NLL: Young goaltenders tested as San Diego defeats Panther City

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After three weeks off, both the San Diego Seals and Panther City Lacrosse Club returned to the floor Saturday night. San Diego came in riding a two-game win streak. Panther City were looking for their first win in franchise history, in their first game without Ryan Benesch. All signs pointed to a Seals’ runaway victory, but a gutsy effort from PCLC kept it close, still coming out on the losing end, 15-12.

The excitement began even before the opening face off. Less than an hour before the game it was revealed both announced starters – Kevin Orleman for Panther City and Frankie Scigliano of San Diego – were unavailable due to positive Covid tests. Enter former Seals’ net minder Nick Damude, and 19-year-old second round pick Chris Origlieri.

With all eyes on the young net minders (Damude just turned 23), it was the Seals’ veterans who stole the show early on. Wes Berg scored a pair of goals, part of an eventual hat trick. Berg played in career game number 75, and has now registered a point every one. Trailing 4-2, Dane Dobbie entered the chat and promptly did Dane Dobbie things. Notably, a natural hat trick in less than three minutes. He’d finish with five goals, part of seven points.

With Benesch traded to Albany, Phil Caputo took over Panther City’s lead in goals. He had a pair of goals in the first quarter, as did Nate Grenon, but Panther City trailed 6-5 after the first.

If the first quarter showcased the veterans for San Diego, the second was time for the youngsters to shine. 2020 15th overall pick Mac O’Keefe scored a pair in the first half, and 2018 first overall pick Austin Staats also found the net twice. On both, Staats was streaking to the net off the bench. The second was assisted by Jeremy Noble, who picked up a loose ball near centre floor – one of six assists, his third-straight six assist game.

Following a Jordan Trottier holding penalty, Dobbie made history. The ball moved quickly through Staats and Noble, finding Dobbie who quickly scored for career goal 450. His career milestone was enough to move into eighth all time in league scoring, passing Seals’ offensive coach Josh Sanderson.

Panther City’s three goals were scored by Mike Triolo, who tied the game at six, and a pair from Patrick Dodds, the first tying the score at seven. Dodds would add three assists on the night.

San Diego led 10-8 at halftime.The third period saw only three goals (Staats and O’Keefe completing hat tricks for the Seals, Caputo finishing his for PCLC). As the quarter ended, the goal drought reached 9:48. Physical play started to pick up, however, with three penalties a side and a scrum to end the frame. Thirteen of the game’s 19 penalties came in the second half.

Seven of those were in the fourth quarter, leading to a combined five power play goals, including the goal of the night, less than 40 seconds in. Triolo’s initial shot was saved by Origlieri, but the rebound bounced straight to Caputo at the side of the crease. He caught it and, in the same motion, shot over the shoulder and over top of Origlieri. Matt Hossack got Panther City as close as they would get, within one, 12-11 with his shorthanded transition goal – the first shorthanded marker of the season surrendered by San Diego.

From there, the teams went back and forth before Cam Holding iced the game. Perhaps taking notice of an empty net mistake earlier in the day, Holding ran it into Seals’ territory before he was dragged down, still managed to shoot and score to make it 15-12, the eventual final score.

Chris Origlieri made 29 saves for his first career win. Nick Damude stopped 34 in the loss. San Diego becomes the first Western Division team to win a home game this season. Road teams prior to tonight were 8-0. Panther City will once again look for the franchise’s first win against the Riptide this coming Saturday. San Diego travels to Saskatchewan Friday night.