7/28/14 8:50 AM
Brookhaven, NY - Goalie Tyler Fiorito played his finest game as a professional while midfielder Joe Walters led an inspired comeback as the Chesapeake Bayhawks earned a hard-fought road victory over the New York Lizards, 12-11, at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on the campus of Stony Brook University.
Chesapeake (4-8) knew going into the game that they had been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but it didn’t matter as the two-time defending Major League Lacrosse champs dug deep and put forth one of their finest efforts of the 2014 season.
“Our theme and motto for today was that sometimes playing for nothing means everything,” Chesapeake Head Coach Dave Cottle said. “Even if we didn’t have a chance at the playoffs, we could still play for pride and for each other. A game like this tells what kind of character you have, what type of toughness you have, and I was extremely proud of how our players responded.”
Fiorito was spectacular at times in equaling a career-high of 15 saves and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. The former Princeton All-American made some incredible stops of point-blank shots in anchoring a defense that shut out a potent New York offense in the fourth quarter.
“Tyler Fiorito was phenomenal. He played great in the goal, both in terms of stopping the ball and clearing it,” Cottle said. “I thought Tyler took away some goals and he jump-started our offense several times with great clearing passes.”
Walters was once again the offensive catalyst in totaling four points on two goals and two assists for Chesapeake, which outscored the home team 4-0 in the final frame. Walters had a goal and an assist during the decisive fourth period for the Bayhawks, who trailed the entire game before suddenly tying the score and taking the lead with time running down in regulation.
Trailing 11-8 after three stanzas, Chesapeake gained some momentum when defenseman Jesse Bernhardt cleared the ball and fed ahead to Walters for a goal off a lefty crank shot. Bernhardt then tied the score for the first time all game with a brilliant 2-pointer. Fiorito picked off a cross-crease pass and threw a quick outlet pass to Bernhardt, who prevented one of the Lizards from picking off the pass then scooped the grounder.
Bernhardt charged into the offensive end and did not draw a defender so he reared back and unleashed a cannon blast of a shot with his long stick that whizzed past the ear of New York goalie Drew Adams and into the top corner of the net.
“Jesse is one of the best stick-handling defensemen in Major League Lacrosse and he showed his offensive ability by taking and making a great shot that completely changed the complexion of the game,” Cottle said of Bernhardt, who finished with two goals and an assist to tie the team lead with four points.
Chesapeake won the ensuing face-off and possessed the ball nicely until Walters dodged down the left alley and tossed a beautiful no-look pass inside to Peet Poillon, who caught the ball in traffic on the crease, turned and fired a hard shot that Adams had no chance to stop. That gave the Bayhawks their first lead of the game with 4:21 remaining and the visitors salted away the remaining time.
“We had planned to use Peet on attack a bit today and it turns out that was the only time all day that we did,” Cottle said. “Peet certainly made the most of the opportunity. He used a nice cut to get open, made a tough catch and a great finish.”
After New York threw the ball away with 1:06 remaining and Chesapeake successfully broke a 10-man ride, the Bayhawks then used great ball movement to thwart double-team attempts while running out the shot clock and leaving just four seconds left on the game clock.
Face-off specialist Stephen Robarge had a big game for Chesapeake, winning 12 of 26 while going against one of the league’s best in Greg Gurenlian. Robarge more than held his own against one of two face-off men selected to the United States National Team.
“I thought Stephen Robarge really battled. He was going against an All-World face-off guy and fought like crazy to neutralize that matchup and give us a chance to win,” Cottle said.
Veteran defenseman Michael Evans set the tone for the afternoon by dressing and starting despite the debilitating pain of cracked ribs. Evans took a blow to the affected area during the first half and was forced to leave the game for good, but his heart and character was an inspiration to the rest of the team.
Meanwhile, Chesapeake’s other two veteran close defensemen – Brian Spallina and Nicky Polanco – displayed the type of fight Cottle was looking for when they mixed it up with some of the Lizards following a goal late in the third quarter.
“Nicky and Brian have never lost to New York so this game meant a lot to them,” Cottle said.
Attackman Drew Westervelt scored two goals while Poillon and fellow midfielders Matt Abbott and Matt Mackrides all contributed a goal and assist apiece for Chesapeake, which will seek to close the season with a three-game winning streak.
Rob Pannell had a goal and three assists while fellow attackman Ned Crotty scored three goals for New York (7-5), which had already clinched a playoff berth coming into the contest. Adams finished with 14 saves for the Lizards, who have now lost six straight games to the Bayhawks.
“We can’t make the playoffs, but we can play for each other and for the name on the front of the uniform,” Fiorito said. “We played loose and had a lot of fun out there today.”
Chesapeake closes the season with two home games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – July 31st (7:30 p.m.) against the Denver Outlaws and August 9th (7 p.m.) versus the Charlotte Hounds.
The Bayhawks 2014 Season Tickets are still available and can be purchased over the phone by calling the box office at 866-99-HAWKS (42957). Visit us at www.thebayhawks.com for the full schedule. This season, the Bayhawks and Lexus are giving away an ES350 to one lucky Season Ticket Holder at the last game of the season. Every Season Ticket purchased will amount to one entry into the giveaway.
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