7/31/10 11:19 PM
It may have been his final home game in a Lizards uniform, but Tim Goettelmann gave the home fans one last memory that they won’t soon forget. 3,803 fans had traveled out to James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University hoping to see Major League Lacrosse history as Goettelmann trailed Jesse Hubbard by two goals going into the night. However, Goettelmann would go on to score three goals during the final quarter and help the Lizards secure an MLL playoff berth with a 16-11 victory over the Toronto Nationals.
The Lizards would struggle to begin the game suffering a shot clock violation on their very first possession. On the other end, Brice Queener, brother of goalie Brett Queener got the scoring started for the Nationals by hitting the low side corner from the near the top of the arc. Strong defense by the Nationals frustrated the Lizards attack as they failed to score a goal in the first fifteen minutes. Scott Rodgers played strong denying several Lizard shots as he continues his stellar 2010 campaign after joining the Nationals via Notre Dame in this year’s collegiate draft. Brodie Merrill was all over the field leading the defensive effort with four groundballs in the first quarter alone. Terry Kimener and Corey Small would both add goals midway through the period to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead after the first.
With little happening for the Lizards early on, the Lizards desperately needed a shift in momentum as their playoff chances hung in the balance. The turning point would come in the form of a sprawling save by Drew Adams on a point black shot by Kyle Rubisch. The stop would deflect right to Ricky Pages who would scoop up the groundball and purchased a one way ticket to the goal. He would beat Scott Rodgers with a quick shot after no one picked him up and put the Lizards in the driver seat for the rest of the contest. Tommy Davis followed up Pages’ game changer with his first career goal off an unselfish feed from Goettelmann. Perhaps it was animosity spilling over from the USA victory over Canada in the world championships, but the Nationals started showing their frustrations and a shoving match between both sides occurred near the sidelines. Fortunately no one from either side dropped their gloves and three players walked off with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Quick passing by the Nationals would set up Garrett Billings for a power play goal and put them on top 4-2.
The Lizards would then go on to rip off five straight goals to end the half through their much improved transition offense. Matt Danowski would get a pass from about fifteen yards out from Chris Fiore and continue his deadly accuracy by depositing a rocket of a shot into the upper corner of the goal. Then Stephen Berger and Keith Cromwell would keep up their magic connection from the following week and combine for another goal as Berger converted a Cromwell feed in front of net with a diving shot across the face of Scott Rodgers.
After winning MLL Offensive MVP for Week 10, Berger continues to provide leadership for a team fighting to raise the Steinfeld Cup for the first time since 2003. He stepped up his aggression on the offensive end when Zack Greer left for the world championships and continued his scoring ways as he took a Danowski past and snuck in front for another acrobatic goal. Only a couple minutes later, Berger would block a Rodgers’ clear, pounce on the loose ball and send a shot past the stunned goalie to finish off his natural hat trick. Right before Goettelmann would find John Orsen streaking through the teeth of the Nationals’ defense who would send a rolling shot into the back of the netting for his third goal of the year.
Midway through the season as the Lizards struggled to find rhythm on offense the additions of Parker McKee from the collegiate draft and Ricky Pages off the physically unable to perform list helped ignite the team’s transition attack. Their ability to get tough groundballs and burst into the attacking zone has helped spark numerous Lizard scoring chances and create plenty of open spaces for Lizards’ snipers Danowski and Berger.
The halftime break didn’t seem to slow the Lizards down one bit, and neither did the usually stout goaltending of Brett Queener. The last time these two teams met, the Lizards coughed up a halftime lead and Brett Queener earned Bud Light MVP honors after he entered in the second half and shut down the Long Island attack holding them to just 9 goals for the game. The Lizards would not suffer the same fate again, as Berger would immediately put a dent in Queener’s armor with a laser from a step inside the two point arc. The Lizards looked better than they had all season as the accuracy and crispness of their passing increased as nighttime fell on James M Shuart stadium. Berger would take a transition pass and set up Danowski with an over the shoulder, no-look dump off on the left side of the net that the former Duke attackman deposited into the left side of the net.
Kevin Huntley tried to slow down the Lizards onslaught by taking a John Grant Jr. pass and stumping Adams with a beautiful behind the back shot and made the game 9-5. Ricky Pages wouldn’t allow the Nationals to celebrate for very long as he scored two minutes later after taking another groundball and breaking free from the defensive end for his second goal of the night and season. Greg Gurenlian then continued his dominance of the center circle (12-18 on faceoffs for the night) and barreled down the middle for a clear path goal. The Lizards attack then pressed the rewind button as Berger and Danowski repeated their connection from earlier to give the Lizards an astounding 12-5 lead after trailing 3-0 early on. The goal was Danowski’s 24th of the season which ties him with Chesapeake’s Pete Poillon for second in the league.
Billings would then do his best to pull the Nationals back in to the game as he initiated a one man march on the Lizards goal scoring three in a row on goalie Drew Adams. Merrill would set up Kevin Huntley in transition and cut the Lizards advantage down to 12-9 as the Lizards were now clinging onto their much needed victory. The Lizards then got a transition goal from Mike Ward off a key groundball pickup by Parker McKee to help ease the fears of the fans, but Mike McLellan would respond with a goal of his own less than two minutes later by scooping a loose rebound past Adams.
When things looked bleak with the game now 13-10, the previously quiet “Monster” rose from the darkness and put the rest of the Lizards on his back as he closed out the game. His first goal would come after Orsen found Goettelmann in transition and allowed him to easily put one into the net. ONE AWAY. Goettelmann would then record a jumping goal in front of the net which was punctuated by an animated fist pump. RECORD TIED. After the Lizards get the ball back from a Nationals attack, Danowski dodges past a defender, fakes a shot and finds Goettelmann for a diving goal in front of the net. The milestone goal came in his patented Goettelmann fashion as he muscled his way into the middle and gave the goalie no chance of keeping him from entering the MLL history books. RECORD BROKEN
Kevin Huntley would add another late goal, but it was merely an afterthought as the Lizards celebrated a historic night for the franchise. Peter Vhlakis would record his 1,000th faceoff win late in the fourth quarter becoming only the second player ever to do so.
The win clinched a playoff spot for the Lizards and put them at 6-5 for the season. The game marked the final home contest for the Lizards this season as they travel next week to Toronto for a 7:00 pm game on Saturday. The season will then conclude in Annapolis, Maryland where the playoffs occur on August 21st and 22nd. Tim Goettelmann and the rest of the Long Island Lizards would like to write the last chapter of his career by raising the Steinfeld Cup.
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