BOCA RATON, FL – Rookie attackman Josh Byrne scored six goals and dished off an assist to spark a dramatic comeback, but the Chesapeake Bayhawks came up just short – falling 20-19 to the Florida Launch in a wild shootout at FAU Stadium on Saturday night.
Byrne scored five of his goals during the second half as Chesapeake rallied from a nine-goal deficit to tie the score at 19 late in the fourth quarter. Veteran attackman Matt Danowski scored four goals, one of which was a huge 2-pointer, and also had an assist for the Bayhawks, who just could not get the go-ahead goal at the end.
“I’m obviously very disappointed in the result, but I’m proud of how we played in the second half,” Chesapeake head coach Brian Reese said. “We showed a lot of heart by battling back, but you can’t expect to win when you play the type of first half we did tonight.”
Goalkeeper Niko Amato came off the bench to register 12 saves in the second half for Chesapeake, which outscored Florida 16-9 over the final 30 minutes of play. Attackman Lyle Thompson and Colin Heacock scored two goals each while midfielders Myles Jones and Jake Froccaro both contributed a goal and assist for the Bayhawks (4-6), who missed an opportunity to make a move in the Major League Lacrosse standings.
This was a crucial matchup as Chesapeake and Florida (6-5) were both looking to get into the playoff picture. With the win, the Launch moved into sole possession of third place while the Bayhawks fell into a tie for seventh place.
“This was another close loss,” said Reese, whose squad has been involved with six one-goal games this season. “We can’t have any more close calls. Time is winding down and we need to win out. The only way to do that is to win the next game so our complete focus is on beating Florida next Thursday night.”
Rookie faceoff specialist Ben Williams captured most of his 22 wins in the second half while long stick midfielder CJ Costabile also made an impact on the draws while also coming up with five caused turnovers.
Goalie Austin Kaut made 16 saves to frustrate the Bayhawks, who outshot the Launch 56-41. Florida struck first, but Chesapeake answered immediately as short stick defensive midfielder Domenic Sebastiani cleared into the offensive zone and waltzed right down Broadway to score with a bounce shot.
That proved the only goal in the first quarter for the Bayhawks, who barely had the ball during the opening 15 minutes. It was more of the same in the second frame after Danowski scored off a wicked crank shot just one step inside the 2-point arc to cut the deficit to 7-2.
Florida dominated possession and took a commanding nine-goal lead before the Bayhawks scored again. Byrne worked his way inside and scored off an acrobatic shot while diving over the crease with 10 seconds left to make it 11-3 at intermission.
During a halftime interview with Lax Sports Network, Reese said a failure to capture some early opportunities caused Chesapeake to get impatient. “We started gripping our sticks too tight and taking shots we don’t want. We need to work harder on offense and not settle for low-percentage, low-angle shots,” Reese said.
Reese declined to elaborate on what was said in the locker room at halftime, but acknowledged that every single player took a long look in the mirror.
“We had to be professional and accountable. I think the players were disapponted in themselves and wanted to come out and play much better,” Reese said. “I think the entire team came out in the second half determined to compete and claw back, which is what we did.”
Chesapeake looked like a completely different team to start the second half, showing more energy and simply playing tougher all over the field. Amato took over in goal and made several big saves, Williams started winning faceoffs to turn the tide of possession while Danowski took charge of organizing the offense as the Bayhawks outscored the Launch, 8-4, in the third period.
Chesapeake opened the second half with a 5-0 run that lasted less than four minutes. “We dodged harder to score and created better opportunities for ourselves,” Reese said. “We put some positive plays together and gained some momentum.”
Jones got things started, dodging left into the heart of the defense for a point-blank finish. Heacock scored just 30 seconds later – dodging a short stick from the sideline, getting goal-line-extended and beating the keeper from the doorstep.
Thompson continued the momentum 40 seconds after that, using a pick to get free out front and sticking a hard sidewinder into the top corner. Byrne fooled his defender with a fake pass to get his hands free for a 12-yard crank shot while Heacock caught a pass in traffic, rolled left and unleashed a lefty laser that suddenly made it 11-8 at the 11:17 mark of the third quarter.
Byrne scored off a nifty back-handed flip from out front, Danowski was on the back end of tremendous ball movement for a left-handed crank shot and Thompson scored in transition with a worm burner shot as the Bayhawks kept the pressure on.
Close defenseman Brian Farrell, who was activated for the first time all season on Saturday night, jump-started the last goal by clearing the ball and drawing a slide before dishing to Thompson. That impressive third-quarter effort got the Bayhawks right back into the game, down 15-11 going into the final stanza.
It quickly became a two-goal game after Byrne and Costabile scored just 13 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter. Byrne drove hard to the goal and somehow scored despite seemingly having no angle. The Bayhawks won the ensuing faceoff and Costabile found himself open on the left wing, rearing back and whistling an overhand shot into the top corner to make it 15-13 with just two minutes elapsed.
It appeared Florida might have turned back the rally when it scored four goals in the span of three minutes to increase its lead to 19-13. However, Chesapeake had come too far to simply go away at that point and responded with a 6-0 run to tie the score for only the second time in the game.
Byrne rebounded a 2-point shot by Jones that had caromed off the pipe and whipped a shot into the low corner in the same motion. Chesapeake won the faceoff and Byrne found Mark Glicini cutting to the cage for a wide-open shot just nine seconds later.
Danowki delivered the big blow in the frantic comeback, dropping down and firing low-to- high to convert a 2-point goal that made it 19-17 with 6:25 remaining in the game. Costabile caused a turnover, scooped the loose ball and drew a penalty to enable Chesapeake to continue the onslaught.
Froccaro scored a power play goal off a sidearm crank shot from up top to pull the Bayhawks within one. Byrne then completed the comeback when he scored off a point-blank shot after Jones made the extra pass and suddenly it was 19-19 with 4:57 to go.
“I thought once we tied the score we were going to finish it off,” Reese admitted. “We were really rolling and had Florida reeling. Give the Launch a lot of credit for making one more play than we did when it mattered.”
Chesapeake had a couple chances to take its only lead of the game, but could not convert. Attackman Dylan Molloy scored the game-winner with 1:36 left, taking an inside feed from Nick Mariano and finishing in traffic with a tough backhand shot from the doorstep.
Costabile stripped an offensive player to give Chesapeake one last possession with time winding down. The Bayhawks cleared the ball ahead quickly and Byrne found himself charging to the cage with a defender trailing, but his on-the- run shot was high.
Byrne ran the ball out to maintain possession then quickly restarted play himself and passed to Danowski up top. Danowski tried to tie the game with one of his patented crank shots, but Kaut was there to make the clutch save and preserve the narrow win.
“We had plenty of opportunities. We had a five-on-four situation, we hit a pipe,” Reese regretted.