As a faceoff specialist, Shoreham-Wading River’s Joe Miller is used to scrums. Scrapping for a ball, his body twisted and bent at the waist, is part of the job description. ‘X’ marks the spot at midfield where he does his best work.
But early in the fourth quarter, Miller found himself battling for a loose ball directly in front of the Sayville goal. Out of that chaos came clarity in the form of a familiar position. There was Miller, hunched over, two hands on the stick, scooping the ball backwards between his legs like he does on some faceoffs. Only this time, it went directly into the cage.
“I had my back to the net but I knew where the goal was,” Miller said. “I just scooped it and hoped it would go in. Being a faceoff guy, it definitely helped in the way I could position my stick.”
Miller’s tally provided a three-goal lead and was part of a mammoth second half by Shoreham-Wading River in an 11-5 victory over Sayville in the Suffolk Class B championship game played at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium on Wednesday.
“That might’ve been the backbreaker,” SWR coach Mike Taylor said. “He just face-offed it into the net.”
But Miller’s most important contributions were on faceoffs, where he won 14 of 18, a key factor in how the Wildcats (17-2) erased a 5-2 halftime deficit and finished on a 9-0 run.
“They had no answer for Joe Miller,” said Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Gray. The Golden Flashes (14-5) had no answer for Gray, either, as the junior attack scored four goals with an assist. Gray has 98 points, including 76 goals, and is tied with eighth-grader Brennan O’Neill of Bay Shore for the Suffolk scoring lead.
Gray has a chance to take over the top spot when the Wildcats play for the Long Island Class B championship against Garden City on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Hofstra.
The Wildcats’ second-half comeback began when Kevin Cutinella (two goals, two assists) scored an unassisted goal with 9:41 left in the third and six seconds later, Miller won the draw and fed Gray to make it 5-4. Gray fed Cutinella for the equalizer and Miller won the draw and went down the alley to put SWR on top for good with 5:06 left in the third.
“Kevin got us going and then we just built off each other’s energy,” Gray said.
Especially when it was supplied by Miller. His scoop was the real story.