Max McAuliffe finally broke free, and with a spin and a rip, ended another classic matchup between Section II lacrosse heavyweights Niskayuna and Shenendehowa.
The senior attackman scored on a sidearm blast with 13 seconds left Tuesday as the visiting Plainsmen answered a comeback by the Silver Warriors with one of their own in a riviting 6-5 Suburban Council victory.
“I wasn’t open all day. They did a nice job of shutting off the crease,” McAuliffe said after his goal gave Shenendehowa sole possession of first place in the league’s North Division. “Mike [Jenkins] dragged a couple of defenders with him, Brett [Bernardo] gave it to me from up top, and I spun and let it go. I’m pretty sure it hit their goalie’s helmet.”
Niskayuna built leads of 3-0 and 5-4 before Shenendehowa battled back and prevailed for the second time in four days. The Plainsmen edged Lakeland/Panas in overtime Saturday, 10-9, before dealing Niskayuna its first setback.
“You’ve got to have heart,” said Shenendehowa goaltender Bob Wardwell, who made a save with 37 seconds left to set the stage for McAuliffe’s five-yard, game-winning drive. “We got down, 8-2, the other day and came back and won that one. You’ve got to keep pushing.”
“When we were down, 3-0, there was no panic,” said Shenendehowa coach Chuck Holohan. “I was sweating, but the kids were fine. They held it together and picked each other up.”
Shenendehowa (6-0, 7-1) edged Niskayuna (5-1, 7-1) last season, 5-4, before the Silver Warriors got some payback with an 8-7 triumph. The two teams ended up sharing the North Division title, and Shenendehowa went on to win the Section II Class A championship, while Niskayuna claimed the Section II Class B banner for the second year in a row.
The Silver Warriors have moved up to the Class A level this season. Niskayuna won four straight Class A titles from 2005-08 before its success at the Class B level.
“This feels great,” said Wardwell, a Syracuse-bound All-American who made five of his 13 saves in the fourth quarter. “I’ve never won a game on this field before, but at the same time, there’s the rest of the season and then sectionals. We’ll probably play them two more times.”
If Round 2 is anything like Round 1, area lacrosse fans will certainly be in for a treat.
“Coach Holohan will probably say the same thing. It was a sloppy game, but it was a good game, a competitive game. It was interesting and fun,” said Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang. “Both goalies made saves. Both of us got shots.”
Both teams unleashed 27 shots before McAuliffe took the game’s last and beat Niskayuna netminder Evan Quinn high.
“We opened it up wide. Max didn’t have to move much,” said Holohan. “He dipped and dunked, and that was it.”
“It felt good to finally bury one,” McAuliffe said.
Jenkins had two goals and two assists, with his second tally on a low drive tying the game at five at the 7:05 mark before McAuliffe won it.
“McAuliffe came from behind, and they snuck it inside to him,” said Vorgang. “It was a great lacrosse play on their part, and a poor defensive play on our part. We didn’t play our sound fundimental defense like we usually play.”
Vorgang called a time out with 51.7 seconds left, and directed his offensive cast to hold the ball for a last shot. Tanner MacIvor fired a shot with 37 seconds left, though, and Wardwell made his last save, chest high.
“I wanted to end the quarter with the ball. We shot it too quick and from too far out. He was 17 yards out,” Vorgang said. “We cannot give them the ball back in that situation.
“They will not do it again,” he added. “We need to learn from it and grow.”
Niskayuna’s advantage grew to 5-4 when Matt Sexton scored with 14.2 seconds left in the third quarter, and Lucas Maloney beat Wardwell with 9:39 left in the fourth period.
Sexton had also given the Silver Warriors their 3-0 lead 43 seconds into the second quarter, after first-quarter goals by MacIvor and Maloney.
Shenendehowa tied the game when Powell sandwiched goals around another by Jenkins later in the second quarter. Joe Gaug’s goal gave the Plainsmen a 4-3 lead with 3:19 left in the third frame.
“In the scheme of things, it’s one game and one win,” said Holohan. “We’re going to see Niskayuna one more time, and if we’re blessed, we’ll see them again in the sectionals, but it was a quality win, and for those young men over there, it was a big win.”
Of Quinn’s 10 saves, three were spectacular, two of them coming on high, point-blank drives, and another on a low blast to the corner.
“When I addressed the guys at the end of the game, I mentioned some things I wasn’t happy about, but I made a point to say Quinn played a great game,” Vorgang said of his sophomore netminder.
Shenendehowa came in ranked No. 9 among the state’s Class A teams by LaxPower. Niskayuna, which scored the last three goals Saturday in a 7-6 win over Duxbury (Mass.), was ranked No. 11 by LaxPower.
Shenendehowa 0 3 1 2 — 6
Niskayuna 2 1 1 1 — 5
Shenendehowa scoring: Brian Powell 2-0, Tim Coll 0-1, Mike Jenkins 2-2, Joe Gaug 1-0, Max McAuliffe 1-0, Brett Bernardo 0-1. Niskayuna scoring: Tanner MacIvor 1-0, Lucas Maloney 2-0, Matt Sexton 2-1, Blake Pfohl 0-2.
Goaltenders: Shenendehowa, Bob Warwell, 13 saves. Niskayuna, Evan Quinn, 10 saves.