by Tom Utescher
Starting last Thursday’s home game with a natural hat trick, freshman Mike Melnychenko helped launch Chestnut Hill College to a 5-0 lead in a non-conference tilt with Immaculata University, setting the tone for a 13-5 Griffins victory.
Fellow CHC rookies Joe Caramante and Mike Landau also took part in the early outburst for the host team. Melnychenko finished with four goals and assist and Landau scored three times for the Griffins, who raised their overall record to 6-4 while remaining 2-4 within the East Coast Conference. Sophomore goalie Dakota Maurer compiled 16 saves for the victors.
Division III Immaculata (4-7) is a team you would expect the Division II Griffins to beat, but the men’s lacrosse program at Chestnut Hill is only in its second season.
First-year head coach Brian Dougherty pointed out, “This is a team we lost to by five goals last season, so our kids were motivated. Coming out and jumping on them early, I think we let them know this wasn’t going to be like last year.”
The Mighty Macs didn’t get on the board until after the first penalty of the game was called against the Griffins. This gave the visitors’ Dante Tuscai an extra-man opportunity, and he converted with 1:49 to go in the opening period. Chestnut Hill junior Kevin Festa, the only player on the roster who is not a freshman or sophomore, scored with 14 seconds remaining to make it 6-1 at the quarter. In a relatively uneventful second stanza, the teams traded goals to arrive at a 7-2 tally for halftime.
The Mighty Macs had more ball possession than the score suggests, and at the end they had an advantage over the Griffins in both face-offs (12-9) and ground balls (23-19).
“I’m still a little worried about our face-off game,” Coach Dougherty admitted. “We need somebody to step up there if we’re going to make any noise in our last four conference games.”
After the halftime break, CHC snuffed out any hopes of an Immaculata comeback, scoring in the first minute of the third quarter and leading 10-2 by the end of the frame. The Griffins’ largest lead of the game, 10 points, came with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter, when sophomore Mark Winkelspecht whipped in a shot from the top of the offensive set to make it 13-3. Winkelspecht and Festa each came away with one goal and two assists on the day.
Over the last month, Dougherty has observed an improvement in Chestnut Hill’s transition game.
“Now it’s just a progression from there, getting in our sets, throwing the ball around and having some fluidity on offense,” he said. “We’re starting to get there.”
As his club enters the stretch run in the regular season, the Griffins’ skipper noted “We’re not putting in anything new or different. We’re just working on keeping the guys fresh, keeping our energy level up, and fine-tuning what we have in the playbook right now.”
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