Today, the Atlanta Blaze of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) announced the acquisitions of faceoff specialist Joe Nardella from the Boston Cannons and add 2018 draft picks Connor Kelly, Kyle McClancy and Christian Cuccinello to the 25-man roster.

According to a press release, Atlanta head coach Liam Banks will now have at his disposal MLL veteran faceoff specialist, Joe Nardella, who was acquired today from the Boston Cannons, and All-Americans Connor Kelly (Maryland) and Kyle McClancy (Albany) — whose teams just finished competing in the NCAA’s national semifinals — available to him. They will be joined by two-time, All-Big East first-team attackman Christian Cuccinello (Villanova), whose team was eliminated in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs.

“Our organization is extremely excited about the future because of Andre’s leadership. For the immediate future, we were very enthusiastic about being able to add an exceptional young man to our team who also happens to be one of the best faceoff men in the world, without giving up anyone from our roster,” Ford said.

The Blaze (3-2) sent their 2019 first-round draft pick to Boston in exchange for Nardella. Nardella, 25, a former Rutgers University All-American from Cazenovia, N.Y. who learned the position as a college freshman, was a favorite of Blaze long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff when the two played together for the Cannons in 2015.

“He is one of my top three or four favorite teammates. I think really highly of him. I know he works really hard and is very good at his craft,” Ratliff said. “He is a leader, a guy you can count on and I am really excited to have him as part of the Blaze. I think adding a guy like that is a complete game changer.”

Nardella was originally selected in the fifth round of the 2015 collegiate draft by Boston and has played a total of 31 MLL games. His career faceoff percentage is currently at .552 and his first faceoff win Saturday night will be the 500th of his career. He finished his collegiate career with a .622 faceoff percentage and also added 13 goals and 26 assists in 59 games at Rutgers. Currently, he is an assistant coach at Harvard University and operates the Faceoff Factory, an instructional lacrosse academy based in the Boston area.

“I honestly couldn’t be more excited about the trade to Atlanta,” Nardella said shortly after being notified of the deal. “It’s a young team with a great group of core guys. From what I have heard, the team culture is excellent with a very tightly knit group.

“I am really looking forward to being part of a team that has been winning, is on a roll and wants to compete for a championship ring,” he continued. “I was pretty lucky in that I was able to play and live in Boston for two years, and that is very uncommon in the MLL. It was really convenient but I am excited to explore a little, spread my wings and am ready to see myself in a different market.”

McClancy is a versatile two-way midfielder that contributed mightily at both ends of the field for Scott Marr’s Albany team. The second-team USILA All-American scored 29 goals, added 19 assists and collected 36 ground balls in 19 games during his senior season for the Great Danes, who lost in the NCAA semifinals to eventual champion Yale.

McClancy was the 10th overall pick in the draft. Cuccinello, a two-time All-Big East first-team attackman, made 57 starts in 59 career games at Villanova and finished his career with 97 goals and 71 assists. The native of Mountain Lakes, N.J., and the Wildcats’ leading scorer was taken by the Blaze in the fourth round in the MLL Collegiate Draft with the 32nd overall pick.

As a result of the acquisition of Nardella, Ford traded faceoff specialist Jake Withers to next week’s opponent, the Charlotte Hounds, in exchange for Charlotte’s second-round pick in the 2019 collegiate draft. Withers appeared in eight games for the Blaze in 2017.

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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