As the goalie of a team that has defeated every opponent this season by at least eight goals heading into Saturday's game, Ward Melville's Daniel Nemirov never stood between the pipes during a time when every shot counted.
But that didn't matter when he secured a save off an attempt from a few yards off the crease by Garden City's top scorer, Justin Guterding, to keep the Ward Melville boys lacrosse team up one with eight minutes left in the fourth.
"It was a little bit different but the great teams are able to win the close ones," Nemirov said. "There's going to be more pressure in a game like this. When you're up by 10 goals, you can let a couple pass through, but when it's a 3-3 tie game after the third quarter, you got to come up big."
Propelled by Nemirov's eight saves, a defense that altered many shots from the Trojans and an offensive outburst in the fourth quarter, Ward Melville defeated visiting Garden City, 7-3, in a non-league game.
Ward Melville (9-0), which averaged 15 goals through its first eight games, was held to just three through the third quarter because James Sullivan won every faceoff to that point for visiting Garden City (6-2). As a result, the road team dominated time of possession and made offensive opportunities scarce for the Patriots.
"We knew we would have trouble with the faceoffs; their kid is one of the best in the country," Ward Melville coach Mike Hoppey said. "We knew possessions would be a problem but our thing was to make sure we played six-on-six and not give up many shots on transitions."
When the shots were taken, Nemirov usually stopped them.
"He's definitely been one of our surprises," Hoppey said of the goalie, who was benched halfway through last season and since has responded. "He's been so improved this year and he stepped up when we needed him to."
Ward Melville led 2-1 at halftime but surrendered the lead when Guterding and Lucas Clay scored back-to-back goals for Garden City in the middle of the third quarter. The Patriots' Christian Mazzone tied the game at 3 two minutes later.
Jake Kepes scored unassisted to open the fourth quarter for Ward Melville, which tacked on three more as Garden City failed to get the ball past Nemirov late.
"It was a little scary," said Mazzone, who had three goals. "We stayed composed and in the fourth quarter we really showed our offensive abilities. We have a chance to do special things this year."