Despite 18 Saves From Niko Amato—Bayhawks Fall to Denver 12-11
Goalkeeper Niko Amato was spectacular once again while attackman Josh Byrne continued his remarkable rookie season, but their efforts were not enough to carry the Chesapeake Bayhawks in a back-and-forth battle with the Denver Outlaws.
Amato recorded 18 saves to shut down a high-powered offense while Byrne scored four goals for the Bayhawks, who just could not get over the hump and were beaten by the Outlaws, 12-11 in overtime.
“We competed on even terms with Denver today, but we just could not make that next play to get over the hump and take the lead,” Chesapeake Head Coach Brian Reese said. “I was really proud of our effort. We fought hard from start to finish. It’s a tough loss.”
It was the second consecutive strong outing for Amato, a fourth-year professional who established a career-high with 19 saves in Saturday’s win against Atlanta. The former Maryland All-American held Denver scoreless for almost two quarters to give Chesapeake a chance to come back from a three-goal deficit.
“Niko was awesome again and made some great saves. It really gives the defense a lot of confidence when the goalie is stopping shots that could be goals,” Reese said. “I also thought Niko made some terrific outlet passes that helped spark some fastbreak goals.”
Byrne, a third-round draft pick out of Hofstra, has already established himself as one of the most effective finishers in Major League Lacrosse. The left-handed Canadian has scored 32 goals in eight games to rank second in MLL history among rookies. Florida Launch attackman Kieran McArdle holds the rookie record with 34 goals in 2014.
“It is very obvious at this point that Josh is a special player. He just has that knack for putting the ball in the back of the net,” Reese said. “That play he made on the game-tying goal was simply amazing. We were shaking our heads on the sideline because we didn’t know how he scored that one.”
Veteran attackman Matt Danowski totaled five points on three goals and two assists for Chesapeake (6-7), which saw its two-game winning streak snapped. Rookie attackmen Nick Aponte and Colin Heacock both had a goal and assist for the Bayhawks, who now face a must-win situation in the regular season finale.
Chesapeake must win a rematch with Denver on Thursday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and hope for some help in order to earn one of four playoff berths.
“Good news is that we can still get in at 7-7,” Reese said. “We’ll know a lot more after this weekend’s games. A lot depends on what happens around the league.”
Rookie midfielder Jake Froccaro dished off two assists while rookie specialist Ben Williams captured 14 of 26 faceoffs in the seesaw contest. Chesapeake never managed to take the lead in the game, which was tied eight times.
Midfielder Romar Dennis had a hat trick to lead Denver (9-4), which took over first place in Major League Lacrosse and clinched a home playoff game. Attackman Eric Law scored the game-winning goal at the 7:43 mark of overtime to end the thriller.
Outlaws goalie Jack Kelly played out of his mind, making a season-high 24 saves in the face of 63 shots by the Bayhawks.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well and their goalie was outstanding,” Reese said. “We got a lot of great looks and couldn’t put them away. Sometimes when the goalie starts making big saves it gets in the shooter’s heads and they start aiming for corners.”
Midfielder Myles Jones got the Bayhawks on the board with just under two minutes elapsed – dodging downhill, getting his hands free and firing a hard crank shot on the run to tie the score at one.
It was back-and-forth up until the midway mark of the opening period with Danowski scoring consecutive goals 17 seconds apart to make it 3-3 at the 8:28 mark. Danowski cut to the crease and finished a feed from midfielder Matt Abbott with a beautiful behind-the-back shot then fired an overhand crank shot past the offside hip of Kelly from two steps inside the two-point arc.
Denver closed the first quarter with three unanswered goals to take a 6-3 lead, but Amato came to life in the second quarter and completely changed the momentum of the game. Amato made five tremendous stops and shut out Denver during the second stanza.
That impressive defensive stand enabled Chesapeake to creep back into the game; cutting the deficit to 6-5 by halftime. Byrne made a strong individual move to get into the heart of the defense for an open shot at the 6:53 mark while Aponte found Heacock all alone in the middle of the field for a sidearm crank from about 8 yards out with 1:29 remaining.
Chesapeake scored the equalizer just over a minute into the second half with Danowski feeding Aponte on the crease for a fastbreak goal that made it 6-6.
Dennis broke Denver’s lengthy drought by scoring with 4:07 left in the third quarter. The Outlaws went almost 30 minutes without a goal.
Byrne retied the score at seven just 46 seconds later when he finished a nifty feed from Froccaro. However, the Bayhawks allowed a goal with just one second remaining in the frame and trailed 8-7 after three.
It didn’t take long for the Bayhawks to even the score again as long stick midfielder CJ Costabile scored just 58 seconds into the fourth quarter. Amato made a tremendous stab of a high shot by Dennis and immediately tossed a perfect outlet pass to Costabile, who raced into the offensive end and fired a hard bounce shot into the cage.
The Outlaws retook the lead with a fastbreak goal, but the Bayhawks answered within 27 seconds as Heacock threaded the needle on a cross-crease pass to Danowski, who was open on the back side and scored from the doorstep.
Chesapeake just could not come up with the go-ahead goal as Denver responded every time the score was tied. Byrne tied the score for the seventh time with 7:19 to go – cutting to the middle of the field, taking an inside pass from Heacock and whipping an overhand shot into the top corner.
Dennis put the Outlaws back ahead at 11-10 with 4:52 to go and it appeared for a while that might hold up. Kelly came up big down the stretch; smothering a low shot by Jones then stuffing a fastbreak attempt by Danowski.
However, a brief melee led to unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both teams and gave Chesapeake possession in a five-on-five situation. Danowski forced a pass inside to Byrne, who made an incredible handle in traffic and flipped the ball underhanded into the net to make it 11-11 with just six seconds remaining in regulation.
Amato made a miraculous save of a point-blank shot to begin the extra session and Reese called timeout to set up a play. Jones got off an overhand crank shot that sailed wide and the Bayhawks were unable to put another attempt on net before the shot clock expired.