07/10/2010 11:08 PM - With a playoff berth clearly on the line, the Long Island Lizards took the field at Columbus, Ohio, at Columbus Crew Stadium on Saturday night. Their objective was to defeat the Chicago Machine, the home team without a home, for the third time this season. Coming from behind, as they had in both previous meetings with Chicago - and trailing by as many as six goals in the first half, the Lizards won in a dramatic way, 17 - 15, thanks to Matt Danowski’s three two-point goals. The 17 points represented the Lizards highest single game output in 2010, while Danowski’s three 2-pointers tied the all-time MLL single game record.
Facing a number of lineup changes due to the absence of Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina, the Lizards welcomed the return of two veterans, Keith Cromwell on attack and John Orsen on defense. Both would make significant contributions to the victory. Another important story line was the homecoming of three former Ohio State Buckeyes to their college turf: The Lizards’ Ricky Pages and the Machine’s Greg Bice and Anthony Kelly.
Chicago struck first, at 0:40, as Ned Crotty, on a pass from Matt Striebel, drilled one past Drew Adams. Tim Goettelmann and Stephen Berger both had opportunities the other way, as did Keith Cromwell who hit the bar at about the 6:00 mark. In transition, Crotty took a feed from Jordan Levine, beating Adams for his second goal of the quarter. After the ensuing timeout, Josh Sims dodged and shot from just inside the arc, making the score 3-0 in favor of the Machine.
Matt Danowski, who was stopped by goalie Bud Petit a couple of minutes earlier, ran past Chris Rotelli and fired from about 12 yards, picking the upper corner to get the Lizards on the board. Following a Machine faceoff violation, Stephen Peyser took a pass from John Glynn, beat Doug Shanahan and fired past Bud Petit to make the score 3-2 in favor of Chicago. Matt Striebel had a quick answer, however, shooting inside the left post past Adams. After some good ball movement by the Lizards, Petit stuffed Zack Greer in front. Again, efficient in transition, Chicago netted their 5th goal as Mike Leveille received a pass from Josh Levine, ran past Frank D’Agostino, and scored, leaving the Lizard behind 5-2 at the end of the 1st quarter..
The opening of the 2nd quarter had the Machine taking advantage of some defensive disorganization by the Lizards, due in part to missing Polanco and Spallina while blending in new combinations. Chicago scored three unanswered goals in rapid succession: Kevin Leveille from Striebel @ 2:25, Bill McGlone from Mike Leveille @ 3:29, and Kevin Leveille from Josh Sims @ 4:34. With the score 8-2, Tim Goettelmann stopped the bleeding @ 5:58, getting one back for Long Island. Mike Leveille answered, however, @ 8:20, restoring the six goal Machine margin.
With Chicago already a man up, Ricky Pages took a slashing penalty as Crotty was stopped by Adams. Kevin Leveille then tripped Parker McKee, as the game became more physical. Following two possession changes behind the cage, Cromwell, on a steal, fed Stephen Peyser for a beautiful goal in the upper corner. The much-needed goal brought the score to 9-4. Mike Leveille hit the crossbar as the first half expired.
Early in the third quarter, long pole Frank D’Agostino took a clearing pass from McKee, ran the length of the field and scored @ 1:21, making it 9-5. The Lizards followed with two good chances, a run by McKee setting up Goettelmann and then an opportunity for Danowski, to no avail. The now settled Lizards defense caused a shot clock violation, leading to a second goal by Peyser off a pass from Cromwell. A series of heavy hits by both sides ended with a penalty to Mike Unterstein. The Machine would score on the man-up situation, with Crotty completing his hat trick on a feed from Rotelli.
With Long Island down 10-6, arguably the turning point of the game came when Jodan Levine of Chicago incurred a 3-minute penalty on another stick violation. While a man-up, Danowski launched his first two pointer, beating Petit to the lower right and putting the Lizards back in the game, 10-8. After Mike Ward stripped the ball and fed Danowski, whose shot was blocked, the Machine again got a transition goal as Brian Clayton fed Mike Leveille, who scored his second of the game while his team was shorthanded. The Lizards would storm right back, with Peyser getting his fourth, escaping the slide by Levine and bouncing his shot in off Petit’s knee. Right after the faceoff, it was welcome back John Orsen, as the defender fired in a shot from just inside the arc, drawing the Lizards to within one at 11-10. The third quarter ended at that score, with Mike Leveille drawing a late penalty for offside.
Matt Striebel opened the 4th Quarter scoring for the Machine @ 3:16, making it 12-10. Once again, the Lizards showed their resiliency, when, 33 seconds later, Orsen took a pass from Ward and scored. The pattern continued as first Doug Shanahan scored for the Machine @ 4:30 only to have Goettelmann (from Glynn) get it right back for the Lizards @ 5:52. Chicago in transition had Greg Bice score off a pass from Levine, giving the Machine a 14-12 edge.
On the next faceoff, Peter Vlahakis, who had a great game battling Anthony Kelly, got the ball to McKee, who found Danowski outside the arc. Danowski netted the two-pointer, finally drawing the Lizards even at 14-14. Bice scored his second for Chicago @ 9:12, restoring the Machine’s lead. Chris Fiore had a two-point effort blocked, after which Kevin Leveille drew an ugly penalty for hammering Berger around the neck. Long Island then displayed some marvelous ball movement, with Danowski getting the ball to Dan Cocchi, who in turn found Zack Greer. Greer then fed Berger, who obtained his revenge in tying the score at 15-15 at the 12:57 mark of the final quarter.
The stage was now set for another Lizards come from behind victory. After an important faceoff win by Vlahakis, the ball again came to Matt Danowski outside the arc. The Duke grad found a place in the MLL record book as he rifled his third two-pointer into the Machine net with just under a minute-and-a-half remaining in the game. More importantly, Danowski gave the Lizards their first lead of the game, which they would hold on to in the dying moments. Cromwell came up with the final ground ball and hurled it high and downfield as time expired.
Not to be lost in the record setting performance by Danowski, the four goals by Peyser, and the fine faceoff work by Vlahakis was another tremendous effort in goal by Drew Adams. Adams made 13 saves, often at critical times when it looked as if the Machine were pulling away. On the whole, it was truly a team effort, with Goettelmann and D’Agostino scoring needed goals, Orsen and Cromwell meshing back into the squad, and virtually every Lizard adding some element to the victory. As Coach Mule yelled as he ran onto the field after the game, “Way to play, Green!”
The Lizards, with playoff hopes now renewed, are off until Thursday, July 22nd , when they face the Chesapeake Bayhawks at home at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University. Game time is 8:00 PM. Please come out and cheer for your Lizards as they continue to make their run at the 2010 MLL Playoffs.
For tickets, visit www.longislandlizards.com or call us at 1-866-LIZARD-1
Story by Brad Zack.