Hunter Hayes' goal in sudden-death overtime leads Shoreham-Wading River
Silent might. That was Hunter Hayes Saturday afternoon.
Even after his Shoreham-Wading River offense had gone frustratingly quiet, and even after Comsewogue lacrosse had clawed back, it was his mostly undetected slip in front of the cage that managed to make all the difference.
"I saw the defensemen sliding away toward Timmy [Rotanz] because he's such a big threat," Hayes said. "I just slid in a little, to the open spot, and he found me."
Rotanz's feed to Hayes, who one-timed a sidearmed rifle into the left corner of the cage with 1:01 left in sudden-death overtime, gave host Shoreham-Wading River the hard-fought 8-7 win in Division II. The Wildcats remain undefeated this season -- no small feat after starting the year with a young team featuring three first-year attacks, coach Tom Rotanz said.
No small feat, too, since Shoreham, which scored the first five goals, was otherwise stymied by multiple penalties and a scattershot offense in the final three quarters. The Wildcats were two men down twice, had five penalties in the second quarter, and were shut out in the fourth, allowing Comsewogue to tie the score at 7 on Brendan Donnelly's goal off a Ryan Keefe assist with 4:12 left in regulation. When the ball skittered in, Keefe, head down, raised his fist slowly as the spirited visiting crowd erupted into deafening cheers.
"The penalties took us completely out of our rhythm," Tom Rotanz said. "And then when we got the ball on offense, we rushed it."
Though the momentum had shifted, and though the Warriors threatened numerous times in the final seconds, SWR (5-0) was saved by its vacuum-sealed defense, led by Alex Houlihan, and goalie Christian Palazotto, who finished with 17 saves.
"We realized [offensively], they weren't making the right decisions," said Houlihan, whose ground ball in front of the SWR net with 20 seconds left in the fourth -- one of many -- extinguished a Comsewogue (4-1) threat. "We pulled together as a defense and we huddled up and we said, 'We're the backbone of this game' . . . There was no stopping us."
With two men down in the second quarter, Houlihan forced a turnover deep in Wildcats territory, and Palazotto later followed with a save on an inside shot. Though Comsewogue's Tyler DeLuca scored two seconds before both teams were even, making it 5-3, the defensive duo continued to dominate. Palazotto made three saves in the final seconds of the third quarter to keep SWR's lead at three. The Warriors' Justin Carlson scored twice to open the fourth, drawing Comsewogue to within one, but another forced turnover by Houlihan, and Palazotto's save on a Hank Champagne fast break, limited the damage.
Palazotto "came out of nowhere," Tom Rotanz said. "He was always an average goalie, and this spring he's blossomed into a great stopper."
And when it finally came time to score, or else, "we'd gotten the offense's back, and they got ours," Houlihan said. After a Comsewogue shot went wide in overtime, the Wildcats took possession, and, with Tim Rotanz at the helm, Hayes got to show off that silent might. "It was the best feeling in the world," Houlihan said.
"Like Christmas morning."