A top-shelf, sudden-death game-winner from Langley attackman Ethan Bailey gifted the Saxons their first ever Northern Region boys lacrosse title last Wednesday evening at South County High School. The five-yard strike two minutes into the second overtime completed a hat-trick for the Langley sharpshooter, and capped a pulsating 6-5 battle that left a powerful Robinson side one goal short of a second region conquest in the last three years.
The Saxons (18-1 overall) have 10 days to savor the achievement before embarking on their journey into the state tournament. The Rams (11-6) also have the same tournament on their lacrosse agenda, but for them the week-and-a-half wait might be punctuated by memories of how close they came to garnering Northern Region glory this year.
In addition to Bailey’s three goals, Langley got a pair from junior middie Joey Byrne and one goal from senior middie Alex Devlin. Robinson senior Daniel McNulty, who shined in face-off duties as well as in middie offense, delivered a pair of goals and assisted on two others, while Rams attackmen Alex Barber, Alex Ruddy and Thurmond Shaw provided one goal apiece.
And in defense, the display at both ends of the field in net -- from senior Saxon, Galen Kuney and his Robinson opposite, junior Kennan Kevan – was nothing but spectacular, with the two goalies credited with 13 and 12 saves, respectively. The fine work of mainline Langley longstickmen Brendan Dwyer, Thomas Robinson and Trevor Shafran was balanced by equally impressive performances of Rams defenders Justin Hinton, Jeff Kondracki and Michael O’Meara.
Early play suffered from some big-game jitters with both sides surrendering possession cheaply in the opening minutes -- a moving pick violation and errant passes going out-of-bounds by the Rams; an off-sides call, failure-to-advance infraction and dropped balls by Langley.
The contest finally showed some life about three minutes in when Bailey introduced himself to the Robinson defense by exploiting a brief unsettled situation to fire in past Kevan for a game-opening score.
But the single goal held for another 18 minutes despite numerous chances throughout, as goalies took turns denying promising shots or watching dangerous chances miss narrowly.
Kevan blocked a couple of Saxon efforts a minute after Bailey scored, followed shortly by Kuney saving a Ruddy shot from 10 yards out. Devlin forced a nice save from Kevan with about four minutes left, and the Rams’ goalie was thankful to see Byrne’s attempt flash closely but over the crossbar with 25 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
An extra-man advantage for Robinson early in the second stanza provided the Rams some better looks at goal and a promising shot from middie Jacob Martens that Kuney was quick enough to save. The Langley keeper kept out a bid from middie Carter Eskew three minutes later, then saw his Ram counterpart deny Saxon Matt Cronin at the other end. The senior middie was set up at close range by a nice feed pass from fellow middie Charlie Scharfen, but Kevan positioned well to save as Cronin hesitated before shooting, briefly unsure of how the ball had settled into his stickhead.
Kevan then trapped a tricky bounce shot from attacker Jack Lundeen near the midway point of the second quarter, followed by Kuney using his body to keep out an attempt by Robinson’s Hinton.
A second extra-man opportunity for the Rams late in the first half sparked a three-goal surge. Barber dodged his way into scoring position to launch past Kuney for the extra-man goal at the 2:55 mark of the half, with an assist going to McNulty, who then won the ensuing face-off and supplied the feed pass on a Ruddy goal just nine seconds later, giving Robinson its first lead.
Langley senior attacker Ryan Ningard thought he had a tying goal with a little more than a minute to go in the half but it was ruled out due to a crease violation. Byrne did level the score at two apiece with 15 seconds to go in the half, using a left-hand shot from five yards to dispatch past Kevan.
THE RAMS NETMINDER had a busy start to the second half, stopping a Byrne effort from five yards out then collecting a hopeful bid from Kyle Maida. The Saxon attacker had launched from distance when he saw Kevan far from his crease area at the end of a failed clearing attempt, but the goalie was able to retreat and snare the looping shot coming in from more than 25 yards.
McNulty restored Robinson’s lead a little under four minutes into the second half with an unassisted goal drilled in from 12 yards. That was followed about four minutes later by a Shaw goal, off an assisting pass from Rams middie Patrick Miller, staking the Rams to a two-goal lead that continued deep into the third quarter.
But Langley mounted yet another late-period comeback, this time through a 12-yard blast by Devlin at the 1:45 mark, followed by Byrne’s second of the game with less than 30 seconds to go in the third quarter that tied the score for the start of the fourth quarter.
McNulty used a 12-yard shot less than two minutes into the final quarter of regulation to give his team their third lead of the game, this after they enjoyed a good stretch of possession in the build-up to the middie’s second goal of the evening.
Kevan was soon challenged by the Saxon offense to defend his side’s winning position. The goalie turned back a short range attempt by Byrne then, soon after, saved a promising Ningard effort followed by a second attempt by the Langley attackman that sailed just over the cage.
Bailey furnished his second of the contest to level the score about five minutes into the fourth quarter. The scoring play started with the Saxons on attack but in the middle of a middie switch that left them briefly shorthanded on offense. Bailey dodged his longstick marker just as play seemed to have slowed to a near halt, then charged into a gap in the Robinson defensive line where from a sharp angle he unleashed a shot with such venom that Kevan could do no more than have it deflect off his padding and onto the floor of the cage for the equalizing goal.
The two sides traded scoring bids in the intense closing moments of regulation time, with Kuney coming up with sharp saves on Shaw and Miller, and Kevan equally successful at stopping Devlin, Byrne and Ningard. Rams middie Thomas Petrocci produced an exciting end-to-end run but that concluded with his losing possession near Kuney’s crease with about two minutes remaining. McNulty got off a threatening shot in search of a hat-trick but the attempt slipped just wide of the net with about 45 seconds to go in regulation, which ended with the outcome unresolved.
The first five-minute overtime featured attacks by both sides but no gamewinner as both keepers kept the door closed to the sudden-death goal. Kuney had saves on shots from Miller, Petrocci and middie Chase Walton while Kevan forced Devlin, Bailey and Ningard to rush into shooting off-target.
The second overtime, however, from its start saw possession almost entirely for Langley. A patient build-up starting from the back led to deliberate advance into attack with multiple passes in search of a tactical advantage. And that slight edge arrived indirectly from a Devlin pass that was deflected to the ground near Bailey. The junior attacker collected the ball, dodged his shortstick marker and found the space he needed to deposit high into the cage for his title-winning Saxons.