LONG ISLAND LIZARDS RELEASE:
07/03/2010 4:30 PM - The fireworks came early this Fourth of July weekend as the Long Island Lizards claimed their third victory of the season in thrilling fashion by beating the Chicago Machine 13-12 in overtime. After Chris Rotelli tied the game for the Machine with three seconds left in regulation, Zack Greer scored his fifth goal of the game and brought the 2,876 Lizards faithful in attendance to their feet.
The temperature climbed near 100 degrees on the turf but that didnt’t even come close to how hot Zack Greer has been lately. Greer has tallied 17 goals this season, but 11 of those have come in the last two weeks. He now leads the team in goals and his strong effort on Saturday earned him Bud Light MVP honors.
Despite the late game excitement, this contest started out slow as each side played cautiously early on. The Machine opened up the scoring after Mike Leveille picked up a deflection and distributed the ball to a wide open Stephen Bauer who was able to beat Lizards goalie Drew Adams from point blank range. Matt Danowski responded two minutes later after slashing in from behind the goal and firing a low shot past Machine goalie Bud Petit. Later on in the period, Josh Sims would beat Adams with a blistering shot from just inside the two point arc to get the lead back for the Machine. Stephen Peyser would close out the first quarter with his seventh goal of the season as he cut in down the left side of the defense and unleashed a shot into the back of the net.
The Machine began to pull ahead in the second quarter as Mike Leveille was fed nicely in the middle of the zone by Ned Crotty and fired a shot between the legs of Adams. There was a bit of uncertainty if the ball had gone it at first, but the refs ultimately decided the goal would stand. Parker McKee would then welcome himself to the MLL party by scoring his first professional goal after a nice run from the defensive end. However, Jordan Levine and Matt Striebel wouldn’t let McKee soak up his glory for long as they each scored in quick succession for the away team.
Matt Danowski would add a goal late in the half with an another impressive run from behind the net. This time he fought through contact and got himself horizontal in order to fling an unstoppable shot into the lower corner of the net. Doug Shanahan would come streaking into the Lizards zone late in the half and unload a quick, top corner shot giving the Machine a two goal lead just before the break.
The deficit could have been much worse if it weren’t for the brilliant goalkeeping of Drew Adams in the first half. The Lizards were outshot 29-16 in the half but remained in the game due to the quick reflexes of Adams. He recorded 15 saves for the game against just eleven goals. The Lizards are now 3-1 when Adams records more than 12 saves and holds the opposing team to less than 12 points.
Tim Goettelmann opened up the third quarter with his signature wrap around from behind the net as he muscles past defenders to send the ball into the top of the net. “The Monster” is now getting a new nickname around the Lizards organization, “Mr. Consistency,” as he’s scored at least one goal in the last seven games he’s played. Greer would then add his first goal of the game to tie the score as he completed a quick catch and shoot on a pass from Goettelmann.
Sims would break the tie for the Machine by sneaking in from behind the net and delivering a shot from just in front of goal. Kevin Leveille would then add a goal in the final seconds of the quarter to put extend the lead to two goals heading into the fourth.
Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina began mixing it up in the third quarter as they did their best Bash Brother impression by knocking some Machine attackmen off a loose ball. The Lizards defense played aggressive but under greater control after getting whistled for 12 penalty minutes last week against Boston. The Lizards only gave up two power plays against the Machine and killed off both of them thanks to the tenacity of their defense.
Early in the fourth quarter the Lizards saw their playoff chances slipping away as Shanahan rifled in a two point goal followed by an excellent scoop and score from Mike Leveille. The goals gave the Machine a 10-7 lead and an apparent stranglehold on the outcome.
When things appeared bleakest, Zack Greer put on his cape and went to work for the Lizards getting four of his goals in the fourth quarter and overtime. The first would come as Greer set up on the left side biding his time before eventually getting a feed from Stephen Berger and quickly releasing a left-handed shot past Petit on the short side. Then Chris Fiore, who may be New York’s best outside shooter since John Starks, fired in his third two-point goal of the season and quickly pulled the Lizards back within one.
The late game run was spurred on by Peter Vlahakis who won 14 of 25 faceoffs on the day to keep the Lizards in control of the ball. Without Greg Gurenlian in the lineup, the Lizards were fortunate to turn to a man who has attempted the third most faceoffs in MLL history.
Greer would tie the game with five minutes remaining by once again setting up in his comfort zone, just to the right of the goal, and would rapidly fire a Stephen Peyser pass into the top corner of the goal. After a quick timeout, Goettelmann would find Greer cutting into the middle of the Machine defense and set him up for another left-handed shot into the top of the netting. The furious 5-0 run would put the Lizards on top and in control of the game.
The Machine weren’t done however and began pressuring the Lizards defense. Polanco and company would come up big and deny the Chicago attack in what appeared to be the biggest possession of the season so far, but an inexcusable failure to advance penalty would give the ball right back to the Machine. The Machine would get a miraculous goal from Chris Rotelli who used a Crotty pass to tie the game up with three seconds remaining.
The overtime period would last less than two minutes as Zack Greer would finish off his incredible day with yet another unbelievable goal. This time Danowski would fight his way into the middle with some evasive dodges and fed Greer who had his back to the goal. He would spin quickly to the inside and fire a blind shot into the top of the netting allowing the Lizards to finally celebrate.
The Machine have never beaten the Lizards, as they fall to 0-5 lifetime against the Long Island squad, but it isn’t for lack of trying. Saturday’s game marks the second time this year the Lizards have topped the Machine 13-12 in overtime. On June 12, Matt Danowski led the Lizards with five goals and Tim Goettelmann finished off the game in the extra session with his MLL record 13th game-winning goal of his career.
The Lizards will face Chicago once again next Saturday night at 7:00 pm in Columbus, Ohio. Then the Lizards return home for a Thursday night showdown with the Chesepeake Bayhawks on July 22nd at Hofstra University. The Lizards are now 3-5 and just a game out of the playoffs going into the final four games of the season.
Story by Brad Zack.
Photos by Dana Kaplan.