Despite falling short of a record breaking crowd, though 18,694 fans is nothing to brood over, this yearís Navy- Hopkins game couldnít have been any better. Showcasing some of the greatest shooting seen to date, multiple lead changes, each team coming back to take the lead while down in the fourth, and an overtime thriller of an ending, this game was definitely one for the ages. It took Johns Hopkins all but three seconds of the first overtime to secure the win, but both teams had opportunities to slam the door shut on multiple occasions throughout the game. The breaking point in this one was the man up production, as Hopkins went three for seven to Navyís one for four. While a game should never be blamed on the officiating, and it was essentially even throughout, there were several very questionable calls; mainly Navyís two pushes and one unsportsmanlike, that all led to Hopkins man up goals. This coupled with Navyís lack of mental concentration- i.e. putting too many men on the field while man up, leading by one and only 1:07 left on the game clock, were just too much for the Midshipmen to overcome. Conor Ford and Kevin Boland led all scorers with 5 goals and 1 goal, 4 assists respectively, while Ben Bailey and Ian Dingman led Navy with 3 goals and 2 goals, 1 assist.
As most expected, the first half started out quite the defensive battle, with neither team registering a goal until over five minutes in. It was Navy who struck first, when Ben Bailey was found wide open in the middle of the field. Bailey caught the pass righty, switched to his left and fired the over hand bouncer past Hopkins goalie Scott Smith with out ever being touched by a Blue Jay defenseman. The crowd erupted, the naval siren sounded, and Navyís now famous oversized foam cowboy hat wearing groupies let the black and blue hear it. Having provided it so many times at Homewood, Hopkins seemed unfazed by the circus like atmosphere and Kyle Harrison quickly let that be known with an unassisted righty dodge from out top to tie it at one.
Both teams fought hard between the lines for most of the first, however neither could find the net until a Naval Academy man up off a Hopkins slash. Navy attackman Jon Birsner was moving hard behind the goal, but more importantly drawing all of the attention, and found an open Ian Dingman standing a few steps outside the crease. Dingman caught the feed and quickly released a bullet into the absolute top right corner. The goal was the final one of the quarter, leaving the middies up 2-1, however it was very obvious that the officials didnít appreciate the overly aggressive style of defense Navy decided to come to play with. While the calls in the 1st didnít carry much weight, Navy managed to kill a 2 man down as the horn blew, they would slowly turn into Navyís downfall as the game progressed.
The second quarter was all Hopkins, as they would extend to their largest lead of the game heading into the half. They tied it up at 2 just over three minutes into the quarter as Kevin Boland picked up a deflected pass and hit a cutting Conor Ford right on the doorstep of the crease. Ford buried it high to the bottom left corner, only to be crushed by a Navy defender as penalty flags went sailing. Midshipmen goalie Matt Russell came up huge on the ensuing man up, however another questionable flag came on a push call as the Blue Jay attackman dove into the crease. This time the Navy man down unit wouldnít be so lucky, as Hopkins made four quick passes around the outside eventually leaving rookie Jake Byrneís stick and ending up with Kyle Barrie out top. Barrie set his feet and fired the low to high rip to the stick side corner. 3-2.
Navyís lone goal of the second came after some great ball movement and patience by the Navy offense eventually leading to a quick shot and big time save by Hop goalie Scott Smith. Smith made a great stop, but couldnít handle the save and the ball popped out into a waiting Navy playerís stick. The ball was kicked around until Ian Dingman decided to put a stop to all the passing and let a high to high shot fly to the off stick side to once again tie it up.
Hopkins came right back however as Kevin Boland took a solo dodge from out top to put the Hop back up by one. On the following faceoff, Kyle Harrison kicked the ball out to himself and took it down for a fast break. Rather than pick up quite possibly the nations best all around midfielder carrying the ball down field with numbers, Navy decided to leave him alone and hope he wouldnít bother them. So while the defense stood and watched, Harrison ripped a low to low bouncer right past Russell to finally break the game open. 5-3 Hopkins. The hits kept coming for Navy, as another questionable flag for a push, led to another low to low goal, this time from Ford, to give Hopkins the three goal cushion into the half.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, as Navy struck back under four minutes into the third quarter. Ben Bailey set up a dummy dodge from out top, and as the slides came he wheeled around and hit a cutting Billy Looney who finished the play with a lefty high to off stick side hip shot. 6-4 Hopkins. Hopkins then won the ensuing faceoff, setting up a low dodge, which opened up a wide open cutter on the crease. Matt Russell once again came up huge, making the point blank stop and sending the ball to a breaking midfielder. If thereís one thing that Navy does better than any other team in the nation, itís get their midfielders up field after a save. As the Navy defense became the Navy offense, midfielder Steve Looney took hold of the ball and decided not to give it up even after running through three d men. The final one managed to push Looney into the crease, however on his way down he managed to get a shot off, finishing it off stick side to bring them within one.
This led to, excuse me for being repetitive, another questionable call for what appeared to be a trip, but was essentially just a poor acting job. Regardless, a flag was sent into the air and Hopkins decided to hold onto the ball behind in the trusty stick of Kevin Boland. As they waited out the waning seconds of the third quarter, Boland started a dodge and the aggressive Midshipmen defense slid leaving Conor Ford alone on the crease. Ford buried the goal with one second left, enough time to blow the whistle on the final faceoff of the third quarter. 7-5 Hopkins.
