August 21, 2010

Hawks Keep Boston at Bay, Advance to MLL Final

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | MLL Semifinals Blog

Chesapeake Bayhawks goalie Chris Garrity jumpstarts the break up field after one of his 18 saves Saturday in a 13-9 win over Boston in the MLL semifinals.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Chesapeake Bayhawks used a stifling defense and a patient offense to take build an eight-goal lead, then held on for dear life in a 13-9 victory over the top-seeded Boston Cannons in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals Saturday afternoon.

The Bayhawks advanced to their first MLL championship game since 2005, where they will face the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between Long Island and Denver on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

The fourth-seeded Bayhawks completely controlled the first half, taking an 11-3 lead into halftime and scoring the first goal of the second half. Six minutes into the second half, Boston coach Bill Daye pulled starting goalkeeper Kip Turner and replaced him with Jordan Burke. The move, coupled with five Chesapeake penalties, seemed to spark Boston, as the Cannons scored the ensuing five goals, cutting the Chesapeake lead to three with 7:05 left.

The Bayhawk defense then stood up again and held Boston scoreless the rest of the game en route to the four-goal win.

The key to Chesapeake’s win was a defense that helped the team take control in the first half and stood tall while the Cannons made their surge in the second.  The combination of defensemen Shawn Nadelen and Michael Evans was a huge component of that success, as they neutralized league MVP Matt Poskay. The Boston attackman led the league in scoring with 52 points, but was limited to just two goals (one on a power play) on five shots on Saturday and could never get it going.

“You’ve got to respect him,” said Nadelen. “The guy is the MVP in the league and he puts up points. We knew that we needed to be tight on him and if we slid off him, the next guy would need to get there right away. Our defensive middies did a great job as well. It was a group effort.”

Chesapeake's defense also combined to keep 2009 MLL MVP Paul Rabil scoreless.

Equally as impressive was goalkeeper Chris Garrity, who made 18 saves. Ten came as his team  prospered in the first half and eight came when Boston made its charge in the second half.
“I try to keep an even keel when I’m up and when I’m down,” said Garrity. “We have to play 60 minutes. We were able to get on them early and withstand their run.”

The Bayhawks were also aided by a surprising offensive outburst from midfielder Ben Hunt. The 6-5, 215-pounder had scored just 14 points all season, but scored three goals in a span of eight and a half minutes in the first half.  The flurry included a two-point goal from the top of the arc that gave Chesapeake an early lead (3-2), which it would not relinquish.

“Our head coach gave me the green light to go today,” said Hunt.  “I got a lot of short-stick matchups and was able to capitalize, find the open lanes and score."

The Bayhawks' playoff win was the latest triumph in the turnaround the team has enjoyed since team president Brendan Kelly took over as head coach. It was his fourth game at the helm. With the team in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Bayhawks fired John Tucker and replaced him with Kelly. Kelly won two of his final three games to bring Chesapeake’s record to 6-6 before Saturday’s semifinal win.

“What BK really emphasizes is team defense and team offense, while being really unselfish with the ball,” said Hunt. “At midseason, a lot of guys were trying to make their own plays and we weren’t playing as a team. Today we were able to be unselfish, move the ball and capitalize.”

The Bayhawks look for their third MLL championship on Sunday. It will be their fourth appearance in the championship game.


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