By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/24/13
Mike Kimmel scored with 1:25 to play to lift the Chesapeake Bayhawks past the Hamilton Nationals, 13-12, today in a back-and-forth game to reach the MLL Championship Game at PPL Park.
The Bayhawks will look to repeat as champions at 3 p.m. Sunday at PPL Park against the fourth-seeded Charlotte Hounds, who upset top-seeded Denver, 17-14.
Kimmel was named MVP and led a balanced attack with four points (including one 2-pointer) while Ben Hunt and John Grant Jr. added three of their own in an intense game that featured six ties and four lead changes. Joe Walters paced the Nationals with a game-high five points on two goals and three assists.
“Coming into this weekend we had one goal and one goal only and that’s to win both games and come out of her with another championship,” said Chesapeake attackman Matt Mackrides, a Malvern Prep and Penn State grad who contributed a timely assist. “We were down a little bit going into the fourth quarter, but we were in that situation two weeks ago against Charlotte (in a key comeback win to gain the second seed).
“It was an up-and-down game, but we have a lot of experience and a lot of great guys and veterans that have been in these situations before. We finished it off at the end.”
After a tight game, Hamilton scored four goals in the last four minutes of the third quarter to take an 11-8 lead heading into the final frame.
Joe Walters got the run started by scoring two goals in a one-minute span, before Josh Amidon scored his second of the game, followed by a Brodie Merrill goal only 13 seconds later, forcing Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle to call a timeout.
The Bayhawks responded well to the run, as goals from Grant Jr. and Drew Westervelt to start the fourth quarter brought the defending champs back within one. Walters dished out his third assist of the game when he fed League MVP Kevin Crowley (Shipley assistant coach) for his second goal to give the Nationals some breathing room, but that didn’t last long.
First, Kimmel scored his second goal of the game, a quick-stick goal off of a feed from Ben Rubeor. Just over two minutes later, with the shot-clock winding down, Steven Brooks stepped into a deep shot and bounced it passed the sprawling Brett Queener to tie the game at 12.
Then, with a minute and a half left, Casey Powell dodged from the X, and with a slide coming, dished a pass to Kimmel who completed his hat trick with another quick-stick finish.
With a minute left and possession of the ball, Hamilton had one last chance to tie the game. Crowley received a pass with 35 seconds remaining and ripped a low shot to Kip Turner’s left, but the keeper made a great kick save to preserve the lead. An illegal screen five seconds later gave the ball back to Chesapeake, who ran out the rest of the clock to cement their place in the championship game.
“They’ve got the Player of the Year and the MVP in the league in Kevin Crowley,” said Mackrides. “He had a great game, but we shut down some of their guys. At the end we made the plays we needed to make and get the ‘W.’”
Mackrides was pleased to see family and friends at the game.
“It’s great,” he said. “I have been telling people for the last three weeks since we knew we would be here to come and see us here.
“It’s a great venue and there is nothing like playing at home. The MLL championship is the biggest scenario I have been involved in in my hometown. And it’s all the better that we won the game and get to play tomorrow.”
Kimmel got the defending champs on the board first with a two-point rip that beat Queener from deep. However, the Nationals scored the next three goals to take a 3-2 goal into the first break.
Amidon scored the first goal on an assist from Walters before Crowley scored and then assisted on a Martin Cahill man-up goal with just under 20 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Hunt opened the second quarter by driving to his left through the Nationals defense and putting a shot past Queener to put an end to the Hamilton run. But two quick goals by Kevin Cunningham (Villanova) and Cahill put the nationals back on top 5-3.
Once again, Hunt scored a lefty goal to draw the Bayhawks back within one. Another man-up goal, this time by Cunningham, put the Nationals back up by two, but goals by Grant Jr. and Westervelt evened the score at six heading into halftime.
Both offenses came out of the break slowly, as turnovers and saves by Queener and Kip Turner were common themes of the first five minutes. Finally, Cody Jamieson broke the ice, backing down his defender before a nice spin move gave him a one-on-one opportunity with Turner, which he calmly put away to put Hamilton back on top, 7-6.
Hamilton, however, wasn’t up for long, as Casey Powell received a nifty one-handed pass from Mackrides and ripped an underhand shot right between Queener’s legs to tie the game. 12 seconds later, a falling Matt Abbot flipped a pass to 2012 Champ Weekend MVP Rubeor, who finished with an underhand shot of his own to put the Bayhawks back on top, 8-7.