The New Jersey Pride put together one of their best performances of the season, defeating the Long Island Lizards 19-15 Saturday evening at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. Led by Rob Scherr’s 23 saves and Conor Fords’ four goals (including one two-pointer), New Jersey played the role of spoiler, making Long Island’s path to the playoffs that much tougher.
Long Island started the scoring earlier, taking advantage of the loose ball melee off the opening face off. Eventually the Lizards grabbed possession and pushed quickly to Peter Vlahakis for the score just 21 seconds into the game. Both teams consistently pushed numbers and unsettled situations, leading to a lot of back-and-forth scoring and a very relentless pace at times.
Conor Ford provided New Jersey’s first score, a preview of the offensive day he would have. The Pride pushed a clear up field and as soon as Ford got the ball he set and ripped a two-pointer. The Pride took advantage of the arc, racking up three from behind the line. The next two-pointer came on Jersey’s next goal. Kyle Harrison carried, took a step like he would dodge, and then ripped a side-arm shot right past Long Island keeper Nick Murtha. Chris Colliniates won the next face off, grabbed the ball, and carried right down and through the Lizards defensive zone, bouncing in his second goal of the season, and giving the Pride a 5-1 lead.
Long Island put up two more before the quarter expired. The first from Chris Fiore as he came cutting down the wing, caught a pass, bounced off two defenders, and still finished. Then Stephen Berger unleashed a nasty side-arm shot on the run.
Tim Goettelmann was a force for Long Island. He scored four on the day and contributed an assist. Most of his goals came the way his first did, just bulling his way right over people on his path to the goal. Austin Garrison then scored back to back, the first unassisted, the next off a feed from Berger, finally giving Long Island the 6-5 lead. It would be their only one of the game.
Scotty Urick got his name into the ledger, like always, grabbing the rebound of a Greg Peyser shot and stuffing it past Murtha in the chaos in front of the cage. Then Merrick Thompson got his second goal of the season off a feed from Chris Unterstein, who continues to run the offensive nicely at X.
Berger showed just how good and smart of a player he really is, carrying down the wing and ripping another nasty side-arm shot, but using his defender as a screen. Jersey goalie Rob Scherr never even saw the ball until it was past him.
Conor Ford tallied his second of the game, dropping his stick and plugging another nice low-to-high shot. Then Jesse Hubbard got his name on the board with some opportunistic and savvy play. Off of a quick restart in the Pride’s offensive zone, Chris Unterstein saw Murtha was badly out of position several yards away from the cage and quickly fed the ball to Hubbard. Seeing a wide open net, Hubbard just tossed the ball into the goal as Murtha came sprinting back a few seconds too late. As the half ended, the Pride found themselves on the favorable side of a two goal lead, 9-7.
The third quarter erupted into an even more frenetic pace as the two teams combined for 13 goals, one of which, the first, was a two pointer by Jersey midfielder Adam Doneger off an assist by Urick. With the cannon that man carries, he seems made to fire the two-pointer. But Tim Goettelmann answered with a display of his own power. Again Goettelmann just muscled his way through the Jersey defense and scored from about five yards out.
Harrison then tallied his second with another nice take from the top. Ford earned his hat trick, rolling on his man, dropping his stick, and nailing a rip from almost no angle. Goettelmann then bulldozed in for his hat trick. Then Chris Fiore added another for the Lizards with a nice take on the run.
Matt Rewkowski scored his second goal of the season despite his stick being checked on the shot. Murtha even got a piece of the ball, but it had enough left on it to still find the twine. Ford then scored his fourth, final, and perhaps most athletic goal of the day. Working in from the wing, Ford stormed right across the face of the cage, dove, laid out completely parallel to the ground, and tucked the ball right around a sprawling Murtha. Berger got himself a hat trick off a nice feed from Goettelmann behind.
Jersey defenseman Ryan McClay had a solid day with his pole, throwing some nice checks on Long Island attackmen, particularly the venerable veteran Mark Millon, and being a vacuum cleaner on groundballs, sucking up eight and leading many good pushes up the field. He was nicely rewarded for one such charge in the third quarter. Grabbing the loose ball, McClay began sprinting to open space. He passed the ball ahead to Ford and continue breaking through the offensive end. Ford just tossed it back and McClay finished with a nice longstick goal, his first of the year.
Millon and Doneger then traded unassisted goals. Merrick Thomson nabbed his second goal of the day, again cashing in on what he, and perhaps all Canadians do so well, creating space and being at the right place at the right time. Off of a loose ball scrum, Thomson grabbed possession and just enough daylight to get one past Murtha. As the dust settled on the third quarter, New Jersey emerged with a convincing 18-12 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter Long Island’s frustrations came to light through some very physical and chippy play. The Lizards attempted a rally 1:42 into the quarter with a laser by Goettelmann off a feed from Keith Cromwell who had been silent up until this point.
But again Jersey had the answered. Moving the ball nicely in a wheel on offensive, Doneger tossed to Urick who dropped his stick and beati rookie goalie Matt McMonagle, who replaced Murtha at the start of the fourth.. Scherr really stepped up when he had to, making some nice saves on almost point-blank shots as the Lizards tried to claw back into the game. Cromwell stuck a nice two-point take, wisely using his defender as a screen, cutting the lead to 19-15. But that was as close as the Long Island boys would get.
The win was one of the more impressive outings for the Pride who played well on both sides of the ball. The Lizards won the war between the lines, taking 21 of 34 face offs and gobbling up 15 more groundballs than the Pride, but a better day shooting and some sharper net-minding by Scherr proved the difference.
Long Island falls below .500 at 4-5. They are a full three games behind division leading Rochester, two behind second place Philadelphia. The Lizards will need a string of wins and a little help from Washington and Philly to make it to PAETEC Park. They can start this Saturday with a game at home against Denver.
New Jersey sits at 3-6, quite a long shot for the postseason. They will try to exact revenge on the Philadelphia Barrage this Thursday night. The game is technically a home game for Philly, but it will be played in Jersey do to scheduling conflicts at the Barrage’s Downingtown, PA facility. If the Pride can go on a run, then could end the season at 6-6, their first non-losing season since 2003.
**This story has been corrected. There was an error stating that the loss eliminated Long Island from postseason play. Long Island is in the race as the only team officially elminated is Chicago.**