a player.”
In a league filled with Division I talent, in his first MLL season, Division III product Kyle Denhoff proved that not only can he fit in to this league, but can excel in it too. As Head Coach Soudan said, “He’s a guy who can play in this league no doubt.”