ANNAPOLIS, MD – Josh Byrne broke the Major League Lacrosse rookie scoring record to lead the Chesapeake Bayhawks to a thrilling 23-19 come-from-behind victory over the Denver Outlaws on Thursday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Byrne was on fire from beginning to end in scoring seven goals, increasing his season total to 39. That breaks the previous mark of 34 goals, set by Florida Launch attackman Kieran McArdle in 2014.
“Josh Byrne is an animal, just a real scoring machine,” fellow rookie Jake Froccaro said. “We were all really pulling for Josh to get the record tonight. We knew if he got enough chances he would. Obviously, Josh is a gifted finisher. He finds a way to get open shots and cans them.”
Froccaro, a rookie midfielder, had a big game himself with seven points on four goals and two assists. Chesapeake’s first-round draft choice out of Villanova fired in a 2-point goal and finished with 15 goals for the season.
Superstar attackman Lyle Thompson led the Bayhawks with nine points on six goals and two assists. Thompson totally took over in the fourth quarter and put Chesapeake ahead to stay with a 2-point goal with 7:34 remaining in the game.
Midfielder Ryan Tucker totaled two goals and an assist for Chesapeake, which trailed by three goals on multiple occasions. Rookie attackman Colin Heacock and standout midfielder Myles Jones contributed two assists apiece.
Goalie Niko Amato registered 10 saves while close defenseman Will Koshansky gobbled up seven ground balls as the Bayhawks evened their record at 7-7. Faceoff specialist Ben Williams worked hard, winning 18 draws and scooping 10 ground balls.
“It definitely feels good to win the last one. I thought that game was kind of a microcosm of our season. We went down, but kept fighting until the end and found a way to catch up,” Chesapeake Head Coach Brian Reese said. “This game didn’t mean anything to the playoff situation, but it meant something to our players and they showed a lot of character.”
Reese did not hesitate when asked if closing out the season with a win would give the Bayhawks some momentum going into the offseason. “Being 7-7 is a lot better than 6-8,” he said. “I think every game that we have with this group they’re going to get better. I do think this is the kind of win that you can build on for the future.”
Froccaro put the Bayhawks on the board first, dodging down the left alley and unleashing a running crank shot that zipped past the ear of Denver keeper Jack Kelly. Tucker then took a pass from Danowski and stuck a hard overhand shot into the top corner.
Byrne got the record chase out of the way in a hurry, scoring twice in the span of 38 seconds to tie McArdle. Byrne circled from the right wing to the middle and used his quick release to surprise Kelly with a shot from about 12 yards away. The Bayhawks won the ensuing faceoff and got the ball to Byrne, who used a nice move to slip inside his defender and drove all the way to the doorstep for a point-blank shot.
Byrne’s back-to-back goals gave the Bayhawks a two-goal lead, but the Outlaws answered with five straight goals to make it 7-4 early in the second period. Short stick defensive midfielder John Maloney halted the run by scoring directly off the faceoff with a wicked crank shot.
Byrne got busy down the stretch, scoring three goals in the final 6:19 to single-handedly keep the Bayhawks in the game. The Canadian broke the rookie scoring record with a sidearm laser off an assist from Heacock at the 7:19 mark of the second quarter.
Thompson made a great look to find Byrne open on the back side and the lefty beat the tender five-hole. The former Hofstra star then capped the first-half scoring spree with a highlight reel goal, driving past his defender from behind and whipping a one-handed shot into the net, cutting the deficit to 9-8 with 41 seconds remaining.
“Josh said before the game that he was going to do stuff that we haven’t seen yet. We were all wondering what he’s been holding back,” Reese said. “That one-handed goal was pretty impressive. The kid has unbelievable talent. What I love is that he plays as hard off-ball and riding as he does with the ball in his stick.”
Froccaro showed off his tremendous shooting range with 4 ½ minutes elapsed in the second half, scoring an impressive 2-point goal to cut the deficit to 12-10. Froccaro found himself with time and space so he reared back and shot from the heels, burying his second shot from beyond the arc this season.
Froccaro then found Thompson cutting to the crease for a one-on-one finish and suddenly it was 12-11 with 9:14 left in the third stanza.
Unfortunately, Chesapeake’s offense went silent for a stretch of six-plus minutes and Denver went on another 5-0 run to take a 16-12 lead. As has been the case all season, the Bayhawks showed tremendous heart by closing the third quarter on a 5-1 run to make it 17-16.
Byrne scored twice during the third period rally, authoring another SportsCenter Top 10 nomination with an unassisted tally. Byrne drove down the middle, nonchalantly tossing an underhanded shot into the cage while being dragged down by a long pole.
Froccaro almost scored his second 2-pointer of the night, blasting a cannon crank shot from just inside the arc. Byrne easily finished a point-blank attempt from right on top of the crease to get the Bayhawks back within one, 16-15, with 47.9 seconds to go
Chesapeake fell behind by three goals again early in the fourth quarter and this time it was Thompson who sparked the comeback. The two-time Tewaaraton Award scored a pair of unassisted goals and assisted Froccaro as the Bayhawks tied the score at 19 with 9:57 to go.
Thompson gave Chesapeake its first lead of the game, at 21-19, with an amazing 2-pointer midway through the fourth quarter. The stick-handling wizard faked out the entire stadium by appearing to flip a pass to Jones during a power play situation.
Thompson actually flipped the ball to himself, but the Denver defense thought Jones had the ball. Thompson then fired a low liner that Kelly never saw because his focus was on Jones. Thompson wound up scoring four goals and assisting another as the Bayhawks outscored the Outlaws 7-2 in the fourth frame.
“I knew Lyle had the ball, but their goalie didn’t and that’s all that matters,” Reese said. “Lyle as a real beast out there – just riding and getting ground balls or some of the tremendous shots and great passes he made. He’s a special player, too. I think Lyle and Josh can be an outstanding duo.”
Byrne, Froccaro and Heacock are among nine rookies that saw playing time for Chesapeake this season. Williams and short stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen were also members of the best class of rookies in franchise history.
“I think this draft class is awesome,” Reese said. “One of the positives coming out of the season is how well the young guys played. I think we have a really nice core to build around.”