Steele Stanwick's Golden Goal Advances BayHawks to Eighth MLL Championship Appearance
DENVER, CO - Attackman Lyle Thompson and goalkeeper Brian Phipps led an inspired second-half comeback that puts the Chesapeake Bayhawks on the cusp of their sixth Major League Lacrosse title.
Thompson scored three goals and dished off two assists while Phipps stopped ten shots as the top-seeded Bayhawks beat the Atlanta Blaze, 14-13, in overtime. This win was the first of Phipps' playoff career.
Veteran attackman Steele Stanwick scored the game-winning goal at the 7:58 mark of the extra session, propelling Chesapeake into Sunday's championship game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.
Atlanta won the opening faceoff of overtime and immediately called timeout. Following the restart, midfielder Bryan Cole drove left and rifled a sidearm shot that Phipps fought off. The Blaze maintained possession but promptly committed a turnover.
Rookie midfielder John Wagner got off a low-to-high shot that just went wide. The Bayhawks backed up the net and retained possession. Stanwick cut across the crease and took a nice feed from midfielder Nick Mariano, then dropped down and unleashed an underhand shot that ricocheted off the far pipe and into the cage.
"Steele was the first one to realize it was in the goal," Chesapeake Head Coach Dave Cottle said. "Steele raised his arms to start celebrating and everyone else followed suit."
Stanwick finished with two goals and two assists for Chesapeake (10-6 in regular season), who will play the winner of the second semifinal between the second-seeded Denver Outlaws (9-7) and No. 3 Boston Cannons (9-7).
Nick Mariano contributed a goal and two assists while fellow midfielder Ryan Tucker scored two goals early in the third quarter to jump-start the impressive rally. "We just kind of found a spark. Ryan Tucker gave us a big lift and we kind of rode that wave," Stanwick said during a live television interview afterward.
Phipps struggled early, but was an impenetrable wall in the second half. The veteran netminder came up big time after time as the Blaze's offensive chances were stifled.
"Brian was great. We got some huge saves from him and that helped us make that run in the third quarter," Stanwick said.
Rookie attackman Andrew Kew had a hat trick for Chesapeake, who never lost confidence despite falling behind by five goals at halftime.
"Atlanta is a team that can score in bunches. They were up on us 9-4 in another game this season and we came back and won, so our guys knew it could be done," Cottle said. "We just needed to straighten out some things defensively. I thought we played tremendous defense in the third and fourth quarters."
Colin Heacock added a goal and assist as the Bayhawks outscored the Blaze 9-2 for a long stretch of the second half, transforming the five-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.
"Our players showed great effort and toughness. This was as good a win as this team's had in a while," Cottle said.
Faceoff specialist Kenny Massa also played a big part in the comeback, turning the tide in that crucial category. Massa beat counterpart Alex Woodall 10-5 in the second half to help the Bayhawks control possession.
"Kenny Massa kept fighting from beginning to end. I think Woodall got a little tired in the fourth quarter and Kenny took advantage of that," Cottle said.
Chesapeake struck first with left-handed attackman Andrew Kew taking a feed from Lyle Thompson and ripping a sidearm crank shot into the far top corner at the 12:37 mark of the first quarter.
Atlanta quickly tied the score and both teams suffered a lengthy scoreless stretch before midfielder Brendan Bomberry gave the Bayhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:08 remaining in the stanza with a low-to-high laser off a nifty dish by Nick Mariano.
Chesapeake stopped a three-goal run by Atlanta with 24.4 seconds to go in the opening period. Thompson used his vision to spot Stanwick alone on the backside and the veteran attackman used one fake to finish from the doorstep, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
The Blaze outscored the Bayhawks 5-1 in the second quarter to take control. Chesapeake's lone goal come from midfielder John Wagner, who took a dump-off pass from Heacock and perfectly placed a left-handed shot past the stick-side shin of the goalkeeper.
