Ward Melville goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman has a simple philosophy: If he can see it, he can stop it.
The Patriots’ vacuum-sealed defense, that has allowed more than nine goals only once this season, was at it again last night. Kellerman made nine saves and was hardly bothered after surrendering a goal in the first period as No. 4 Ward Melville defeated No. 9 Whitman, 9-3, Wednesday night in the second game of a Suffolk A doubleheader at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley.
“There are certain spots where I like shots taken from, where I can get a good look and they’re doing a great job at that,” said Kellerman, who allowed two meaningless goals in the final 33 seconds as the Patriots advanced to next Wednesday’s Suffolk A championship game against No. 3 Connetquot at Stony Brook at 8 p.m.
“We want to change the ending from last year. I’m a senior and I’m playing with a lot of emotion,” said Kellerman, who wants to erase the memory of last year’s double-overtime loss to Smithtown East in the county final.
Ward Melville (15-3) has used a different formula to return to the title game. “It’s the first time in a while we haven’t had an All-American on offense,” said Patriots coach Jay Negus. “Our defense has done a great job of clearing. Preparation and matchups is the secret.”
Defensemen like John Day and Andrew McKenna teamed with short-stick midfielders like Zach Hobbes, who had a goal last night, to limit Whitman (12-7) to a handful of scoring chances in the final game for veteran Wildcats coach Bob Howell, who is retiring.
“Our short-stick middies have bought into playing defense, whether it’s zone or man-to-man,” Negus said. “And when we execute on offense and defense like we did tonight, we’re tough to beat
The patient offense, led by Connor Grippe (one goal, three assists) and Dylan Pallonetti (two goals), scored nine straight goals after a scoreless first quarter, and that was more than enough to make it easy for Kellerman. “I’m confident playing with them, especially in the playoffs,” he said of his defense. “We like to give every offense a different look.”
And give their goalie a clear shot and making the necessary saves.