The Chesapeake Bayhawks defeated the Hamilton Nationals 13-12 in a back-and-forth game to reach the MLL Championship Game, at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. on Saturday. The Bayhawks will look to repeat as champions against the fourth seeded Charlotte Hounds.
Michael Kimmel lead the way for the Bayhawks with four points, While Ben Hunt and John Grant Jr. added three of their own in an intense game that featured six ties and four lead changes. Joe Walters paced the way for the Nationals and had a game-high five points on two goals and three assists.
Kimmel got the defending champs on the board first with a two-point rip that beat Brett Queener from deep. However, the Nationals scored the next three goals to take a 3-2 goal into the first break.
Josh Amidon scored the first goal on an assist from Walters before 2013 MLL MVP Kevin Crowley scored and then assisted on a Martin Cahill man-up goal with just under 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Hunt opened the second quarter by driving to his left through the Nationals defense and putting a shot past Queener to put an end to the Hamilton run. But two quick goals by Kevin Cunningham and Cahill put the nationals back on top 5-3.
Once again, Hunt scored a lefty goal to draw the Bayhawks back within one. Another man-up goal, this time by Cunningham, put the Nationals back up by two, but goals by John Grant Jr. and Drew Westervelt evened the score at six heading into halftime.
Both offenses came out of the break slowly, as turnovers and saves by Queener and Kip Turner were common themes of the first five minutes. Finally, Cody Jamieson broke the ice, backing down his defender before a nice spin move gave him a one-on-one opportunity with Turner, which he calmly put away to put Hamilton back on top, 7-6.
Hamilton, however, wasn’t up for long, as Casey Powell received a nifty one-handed pass from Matt Mackrides and ripped an underhand shot right between Queener’s legs to tie the game. 12 seconds later, a falling Matt Abbot flipped a pass to 2012 Champ Weekend MVP Ben Rubeor, who finished with an underhand shot of his own to put the Bayhawks back on top, 8-7.
Just when it looked like Chesapeake had seized momentum of the game, Hamilton scored four goals in the last four minutes of the quarter to take an 11-8 lead heading into the final frame.
Walters got the run started by scoring two goals in a one-minute span, before Amidon scored his second of the game, followed by a Brodie Merrill goal only 13 seconds later, forcing Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle to call a timeout.
The Bayhawks responded well to the run, as goals from Grant Jr. and Westervelt to start the fourth quarter brought the defending champs back within one. Walters dished out his third assist of the game when he fed Crowley for his second goal to give the Nationals some breathing room, but that didn’t last long.
First, Kimmel scored his second goal of the game, a quick-stick goal off of a feed from Rubeor. Just over two minutes later, with the shot-clock winding down, Steven Brooks stepped into a deep shot and bounced it passed the sprawling Queener to tie the game at 12. Then, with a minute and a half left, Casey Powell dodged from the X, and with a slide coming, dished a pass to Kimmel who completed his hat trick with another quick-stick finish.
With a minute left and possession of the ball, Hamilton had one last chance to tie the game. Kevin Crowley received a pass with 35 seconds remaining and ripped a low shot to Turner’s left, but the keeper made a great kick save to preserve the lead. An illegal screen five seconds later gave the ball back to Chesapeake, who ran out the rest of the clock to cement their place in the championship game.
Chesapeake will faceoff on Sunday against the upset-minded Charlotte Hounds in the final game of Championship Weekend presented by Smartlink, a 3 p.m. matchup that can be seen on ESPN2.