Trailing by five at halftime, the Bayhawks scored the initial goal of the third quarter when midfielder Ryan Tucker followed his own shot, scooping the rebound about five yards in front of the net then putting away the rebound to reduce the deficit to 9-5.
"I think the Ryan Tucker rebound goal gave us some energy and enthusiasm," Cottle said.
Heacock answered another Atlanta tally with a strong solo drive, powering past a defender while circling to the middle of the field and firing an overhand shot on the run to keep the Bayhawks within four.
That jump-started a 4-0 run that got the Bayhawks right back into the ballgame. Matt Abbott used his superb speed to solo clear the ball then spotted Tucker cutting across the crease. Tucker caught the ball on the move, turned sideways and beat netminder Chris Madalon off-hip.
Thompson then delivered a highlight reel goal off a tremendous individual move. Dodging from the top, just inside the two-point arc, Thompson singlehandedly shredded the defense - faking out three different defenders before turning and quickly snapping off a two-hand wrist shot into the upper-90, making it 10-8 with 6:04 to go.
Chesapeake continued the comeback roughly 3 ½ minutes later following an Atlanta penalty. Stanwick faked a flip to Thompson behind the net then threaded the needle on an inside pass to Kew on the crease. Kew made a terrific catch in traffic and scored off a quick-stick and suddenly it was 10-9 with 2:31 left in the third.
The Bayhawks got the equalizer with 17.7 seconds left after a failed clear by the Blaze. A defender stumbled while trying to catch an outlet from the goalie and the loose ball rolled right to Thompson, who waltzed in and scored easily one-on-one from point-blank range.
That made it a brand-new ballgame going into the fourth quarter with the score tied 10-10, but the Bayhawks had all the momentum after outscoring the Blaze 6-1 in the third period.
Chesapeake continued the onslaught in the final frame, scoring two goals in the two minutes to take the lead for good.
Mariano used a sweet stutter step move to lose his defender and get to his strong hand with time and space, unleashing a lefty rocket that put the Bayhawks ahead, 11-10 at the 14:18 mark. That marked Chesapeake's first lead since 2-1 early in the game.
Stanwick showed great vision in finding Kew working hard off-ball, delivering a pinpoint pass to the crease threw a defense in disarray. Kew finished from five yards out to make it 12-10. Atlanta scored to get back within one, but Thompson delivered a dagger - cradling one-handed while driving past a defender to the goal then diving into the crease and scoring before landing.
"I think Lyle, as the game went on, just said screw it and decided he was going to take over," Cottle said. "When your big gun starts playing well the whole team feeds off it."
Chesapeake led 13-11 with five minutes remaining and just needed the defense to lock down. However, attackman Randy Staats scored off an overhand crank from the left wing to keep hope alive for Atlanta.
After the Blaze regained possession, Atlanta Head Coach Liam Banks called timeout to set up what he hoped would be a game-tying play. However, Chesapeake defenseman Warren Jeffrey anticipated a pass behind and alertly picked it off.
With Jeffrey being converged on by several opposing players, Cottle called timeout to set up a clear. Abbott had the ball on the restart and was running out of his own zone when he was tripped up by the riding midfielder.
Atlanta scooped up the loose ball and wound up scoring after a wild scramble in the unsettled situation. Phipps was forced to come out of the cage to defend midfielder TJ Comizio on the crease and he wound up scoring into an empty net with 29.6 seconds left in regulation.
On Sunday, the Bayhawks will play the winner of tonight's second semifinal game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. Faceoff will be at 1:00 PM ET (11:00 AM MT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. Tickets for the championship are currently available at bit.ly/MLLChamp19.
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Major League Lacrosse Stories from October 4, 2019
- Overtime Heartbreak in Denver - Atlanta Blaze
- Steele Stanwick's Golden Goal Advances BayHawks to Eighth MLL Championship Appearance - Chesapeake Bayhawks
- 2019 MLL Semi-Finals Preview: Denver vs. Boston - MLL
- 2019 MLL Semi-Finals Preview: Chesapeake vs. Atlanta - MLL
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