St. Petersburg, FL - Veteran midfielder Kyle Dixon piled up seven points and tied a Major League Lacrosse record with three 2-point goals as the Chesapeake Bayhawks opened the 2013 season by beating the Rochester Rattlers 17-14 in a wild shootout in front of 3,940 fans at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It was a typical first game. We didn’t play great, but fortunately we got the win and that’s all that matters,” Chesapeake head coach Dave Cottle said.
Dixon, in his eighth MLL season, had his cannon crank shot on target and increased his MLL career record for 2-pointers to 50. The perennial All-Star also dished off an assist as Chesapeake began defense of its MLL championship with a thrilling victory.
“I guess you could say I was feeling it tonight,” said Dixon, who was named Bud Light Player of the Game. “Teams just continue to back off and give me space beyond the arc. Coach Cottle has given me the green light to shoot whenever I’m open out there and tonight I was fortunate to connect on a few.”
Midfielder Ben Hunt fired in a pair of 2-pointers of his own in totaling six points for the Bayhawks, who won without seven players who are still involved in the National Lacrosse League playoffs. Among that group were two returning starting attackmen in Drew Westervelt and John Grant, Jr.
Matt Mackrides, a second-year pro out of Penn State, started on attack and came up big with three goals and four ground balls. Mackrides scored two extra man goals in the fourth quarter to give the Bayhawks breathing room.
“I can’t say we’re pleased with the way we played offensively. That was a really ugly offensive effort in a lot of ways,” Dixon said. “You take away the twos by me and Ben and we only had two other goals in the first half. We need to get some things cleaned up before next weekend.”
Nicky Polancowas all over the field and played like a man possessed in anchoring a defense that rose to the occasion and shut out Rochester in the fourth quarter. Polanco provided great man-to-man coverage on Rochester attackman Mark Millon, caused several turnovers and gobbled up three ground balls.
“I thought Nicky was tremendous tonight. He was extremely active, very aggressive and really owned Mark Millon,” Cottle said.
Attackman Ben Rubeor contributed a goal and an assist while midfielder Steven Brooks dished off two assists for Chesapeake, which outshot Rochester 58-36. The Bayhawks put a whopping 38 of those shots on goal and might have won easily had Ratters keeper Jason LaShomb not made 27 saves.
RookieTyler Fiorito started between the pipes for Chesapeake, but was replaced in the second quarter by second-year man T.C. DiBartolo, who finished with nine saves.
Dixon blasted in two of his 2-pointers during the first quarter as Chesapeake raced to a 7-3 lead. Hunt also had a 2-pointer in the opening period. Rochester responded by opening the second quarter on a 6-0 run that featured a pair of 2-pointers from 10th-year midfielder Matt Striebel.
Suddenly trailing 9-7 with 4:10 elapsed in the second stanza, Chesapeake closed the first half with a 5-0 run that was highlighted by 2-pointers from Dixon and Hunt. Rubeor fed Hunt for another goal as the Bayhawks took a 12-9 lead into intermission.
Hunt added another goal and long stick defensive midfielder Michael Simon scored in transition and Rubeor tallied unassisted as Chesapeake opened the second half with a 3-1 run to take a 15-10 lead. Rochester refused to fold, closing the third period on a 4-0 run to get within one at 15-14.
DiBartolo made two saves to anchor a suffocating defense while Mackrides found openings in the defense for the two power play goals that provided the necessary cushion.
“We could have very easily scored 20 goals, but we missed some easy opportunities,” Cottle said. “I don’t think we did all the little things on offense. We weren’t always in the right spots, our stick-work wasn’t great and we made some bad decisions. We have plenty of things to work on during practice this coming week.”
Bayhawks face-off specialist Adam Rand won his faceoff battle with John Ortalani, 15-13, while Cottle felt defensive midfieldersBarney Ehrmann (long stick) and Danny Burns (short stick) both played very well.
The 2013 home opener is Saturday, May 4th against the New York Lizards at 7:00 PM at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Fireworks will be held after the game and will be presented by G&G Outfitters. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.thebayhawks.comor over the phone by calling the box office 866-99-HAWKS (42957).