By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/10/17
By halftime, Wednesday’s nonleague game between Haverford School and host La Salle looked anything like a showdown of two of the region’s top teams.
But after falling behind, 9-4, Haverford had the ball with the chance to tie the game against the No. 1-ranked Explorers and the scoring opportunity they wanted. Michael Clibanoff, though, was in no mood for Haverford heroics.
The La Salle goalie stoned Fords standout TJ Malone on the door step with 2:30 to go and the Explorers ran out the clock to secure a 9-8 win.
The No. 3 Fords (13-6) had beaten Clibanoff high on their eight tallies, so the Ohio State commit was ready for the task when the elusive Malone snuck out from behind the cage untouched.
The Explorers, despite being shut out in the second half, improved to 16-1 with their 14th straight win.
“All of their goals were scored high, so I knew that (Malone) was coming high,” Clibanoff said. “I had my stick up, and all I did was match his stick and got it. I knew he was going for that far corner, so I put my stick there and got it.”
Haverford had another chance in the game’s final minute, but a turnover enabled La Salle to ice the game. Clibanoff was a major reason behind the Explorers’ success. He turned aside four first-quarter shots to allow the Explorers time to get their offense in tune. A second-year starter, Clibanoff has emerged as the backbone of La Salle’s defense and into one of the Philadelphia area’s best netminders.
“Of course, this game helps us,” Clibanoff said. “It shows our maturity and it shows how we come together as a whole. It brings out the boa constrictor, too.”
Indeed. The Explorers have a diverse and explosive offense, but they also have a stingy defense that has only allowed more than eight goals to Canadian power Hill Academy.
Brett Baskin led the offensive charge yet again, pairing a hat trick with an assist, while Clibanoff’s twin brother, Matt, scored twice and dished out an assist to Ethan Masucci. Anthony Giuliani posted a strong day at the faceoff X, winning 13 of 21 battles against Joel Trucksess in a battle of two of the area’s elite faceoff men while also scoring a goal.
La Salle’s potent offense brought a goalie change midway through the second quarter, but Masucci beat Sage Garito to help the Explorers build a 9-3 bulge. Masucci, who transferred to La Salle from Haverford, relished the chance to beat his former teammates.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Masucci said with a big smile. “I was just trying to win, win, win, and we just found a way to get the job done. We worked really hard and it was a good, hard-fought win for the whole team.”
Malone led the Fords with three goals and two assists, while Luke O’Grady and Peter Garno each piled up three points. Garito got a rude welcome from his former teammate, but after that, he was dialed in. He made seven impressive saves, including a point-blank stop on Baskin with a little more than four minutes left.
Garito has had the chance to play before, but those opportunities had usually been planned by the Haverford coaches. Unexpectedly coming in cold is never easy, but Garito stood tall against an exceptional offense.
“It’s hard going in in the middle of a game like that, but I trusted my teammates the entire game,” Garito said. “You have to get some shots and see how they play, like the motion of their offense. I just had to get into it.”
Haverford School 2 2 3 1 – 8
TJ Malone 3g, 2a
Luke O’Grady 2g, 1a
Peter Garno 1g, 2a
Johnny Nostrant 1g
Mac Costin 1g
Brennan McBride 1a
Gavin Burke 1a
Parker Henderer 4 saves
Sage Garito 7 saves
La Salle 5 4 0 0 – 9
Brett Baskin 3g, 1a
Matt Clibanoff 2g, 1a
Ethan Masucci 1g, 1a
Anthony Giuliani 1g, 13-for-21 faceoffs
Chris Hladczuk 1g
Ethan LaMond 1g
Joey Taylor 2a
Robert Roak 1a
Michael Clibanoff 11 saves