After Chestnut Hill College fell behind 4-0 last Saturday, sophomore Kevin Sonderschafer helped stop the bleeding by assisting on the Griffins’ first goal. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The lacrosse team from the New York Institute of Technology made the trip down from Manhattan to play at Chestnut Hill College’s Victory Field last Saturday, but it was the host Griffins who looked like they were recovering from bus-lag in the opening phase of the contest.

The visiting Bears whipped in four straight goals during the first six minutes, and in the end they still owned a four-point advantage, returning up the Jersey Turnpike with a 10-6 victory and a record of 4-1 in the East Coast Conference and 9-2 overall. Ranked seventh in the major Division II national poll, NYIT received four goals and two assists from fleet freshman Brandon Gamblin and two goals from sophomore Bobby Calhoun.

Chestnut Hill, which slipped to 6-4 overall and leveled off at 3-3 in the ECC, got two goals apiece from juniors Craig Owen (one assist) and D.J. Klusaritz. Starting in goal and playing three-quarters of the game, junior Dakota Maurer made eight saves, and sophomore reliever Ryan Duffy picked up a pair of stops. The Griffins outshot their guests, 42-29, but Billy McGee, NYIT’s 5’8” senior keeper, darted around in the mouth of the goal to accumulate 17 saves in the game.

Gamblin got the visitors on the board with 41 seconds elapsed, and he notched a second goal during his team’s opening offensive, an outburst which made it 4-0 with 9:07 still to go in the first quarter. In two of its three previous games, Chestnut Hill had fallen behind the College of St. Rose 1-3 and Wheeling Jesuit University 1-4 in the early going.

“We’re not starting games off very well, and when you do that against the good ECC teams it’s very tough to come back from that,” admitted Griffins head coach Brian Dougherty. “We can try changes in our pre-game warm-up and things like that, but I don’t know of any magic cure other than the guys just getting themselves mentally ready to play.”

The Griffins received a boon when the Bears’ Justin Annunziato was sentenced to two full minutes in the box with a pair of non-releasable penalties. With a feed from sophomore Kevin Sonderschafer, Klusaritz got CHC on the board during the visitors’ short-handed stretch, scoring with 4:13 to go in the first quarter. However, when the numbers evened out again Gamblin completed a hat trick for NYIT, making it 5-1 at the end of the opening round.

In the second quarter, neither club found the net while the teams were at full strength; each squad added a point in a man-up situation. A slashing call against CHC helped Gamblin reach his day’s total of four goals, but on another strong shot soon afterwards, the Bears were denied as Maurer made a deft save at the upper left corner. With one of the visitors in the box, CHC’s Owen notched his first goal with an assist from sophomore Mike Melnychenko, and the resulting 6-2 tally held up until halftime.

Over the initial 16 minutes of the second half (including the beginning of the fourth quarter), the New Yorkers spread the score to 9-3. After that, Chestnut Hill netted back-to-back goals for the only time in the game. This just wasn’t the formula for a significant comeback attempt.

The second marker of the day by Klusaritz made it 9-4, then the Griffins got within four when the Bears turned the ball over on offense and CHC junior Junji Wiener carried the ball through the midfield and went on in to score with 4:07 remaining in the contest. The teams traded goals in the last two minutes to arrive at the 10-6 final.

After the first-quarter surge by the visitors, the Griffins had called a time-out, and Dougherty revealed “We made some changes defensively, putting guys in there to slow them down a bit. What kind of changed the game more than anything else was that they started fouling a lot [the Bears had 13 penalties to the Griffins’ three], and that sort of got them out of that groove they were in at the beginning.

“I’m not happy with the way we started,” he went on, “but once we got in that hole I was proud of the way the guys fought back and settled the game down, because it could’ve gotten really ugly. We can’t just be satisfied with that, though. Nobody’s out here just to hang around in games – we want to win.”