The atmosphere was festive, but confusing. The stadium was huge, but it lacked the amenities needed for a big time show. In fact, there was no scoreboard and the field markings used were difficult even for the players to decipher. They used the football out of bounds sideline, prompting players to repeatedly run out of bounds thinking they had more room. In between games there was a rockin' band with three guitars, drums and the shirt-less synchronized up and down jam we've all come to know and love. The only problem was the huge VIP tent consuming the entire end line obscured not only the vision of those in the tent, but the fans in the stands as well. While the surrounding seen was a debacle (and give the MLL a little break it being their first year) the play on the field was riveting.
It was a game of streaks and the Lizards needed a three goal streak down 12-9 with 6:21 left in regulation. The players were getting on each other for the Lizards and attackmen Terry Riordan explained the emotions,"Lacrosse is a game of streaks and when you get streaked against, if that's proper English, you have to come back. We weren't getting on each other in a derogatory way, we were just trying to pump each other up. This team has a way of making things interesting....we have a magical way of pulling these games out." While Paul Gait got the MVP for all his goals(3,2) including the game winner, it was Gary who took over the momentum with defeat looming.
Down 12-9, Lizard goalie Sal LoCasio lobbed a buddy pass to Gary Gait just outside the arc with Jake Bergey lining him up from ten yards away. Gait was at Bergey's mercy, but for whatever reason the son of a pro football player with the body of a fullback let up and came in standing straight. Gait was able to withstand the lame hit and move the ball up field. The ball was moved quickly in transition to brother Paul for a finish from about seven yards out to Rattler goalie Brian "Doc" Dougherty's left, 12-10. Then with 2:15 left in regulation Gary Posted up in the same spot to catch a feed from Paul from behind the cage. It was a classic box move and the sweetest goal of the game. Gary had his back to the goal, holding his stick lefty, but to the outside. This enabled him to catch the ball with a defensemen tight on him, roll and shoot the other way before his defender even threw a check, 12-11. Then Cercy jumped on the next face (he had been dominating all day) to give the Lizards the next possession. Gary worked his man from the top until he drew another and alertly hit the 6'5" Riordan on the crease, who turned and scored from point blank range. Ryan Powell had a chance to end the game with 8 seconds to go on a nice inside roll, but big Sal LoCasio gobbled it up to send the game into overtime.
Rattler coach Guy VanArsdale summed up the back and forth play,"When we were able to control the tempo and keep it 6 on 6 we had the edge...Anytime you let guys like the Gait, Haugen, and Powell run in transition that's when you get in trouble."
The stage is set for overtime. Cercy took the face-off against Wedin. Lizard coach John DeTomasso described their strategy,"(Cercy) winning them clean is what killed us all day. We just wanted to turn it into a scrum." Well, they succeeded and defensemen John Gagliardi wound up with the first possession followed by the Long Island timeout. Long Island set up a sneaky in and out of the box player shuffle which was designed to have Gagliardi pass to Stephen Sombrotto on his offensive side just outside the box. The play collapsed when, with a defender already on him, longstick Marshall Abrams was able to double team. Abrams checked the stick to get the ball on the ground, but his shaft snapped in two so he couldn't pick it up. Abrams mentioned his disapointment with the Warrior equipment this season saying that he had popped at least one stick every game. This one just occured in the worst possible moment. Abrams said this equipment failure didn't happen at Syracuse (who is sponsored by Brine) but he wasn't sure if that was due to different equipment or liberal MLL rules allowing all kinds of checks. Sombrotto was able to bat the loose ball forward on the ground somehow before being knocked down. The ball went straight to Casey Powell who scooped, took two steps and ripped a behind the back pass to Paul Gait who was camped out all alone with only Doc on the crease. The wily veteran put one through the wickets to end the game. After the game the obviously shaken losing goaltender said,"Paul Gait is gonna' make that shot 100 times out of 100 times." He also commented in disgust about the broken shaft,"It was a fluke play, (Sombrotto) didn't even pass it, he kicked it or something."
The aging superstars for Long Island were the difference. The Gait brothers and Sal LoCasio made the biggest plays at the most crucial moments. Paul Gait looks like and old man when he runs due to his recent surgery, but the man still produces in the clutch. Gary showed the will power of man in his prime refusing to lose and LoCasio stuffed Ryan Powell from point blank range with eight seconds to go and the game on the line. The Lizards also opted to have Gagliardi shut off the Rattlers main scoring threat in John Grant Jr. He made Grant Look like a liability as every time he did get the ball he either lost possession or missed the goal. Gagliardi felt so as well,"(Grant's) a great player and I was pumped up to play him...I don't know if he scored, but I think I did a pretty good job."
|Paul Gait||(3, 2)|
|Terry Riordan||(3, 1)|
|Casey Powell||(2, 2)|
|Gary Gait||(2, 2)|
|Aj Haugen||(1, 2)|
|Sean Radebaugh||(2, 0)|
|Stephen Sombrotto||(0, 1)|
|Sal Locasio||15 (0.556)|
|Long Island Lizards||11-4|