The final minute and a half of Tuesday’s typically tight, grueling rivalry game between Massapequa and Syosset created an odd role reversal for Syosset midfielder Lucas Cotler. At that juncture, it was his job not to score.
“We love it. We trust him and he knows the faith we have in him,” Syosset coach John Calabria said of the Braves clinging to a one-goal lead with possession. “We felt very comfortable.”
Cotler dashed, darted and danced around behind the Massapequa goal and, given breathers by two Syosset timeouts, single-handedly ran out the clock to preserve a 13-12 victory in a duel of Nassau I unbeaten powerhouses.
“I do want the ball. We had Alex Concannon here for three years and he’d be the one in that situation,” Cotler said of the graduated Braves’ star. “Coach gave me the responsibility this year and it’s all about us working together.”
Cotler, who scored four goals with an assist, worked well with attack Mac O’Keefe (four goals, two assists) and Matt Benus (two goals, one assist) as Syosset (5-0) built a 10-6 halftime lead and led 12-7 late in the third quarter.
Then Massapequa’s defensive pressure and ground-ball superiority took a toll. The Chiefs (4-1) scored three straight goals, one by Justin Lynskey (three goals) and two by Ryan Tierney (five goals) in 2:38 to make it 12-10.
Benus scored unassisted with an overhand blast from the top of the circle that barely beat the third-quarter horn to end the Massapequa run. But that goal also ended Syosset’s scoring on the misty afternoon. “Matt always steps up in big spots,” Calabria said. “But with a team like Massapequa, you can’t take any lead for granted. They forced us out of what we wanted to do. They pressed out and won the third quarter and made it uncomfortable for us.”
Especially in the fourth quarter. Tierney scored unassisted in transition after Cotler’s blast rang off the crossbar and caromed to Massapequa’s leading scorer on the dead run near midfield. Then, 1:43 later, Casey Kimmel scored his second of the game when he scooped up a ground ball in front and converted to make it 13-12 with 6:13 left.
The Braves had a chance to expand their lead on a two-man advantage for a full minute, but Chiefs goalie Tom Kempton made two huge saves during the man-up and another shortly after to keep it a one-goal game.
“We had good composure toward the end of the game,” said O’Keefe, who scored three straight goals in the second quarter. “In the first half, it was all about confidence.”
In the fourth quarter it was all about hanging on and relying on Cotler’s stick skill and quick feet. “He’s one of the best athletes on the team,” O’Keefe said. “He did a great job.”
Of not scoring.