August 7, 2010
Boston erased an eight-goal deficit to defeat Long Island, 17-14, at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass. Lizards midfielder Stephen Peyser (1g) evades a Cannons ride. © Bryce Vickmark
Boston erased an eight-goal deficit to defeat Long Island, 17-14, at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass. Lizards midfielder Stephen Peyser (1g) evades a Cannons ride. © Bryce Vickmark

LI Enters Playoffs on Best Streak Since 2008

by Brian Coughlin |

The Long Island Lizards locked up the No. 3 seed in the playoffs with a 13-7 victory Saturday over the Toronto Nationals. They will meet the Denver Outlaws in an MLL semifinal Aug. 21 in Annapolis, Md., riding high on a five-game winning streak -- their longest since June 2008.

Despite their 3-8 record, Brodie Merrill and the defending Steinfeld Cup champion Nationals had every intention of defeating the Lizards, just as they had in the semifinals last season. They even had some tricks up their sleeves, switching jersey numbers and placing goalkeeper Brett Queener in midfield.

On the opposite bench, Joe Spallina got the opportunity to coach the Lizards in place of Jim Mule and led them to their most impressive defensive performance of the season, spearheaded by his brother Brian Spallina.

Tim Goettelmann opened up the scoring for the Lizards with a goal off an out-of-bounds play just 39 seconds in the game. However, this would be the lone offensive highlight of the quarter for the Lizards, as they came out sloppily once again.

The Nationals continued their trickery with their uniform numbers, as Chris Daniello, wearing number 14, scored the second goal of his career to tie it at 1 with 9:02 left in the first. Queener scored his second goal in as many weeks to put the Nationals up 2-1.

Just as Goettelmann had done in the first, he sparked the scoring with a pass to a wide-open Berger in the second. The goal knotted the game at 2. Stephen Peyser blew by Steven Waldeck and fired his first goal since the world lacrosse championships to put the Lizards up 3-2. Peyser scored two goals in the tournament with Team USA, but was unable to score last week.

Following a faceoff win by Peter Vlahakis, Mike Ward fed Matt Danowski for his 25th goal of the season.

Polanco and the Long Island defense picked up the intensity, shutting down John Grant Jr. and the Nationals in the second quarter, holding them scoreless for the second straight game in the second quarter, as the Lizards advanced to halftime up 4-2. The defense, just as it had been all season, was tenacious, holding the Nationals scoreless for the last 17 and a half minutes of the quarter.

Two stories dominated the third quarter of the game, with one being the explosion of the Lizards' offense, particularly on the power play. Chris Fiore, who had already taken five shots in the game, fired another one from two0point range and hit to put the Lizards up 6-3 with under nine minutes  leftin the third.

From there, the Nationals' frustration showed on the field. An illegal body check by Geoff Snider gave the Lizards their first man-up of the quarter, on which Peyser would capitalize. Beautiful ballwork gave Peyser an easy opportunity, as he gave the Lizards a 7-3 lead.

Moments later, another Snider penalty yielded another Peyser goal.

A penalty by Merrill on the ensuing faceoff gave the Lizards their third powerp lay of the quarter. Fiore scored off Cromwell's third assist of the game. Before Saturday, Long Island had just seven power play goals all season.

Spallina held Grant to just one goal last week and had the attackman fuming Saturday, as at one point Grant threw his helmet on the ground.

Long Island led 11-3 after three quarters and never looked back. The seven goals for the Nationals was the fewest surrendered by the Lizards' defense this season. Bud Light MVP Mike Ward cited the excellent play in transition of John Orsen, Ricky Pages, Chris Unterstein and Dan Cocchi as being key to the victory, as well as the winning streak.

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