Boston Cannons attackman Matt Kavanagh

Veteran valor: Matt Kavanagh delivers for Cannons after healthy scratch

By Sarah Griffin | Jul 9, 2024

In his ninth pro season, Matt Kavanagh did not let being left off the 19-man roster in Minneapolis faze him. 

In fact, for a consummate professional like Kavanagh, it might’ve been exactly what he needed.

In his first four games of the season, the Cannons’ veteran attackman recorded just three points (2G, 1A), shooting 18%. 

Then, in the primetime finale of Boston’s Homecoming doubleheader at Harvard Stadium, Kavanagh put up a team-high five points (3G, 1T, 1A) on 38% shooting to lead the Cannons to a 14-10 victory over the rival Philadelphia Waterdogs.

Always humble, Kavanagh credited his teammates for his offensive output. 

“We played great team offense,” the 31-year-old said after Saturday’s win. “Sometimes it’s just a good night for someone on our offense, but we like to share the rock.”

Certainly, there’s a large emphasis on selfless play in the Cannons locker room. But as head coach Brian Holman explained, it seemed as if Kavanagh was trying to “do too much” in the first few weeks of the season.

“He was pressing a little,” Holman said. “You can see it in guys’ faces – he wasn’t flowing. He was just trying to do too much.” 

In Week 4, Holman sat Kavanagh to give rookie attackman Mike Robinson his first look as a pro. The coach said he conveyed to the vet that his healthy scratch was only temporary. 

“I told Matt, ‘I love you, I trust you and take a breather,’” Holman said. “I said, ‘We’ve got a young guy we picked up in the draft we want to take a look at. This isn’t permanent. Just be ready to go when the whistle blows.’”

Kavanagh returned to the lineup last Friday, but he registered just one point (an assist) as the Cannons lost 9-7 to the California Redwoods in a disappointing showing in front of their hometown crowd.

The boys in red, white and blue wanted to show out for their fans on Saturday night and give them something to celebrate – and Kavanagh led the charge in doing just that. 

The Waterdogs took a commanding 7-2 lead to start the game. After a 4-0 run for Philadelphia in the late first and early second quarter, Kavanagh helped stop the bleeding with an assist on rookie Alex Vardaro’s first goal of the night.

A few minutes later, after a goal from Chris Aslanian, Kavanagh netted a goal himself to bring the Cannons within two before the half. It was his first goal since June 15 (coincidentally also against the Waterdogs). 

At the half, Holman didn’t need to hype his team up in the locker room with some inspirational quotes for the second half. They simply adjusted their game plan. 

“We weathered the storm early, and made some adjustments,” Holman said of the team’s halftime discussion. “We talked about [Saturday] morning having a plan B to throw the Waterdogs off a little bit, and I think we did that.” 

A game-tying two-pointer from Marcus Holman got the ball rolling on the Cannons’ comeback, but the Waterdogs quickly responded with back-to-back-to-back goals to regain a three-goal lead. 

After Jack Hannah’s second goal of the quarter with a little over four minutes remaining in the third, the Cannons’ win probability was at its lowest all day at 19.90%. Luckily for them, they’ve got a guy with the clutch gene on their side.

It was a score from Kavanagh with 3:25 left in the third (off an assist from Massachusetts’ own Jeff Trainor) that turned the tide for Boston, sparking a 7-0 Cannons run that put the game away. 

With two minutes remaining, the Cannons’ win probability sat at 88.48%. It was only right for Kavanagh to put the ribbon on the win with a two-pointer to end the game. 

If there was any frustration in Kavanagh regarding being scratched in Minneapolis, he responded in the best possible way. He did exactly what Coach Holman asked – took a breather, and was ready to go when the whistle blew. 

If this was the start of a signature “Clutch Kavanagh” run, the rest of the league had better be on guard.