MLL: Surging Lizards Top Slumping Bayhawks
by Brad Zak | majorleaguelacrosse.com
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- With the playoffs on the
line, the Long Island Lizards were able to grind out another gutsy
victory over a struggling Chesapeake Bayhawks squad 14-11 at Shuart
Stadium at Hofstra University. After a late rally pulled them
to within one goal, the Bayhawks acted out of desperation and
pulled their goalie enabling them to double team the ball.
However, Bud Light MVP Stephen Berger made them pay by connecting
on a shot from halfway to Jones Beach to clinch the game for the
Week 10 of the MLL season coincided with the FIL World Lacrosse Championships meaning Long Island would be without Zack Greer (Canada), Matt Zash (USA), Stephen Peyser (USA) and Chesapeake would have to play without American stars Kyle Dixon, Alex Smith, Joe Cinosky and Shawn Nadelen. After scoring 11 goals in the last two weeks, the only thing that could stop Greer was his home country and the Lizards were forced to look elsewhere to replace his scoring production. Fortunately for the home team, the two longest tenured Lizards picked up the slack. Stephen Berger led the team with five goals including one two pointer and Tim Goettelmann added a hat trick with all three goals coming in the first half.
Chris Fiore opened the scoring during the first minute of play as he let a shot fly from just inside the circle on the ride side of the attack and beat goalie Chris Garrity for his eighth goal of the season. The Bayhawks high scoring duo of Brian Vetter and Peet Poillon would pump some life into the away side as they would each score their 19th and 21st goals of the season respectfully to give Chesapeake the advantage.
The Lizards wouldn’t stay down for long however, as Berger galloped down the ride side and let loose with a low shot just past the outstretched leg of Garrity. That early success would help provide Berger with the confidence he needed to be the Lizards finisher as he connected on five of eight shots for the contest.
Keith Cromwell who was appearing in just his third game of the season gift-wrapped more packages than Macy’s during the game as he set up Lizards’ goals on five different occasions. His first assist of the night would come after he dodged his way into the Bayhawk zone and dropped a nice pass off for Matt Danowski, who then sent a quick shot into the top half of the net for his 21st goal of the year. A few minutes later, Cromwell would orchestrate another score as he found Goettelmann in front of the net for an easy goal.
Impressive passing by the Bayhawks led to their third goal of the game as they took full advantage of a power play. Ben Rubeor eventually worked his way into scoring range and beat goalie Drew Adams to make the score 4-3 with one second left in the first quarter.
The first goal in the second quarter came after John Glynn heaved a pass from near midfield to a waiting Stephen Berger who was able to beat the goalie with a quick shot into the top corner. The Lizards then really started to click as everybody’s best friend Cromwell was able to find Goettelmann for his second goal as they continued to find holes in the Bayhawks defense.
After a lull in the scoring, Ricky Pages would use his speed to blow by the Chesapeake midfielders and spark a Lizards attack that would eventually lead to Tim Goettelmann’s third goal of the game putting the Lizards ahead 7-3. It was his 15th goal of the season and brings him within two goals of the MLL all-time scoring record. It looked as if Goettelmann would get even closer as he used his patented bull dodge to get himself in front of the Chesapeake goal, but sent his shot squarely off the post. The Bayhawks would capitalize by setting up Kyle Hartzell for a transition goal. Chesapeake would continue their second half charge as Jeff Reynolds beat Adams for his 14th goal of the season to make the half-time score 7-5.
In the second quarter, the defensive style of the Lizards really began to take a toll on the Bayhawks as they could only muster one goal during the fifteen minute period. After firing coach John Tucker after the loss two weeks ago to the Boston Cannons, new coach Brendan Kelly had a tough time developing a plan to crack the defense of the Lizards. Parker McKee continued his emergence as an elite MLL defender with six groundballs and tenacious pressure. Nicky Polanco, John Orsen and Ricky Pages also combined for eight ground balls and closed up the Bayhawks passing lanes all night long.
Berger scored a pretty unassisted goal as he made a Reggie Bush-like change of direction to free himself in the middle of the field and get a clear shot from near the top of the circle. Later in the quarter, Buggs Combs would give Chesapeake their only third quarter goal by putting a low shot just across the line that was ruled a goal despite the protests of the Lizards defense.
Peter Vlahakis wouldn’t let the Bayhawks celebrate for long as he promptly won the faceoff and paraded down the middle of the field and unleashed a quick shot for his first goal of the season. Without their normal faceoff man Alex Smith, Vlahakis and faceoff specialist Greg Gurenlian dominated the center circle and allowed the Lizards to control the game as they combined to win 21 of 27 faceoffs.
In a special moment at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Albert Maione would catch and release a quick shot into the net for his first career MLL goal. Maione is in his rookie season for the Lizards and joined the team after his impressive senior season at Molloy College. Maione went to school at nearby West Islip high school whose lacrosse team was honored at halftime for winning a state championship this past season.
Ben Hunt would score his fourth goal of the season to cut into the Lizard lead making it 10-7 but Cromwell would again help ignite the attack and seemingly put the game out of reach. Cromwell fed Joel Dalgarno on the right side of the net for an easy shot past the stick of Garrity. Cromwell would then pass off to Berger who continued his amazing shooting night by Fed-Exing a shot from just inside the arc into the top of the net.
As the Lizards began to relax, Chesapeake snuck back into the game with a three quick goals. Rubeor scored his 11th of the season and then Jeremy Sieverts introduced himself to his teammates by scoring his first two goals of the season (one of them a two-pointer).
With the score now 12-11, Vlahakis would get another key faceoff victory and allow Berger to put an exclamation point on the game with his heroics. His late game Hail Mary gave him his 14th goal of the season and first two pointer of the year.
The win is the Lizards third in a row and now puts them at 5-5 and in control of their championship weekend plans. The Lizards play again next Saturday, July 31st against the Toronto Nationals at Shuart Stadium at 7 p.m.
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