ANNAPOLIS, MD – Goalkeeper Niko Amato put forth another superb performance with 14 saves while attackman Lyle Thompson was outstanding with four goals and an assist, but their efforts were not enough as the Chesapeake Bayhawks suffered a heartbreaking 13-12 loss to the Denver Outlaws in the Major League Lacrosse semifinals on Saturday night before a raucous crowd at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Amato made one last case that he deserved to be named Brine Goalie of the Year by standing tall in the face of 45 shots. Denver dominated the faceoffs and controlled possession as a result, but Amato minimized that disadvantage for Chesapeake.
“Niko had a tremendous season and is going to be an great goalie in this league for many more years to come,” Chesapeake Head Coach
Dave Cottle said.
Thompson once again showed why he is one of the most feared scorers in all of professional lacrosse by finishing in a variety of ways. The former Albany All-American displayed his dazzling stickwork while creating for himself and others in leading a strong offensive effort.
“Lyle is such an outstanding individual who works so hard out on the field. He rides hard and gets ground balls. He is so much fun to watch play and really cares about his teammates,” Cottle said of Thompson, who totaled 15 points in just four games with the Bayhawks.
Myles Jones and attackman
Josh Byrne both finished with two goals and an assist for Chesapeake, which came up short in its bid for a sixth Major League Lacrosse championship. Attackman
Colin Heacock contributed two goals for the Bayhawks, who were beaten 21-8 on faceoffs.
“I was so proud of our team with how hard they played. They really cared and hustled their tails off tonight,” Cottle said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t overcome the lack of not having the ball. We did everything we could to make up for that deficiency. We caused some turnovers and had a couple riding goals, but it wasn’t enough.”
It was a low-scoring first quarter as the two teams went through a feeling out process. Denver struck first with attackman
Kylor Bellistri getting wide-open on the crease and finishing a point-blank crease. Chesapeake quickly tied the score as Byrne stuck a low-to-high shot into the top corner off an impossible angle.
Moments later, Stanwick raised his stick at just the right time and intercepted a lazy clearing pass by Ward, easily scoring from the crease past the surprised netminder to make it 2-1 with 6:48 to go in the opening period.
Denver scored twice in the opening five minutes of the second quarter, but Chesapeake responded with three straight goals to take a 5-4 lead. Jones drove right and fired a jump shot that beat Ward off hip to start the run.
Ian MacKay dodged down the left alley and found Thompson wide-open on the back side. Thompson used one stick fake to get Ward out of position then scored into an empty net to tie the score.
Byrne then used a convincing fake pass to shift the defense then fired cross-field to Danowski, who unleashed a sidearm slinger that gave the Bayhawks a brief advantage with 6:33 remaining. The Outlaws finished a power play opportunity to tie the score then moved back ahead 6-5 after midfielder
Zach Currier scored his second goal off a crank shot from up top.
Currier scored off a power play to start the second half then canned yet another crank shot from up top to give Denver its largest lead at 8-5. However, Chesapeake responded with its second three-goal run of the game to tie the contest for the fifth time.
Thompson snapped a scoring drought of more than 15 minutes with a low-to-high rocket off a nice look from Jones to spark the rally. Just 12 seconds later, close defenseman
Jesse Bernhardt found Byrne open on the right wing off a restart and suddenly it was a one-goal game again. Thompson then made a tremendous play, stripping Denver defenseman
Matt Bocklet during a clear attempt, scooping the loose ball and racing in and perfectly placing a shot into the top corner to make it 8-8 with 2:18 remaining in the third stanza.
Denver once again gained a little bit of breathing room and Law scored off a nifty behind-the-back shot to start the fourth quarter, making it 10-8 at the 14:17 mark. Chesapeake responded with its second 3-0 run of the contest and once again took the lead.
Heacock drove to the middle of the field and uncorked a sidearm shot that found the mark and the Bayhawks were back within one. Jones then bowled over two defenders on a strong dodge to the right, spun back to his left hand and fired a shot into the cage to tie the score at 10. Thompson capped the comeback by finishing a transition opportunity with an overhand shot from 12 yards away and the home team held an 11-10 lead with 10:31 remaining.
There would be two more ties after that with Heacock forging the final deadlock by fighting his way to the goal and somehow getting off a short shot while being held by Denver short stick midfielder
Nick Tintle. That made it 12-12 with 6:13 to go.
“We kept battling back to tie or take the lead, but we just didn’t have the ball enough to get that cushion we needed,” bemoaned Byrne, who had another outstanding season with 33 points.
Unfortunately, the game-winning goal came as the result of a bad shift change with Chesapeake’s offensive midfielders all running off the field in unison. Denver capitalized on the numbers advantage with midfielder
Mike Schlosser dumping a pass down to attackman
Matt Kavanagh for one-on-one shot with Amato from right on top of the crease to put the Outlaws ahead with 3:53 remaining in the game.
“We made a couple mistakes in the fourth quarter, which we hadn’t made all year. It’s just a shame that our guys running off the field together comes to be the winning goal,” Cottle said. “We had three middies run out at the same time. We hadn’t done that all season.”
Despite the tough loss, Cottle praised this group of players for getting Chesapeake back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 championship season.
“Of all the years I’ve been coaching the Bayhawks I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a team. These players did so much for the organization this season,” he said.