By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/17/08
After a dominant first half by La Salle, the top two teams in the Phillylacrosse.com Scholastic Boys’ Poll settled into a classic showdown Thursday afternoon at Malvern Prep.
Finally, after a strong rally by the second-ranked Friars, the top-ranked Explorers used a fourth-period goal by Westy Hopkins and solid defense to claim a 7-6 non-league victory.
The win was the 15th straight for La Salle (16-1), which is also ranked 10th in the country by Inside Lacrosse. Malvern Prep (8-2) is ranked 13th by Inside Lacrosse.
Hopkins notched the game-winner 1 minute and 19 seconds into the final frame after the Friars had outscored the Explorers, 5-1, in the third period to tie it, 6-6. In the final minutes of the game, La Salle junior goalie Niko Amato (nine saves) and the La Salle defense, led by Tucker Durkin, Michael Noone, Tyler Knarr, Eric Heisner, and Tyler Houchins, put a blanket on the dangerous Malvern attack.
“I give all the credit to the defense,” said Amato, a junior. “Despite a few mental errors, our ‘D’ kept our heads in it and did not allow them to get good shots off.
“It’s always a big win to beat Malvern. We knew what we had to do all week and stayed focus and came out fired up.”
La Salle’s Randy Forster, Hopkins and Peter Schwartz scored first-period goals to stake the Explorers to a 3-1 lead. Matt Lynch and Conrad Ridgway made it 5-1 in the second period.
But the Friars, out shot 15-9 in the first half, looked like a different team in the third period and struck twice in the first two minutes on goals by senior Colin McGeehan (four goals). After Derek Bogorowski gave the Explorers a 6-3 lead off a feed from Chris Johnson, Chris Layne, McGeehan and Matt Conte tallied goals within four minutes to make it 6-6.
“I think they just exploited us,” Amato said. “Sometimes we get a little lazy and they would find spots on the crease. They rode hard on our clears and made us make mistakes, setting people up for 1-on-1 chances against me.”
Durkin, a junior, spent much of the day on Malvern senior standout Matt Mackrides, a member of the U.S. Under-19 National team and a Penn State recruit. Layne, the team’s other top scorer, had two assists, but was contained.
“Mackrides and Layne are probably the best 1-2 combo in the state,” Durkin said. “I thought we played well, but as good as we did, there’s still lot of things to work on. Niko came up big; he’s been coming up big all year.”
Durkin said his team cannot let down – especially with teams gunning to break the win streak.
“That’s pretty impressive,” he said of the 15 straight win. “We have to maintain this level and hold it all the way until June.”
Malvern Prep coach John McEvoy was disappointed with his team’s first-half showing, but satisfied with the second-half effort.
“We didn’t play very smart in the first half,” McEvoy said. ‘We played a very unstereotypical style today; we rushed things offensively, and took some poor shots.
“We played a whole lot better in the second half. As long as we responded, I was going to be OK.”