In front of a small crowd but a national TV audience, the Philadelphia Barrage strengthened their grasp on the Eastern Conference, defeating the New Jersey Pride 12-7, Thursday night at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ.
New Jersey drew first blood, capitalizing on a man-up situation. Recent Hofstra grad Chris Unterstein hit Scotty Urick for the goal. It seems no matter how the Pride juggle their offensive line up, particularly at attack, the stat sheet will always read Urick or Hubbard.
Philly got the goal right back as Roy Colsey rolled inside, got a step, and shot using the traffic in front of the cage as a screen. Then Matt Striebel tried to work inside, pulled out, and flipped a nice assist over the top to Justin Smith to grab the lead, one that they would not relinquish.
Jersey tied it up about halfway through the second quarter. Unterstein, performing the same role he did so well in college, handled the ball aptly at X, making some crisp feeds and protecting his stick with his big frame. Unterstein hit a cutting Jesse Hubbard to notch the game up at 2 a side. But again Philly found a quick answer.
Back-to-back goals by recent Navy grad Ian Dingman, one from Colsey and another from Ryan Boyle, rebuilt the Philly lead. While his size is not as much of an edge in the MLL as it was in the NCAA, Dingman looks like he might be a good fit at attack. He is big enough and strong enough to still create space for himself and muscle up against defenders. Kevin Cassese added an emphatic two-pointer as he got a pass up top, and as his defender played him soft, Cassese just uncorked a bullet. At the end of the half the Barrage owned a 6-2 lead.
While Philly was having a better night shooting, much of New Jersey’s offensive woes were a result of some stellar play by Barrage keeper Brian Dougherty. Dougherty stood tall for 20 saves, including an impressive stop on a nifty behind the head shot from Kevin Boland to open the second half.
Boland was able to get one by Dougherty, ripping a shot off a feed from Hubbard. But again Philly got it right back, this time not even from an offensive player. Longstick Kyle Sweeney initiated a fastbreak, ran with the push of up field, and got the ball back as he cut straight at the goal. Sweeney kept carrying and used his longstick to tuck the ball right around Pride keeper Rob Scherr. The goal was Sweeney’s fifth on the year.
Philly added another right off the opening whistle of the fourth quarter. Andy Corno won the face, grabbed the loose ball, carried in and hit Boyle for the textbook fastbreak score. Corno was solid at the X all day against his old team, winning 12 of 20 as Jersey laid the responsibility on Chris Colliniates and Greg Peyser. Colsey added an unassisted goal on a low burner past Scherr.
The Pride tried to claw their way back. Showing some nice ball movement, Hubbard got a pass on the wing and quickly hit Dan Chemotti cutting underneath for the score. Dingman then got his hat trick, scoring off a pass from Mike Springer.
Jersey got two more goals. The rookie Albany grad Merrick Thompson did what he did best, finishing inside. Cutting inside as Hubbard pulled the ball out, Thompson got a feed he converted with a quick-stick past Dougherty. Then Hubbard earned a goal for himself, battling inside and bouncing a low shot into the net.
As the Barrage won another possession, they spaced out in the offensive end and attempted to kill the clock. Long passes from corner to corner forced the Jersey defense to stretch and double, pulling Scherr out of the cage. When Striebel ended up with the ball and room, he lined up a two-pointer and ripped it, earning some very disgruntled remarks about gamesmanship and class from Pride players.
The Pride put together one more good rush. Unterstein again hit Urick who scored as time expired, but the goal was much too late, and the Barrage were able to break their road curse, winning 12-7.
Philly makes the long trip out West to play in the thin-air and large crowds of Denver at Invesco Field next Saturday. The experience there should be a nice change from the sparser crowds back East. The Pride will host local rival Long Island next weekend. Now sitting at 2-6, New Jersey will probably have to win out to have a shot at the postseason.