With an early scoring spree and a big goal late, Niskayuna took down Section II’s last unbeaten boys’ lacrosse team Friday night.
Colin Foster used a spin move to break free and scored with 2:42 left as the Silver Warriors absorbed Shenendehowa’s best punch before prevailing, 8-7, in the second thriller this spring between the Suburban Council North Division rivals.
“This says so much about our team, how we persevered,” said Foster, a senior attackman/midfielder who finished with two goals and an assist. “It was definitely a team effort. I’m really proud of how we responded.”
As scoring leader Mark Panneton watched from the sideline with a broken collarbone, Niskayuna built a 5-1 second-quarter lead, only to have Shenendehowa battle back to tie it at
5-5, 6-6 and 7-7, the latter on Brian Powell’s goal with 7:11 left.
Foster’s clutch goal broke that final deadlock, and Ian Verzoni preserved the lead with a save on Powell’s low blast in the final seconds.
“I really didn’t say too much,” said Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang, whose team lost at Shenendehowa on April 28, 5-4. “I told the guys, ‘What’s inside your chest and between your ears is going to win the game.’ ”
“This was very nerve-wracking. I’m so happy,” said Niskayuna senior midfielder Guy Waltman. “They got us the first time around, and tonight it was our turn. This defines our season.”
Waltman scored three goals and Brian
Schlansker notched two to help Niskayuna keep its hopes alive for at least a share of its 14th straight division title. The Silver Warriors improved to 10-1 in the league (10-4 overall) and have games left against Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs. Shenendehowa, in search of its first division title since 2004, dipped to 11-1 in the league, 14-1 overall, and finishes up against Saratoga Springs.
“Our first goal is to win our division,” said Vorgang. “If we win out, at least we’ll get a share.”
The state’s No. 13-ranked Class B team won most of the small battles early before Shenendehowa’s superb comeback, which included a four-goal run spanning the halves.
“In the first quarter Niskayuna took it to us with their speed, hustle and shooting,” said Shenendehowa coach Chuck Holohan, whose team came in ranked No. 11 in the state in Class A. “We, as a staff, were a little worried about what would happen, and the boys responded.”
Foster had the final offensive response, though, dodging a defender before beating Bob Wardwell on a low rip from about 10 yards away. A half minute before that goal, Justin Picardi hit the pipe on a breakaway.
“I beat their first guy and saw their slide coming to me,” said Foster. “I turned and shot it off the slide guy’s hip. I don’t think Bob got a good look, and I found the far post.”
Foster drew a slashing penalty on Shenendehowa with 1:31 left, and Niskayuna held onto the ball until it turning it over with 46 seconds to play. On Shenendehowa’s final thrust, Mike Daly zipped a shot wide with 13 seconds left before Powell was denied on Verzoni’s fifth save.
“What’s the worst people will say? We lost to a perennial power,” said Holohan. “The kids are upset, but there’s nothing to be upset about. They played a great game.”
Connor Arnold paced Shenendehowa with three goals and an assist, Tim Coll fired in two goals with an assist and Wardwell totaled 11 saves. Arnold’s breakaway goal with 1:45 left gave the Plainsmen their win against Niskayuna last month as the Silver Warriors dropped their first league game since 2007.
“We’re probably going to end up as co-champs in the league. I’d love a rematch, but that’s not going to happen,” said Waltman. “At least we have the last laugh.”
Waltman sandwiched goals around another by Foster to give Niskayuna a 3-0, first-quarter lead before Arnold got Shenendehowa on the board. Two second-quarter goals by Schlansker less than a minute apart boosted the Silver Warriors’ advantage to 5-1.
“When you lose your best offensive player [Panneton], other players have to step up,” said Vorgang. “Guys stepped up.”
Coll and Arnold completed the first-half scoring before both attackmen delivered in the third to tie the game for the first time. After Waltman scored, Daly tied it again, and Justin McKinney’s goal with three seconds left gave the hosts a 7-6 lead entering the final period.
“We were up, 5-1, and thought we had a good lead. They were in the right place at the right time and a couple of balls dropped for them,” said Foster. “The next thing you know, it’s tied up, and then we went back and forth.”
“We didn’t think it would be a 5-4 game like the last time,” said Holohan. “We knew there would be points on the board.”
Shenendehowa 1 2 3 1 — 7
Niskayuna 3 2 2 1 — 8
Shenendehowa scoring: Connor Arnold 3-1, Tom Coll 2-1, Mike Jenkins 0-2, Mike Day 1-0, Brian Powell 1-0. Niskayuna scoring: Guy Waltman 3-0, Colin Foster 2-1,
Brian Schlansker 2-0, Justin McKinney 1-1.
Goaltenders: Shenendehowa, Bob Wardwell, 11 saves. Niskayuna, Ian Verzoni, 5 saves.