The fourth was deceptively silent until 9:10 left in the game, when Navy middie Ben Bailey began to slowly back in from the left side, weaving hi way closer and closer to the goal. While Bailey worked his way back and forth, the Hopkins dman was called for an admittedly unseen hold, only to have Bailey turn and absolutely fire a high to low shot past Scott Smith, surprising almost everyone in the stadium with an equal amount of net and pipe. 1 goal game.
After Hopkins won yet another faceoff, they eventually lost control of the ball sending it sailing over the midline and into the Navy restraining box. As attackman Jon Birsner lifted his defensemanís stick, Steve Looney picked up the loose ball and then managed to out do his last performance with one of the most unbelievable individual efforts Iíve ever seen. Looney ran into the middle of the field drawing another three defenseman in the process and some how managed to break through each stick and body check, when either one should have rightfully been knocked to the dirt. He finally finds an opening in the sea of blue jerseys, spotting a wide open Joe Bossi sitting on the crease. Bossi easily handled the perfect pass and dumped it past Scott Smith for the tying goal. Navy would then go up by one with 5:35 left in the fourth, as Ian Dingman drew as much attention as he could, not very difficult considering heís listed as a 6-3, 248 lb. sophomore, and then hit Ben Bailey out front for the jumping righty overhand shot. 8-7 Navy.
On the next faceoff, Hopkins once again wins it, however before they can gain possession the Navy longpole picks it up and hits a breaking midfielder for the Navy fast break. The middie hits Dingman out top, who swings it to Jon Birsner down low, who sends it cross crease to Joe Bossi for the easy quick stick off the textbook ball movement. As you can imagine, the Navy- Marine Corp stadium erupted. Fans were jumping on the field, sirens were going off all over; with 5:19 left and a two goal lead, it was hard for anyone there not to celebrate. However, under a minute later, Kyle Harrison showed why heís a 1st teamer, keeping his team in it with a tremendous individual effort and some help from faceoff man Lou Braun. 9-8 Navy 4:42 left.
Now what happened next is a bit like a blur. Iíve never really seen anything like it before, but Iíll do my best to describe it. 2 minutes and 41 seconds left on the clock. A great shot is taken by Navy, followed immediately by a great body stop by Scott Smith. As the ball is rolling around in the crease, several Navy attackmen try to prod it, while Smith is doing everything in his power to get control of the loose ball. He eventually scoops it up, only to be interfered with by one of the aforementioned attackmen, sending an officials arm into the air marking the free clear. Rather than take advantage of the opportunity heís just been afforded, Smith sends the ball flying up field, with no care for where it ends up. The reason for his lack of concern is that heís more concerned with his follow through, as he baseball swings his stick into the Navy attackmanís head. This isnít a normal follow through by the way; this is an Aaron Boone 11th inning, out of the park, follow through. The smack sends the player to the grass and the refereeís flag ends up somewhere in the same vicinity. 1:00 minute slashing penalty on Smith for what could have easily been a 2 minute non releasable or worse. Regardless, Smith is sent to the box and theyíre forced to bring in Jesse Schwartzman who hasnít touched a ball since warm-ups.
So as the tide looks like itís fully changed in Navyís favor, the unthinkable happens. Navy sends too many men out onto the field and the flag is quickly thrown. With 1:07 seconds left in the game, Hopkins gets a man up. The deliberate Blue Jay man up, works the ball around the outside eventually handing the game over to Conor Ford. Ford sets his feet and sends the low to high shot towards the goal, hitting the back of the net to send the game into overtime.
Hopkins faceoff man, Lou Braun wins the opening faceoff in the first overtime and manages to snag it clean enough to set up a fast break. It looked like it was all over here, as Kyle Barrie received the ball down low, but decided to do something very uncharacteristic and took the shot, rather than make the one more cross crease pass. Russell once again comes up huge, sending the ball up field to another breaking middie. Navy immediately goes to work, setting up what looks like a great opportunity, but ends up in the stick of the one and only Scott Smith. Smith realizes he too has some fast midfielders and heaves the clearing pass up field setting up another Hopkins fast break. The ball is once again sent to the point attackman, then once again sent down to Barrie, who once again decides to do it alone. This time he hopes to catch his d man off guard with two quick steps, which he does, however a great back check is thrown sending the ball to the grass. Navy once again clears the ball, but they likewise turn it over, allowing the Blue Jays to call the time out once they clear the midfield line. Not allowing for any more slipups, Coach Pietramala sends them onto the field on a mission. Their perfect, crisp passing is still dominant, even in OT, and they open up some great opportunities, which are quickly blocked by Russell. However the march of time persisted and as the game clock ticked down to 3 seconds remaining, Matt Rekowski dodged from down low to hit a cutting Hopkins player. You guessed it; Conor Ford caught the pass and buried the jumping high to low shot in the bottom corner with a nice screen to assure success. Matt Russell never even saw it coming. 10-9 Hopkins in what is easily the game of the year.
|Ben Bailey||(3, 0)|
|Billy Looney||(1, 2)|
|Ian Dingman||(2, 1)|
|Steve Looney||(1, 1)|
|Joe Bossi||(2, 0)|
|Jon Birsner||(0, 2)|
|Matt Russell||13 (0.565)|