Posted: March 24, 2006
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Lehigh hung tough all afternoon long with No. 7 Navy, but was ultimately done in by a five-goal first quarter by the Mids, as the Mountain Hawks fell 9-4 on Friday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Lehigh, which falls to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in Patriot League play with the loss, was led on offense by juniors Alec Hoof and Blake Best and their two scores and classmate Stephen Marino’s three helpers. Ian Dingman scored thee goals for the Midshipmen, who improve to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in league action, while Jon Birsner added two scores and four assists.
Head coach Chris Wakely commented after the game about his team’s performance. “I thought Navy came out with a tremendous amount of intensity and it took us awhile to match that. Once we settled in and found ourselves, we played them evenly.”
Navy got on the board first less than a minute into the contest when Billy Looney scored off an assist from Ian Dingman at the 14:02 mark of the opening quarter. The Mids continued to pour it on, scoring the next three goals, one each from Bruce Nechanicky, Nick Mirabito and Jon Birsner to take a 4-0 lead with 2:53 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks finally got on the board with 1:50 left in the opening quarter on Hoof’s seventh goal of the season. Marino had the assist, his team-leading 13th. Navy came back with another score of its own though, this one by Dingman with just 57 ticks left on the clock, and the home team took a 5-1 lead into the second quarter.
Dingman then gave Navy a five goal lead with his 15th goal of the season off of a beautiful feed from Birsner at the 6:54 mark of the second quarter. It would up being the only score of the second, as Lehigh headed to the locker room down five. The Mountain Hawks scooped up 20 ground balls to the Mids 17, but were out shot 17-3 in the opening 30 minutes. Lehigh was six of eight on clear attempts, while Navy cleared three of its six attempts and despite being down on the scoreboard, the Brown and White did win five of nine face offs.
Lehigh seemed to settle down in the third quarter and was able to get in gear on the offensive end. Hoof scored his second goal of the game with 4:35 to go, on another feed from Marino, and the Mountain Hawks pulled to within four at 6-2. Best then made it a three-goal deficit when he came behind the net and wrapped the ball just inside the pipes past Mids goal keeper Matt Russell to make the score 6-3 with 3:21 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks appeared to score again, when Marino fired the ball past Russell, but Best was called for being in the crease and the goal was waved off, sending the teams headed into the final 15 minutes with Navy up 6-3. Wakely offered his thoughts on the play. “There is no question that that play could have made a difference. Not necessarily in the outcome, but we had momentum on our side and that play sort of took it away.”
After all of the momentum Lehigh had built in the third quarter, Navy was able to seize it back right at the start of the fourth, as Dingman completed the hat trick, slipping the ball past Lehigh keeper John Park. Birsner was credited with the assist at the 14:36 mark of the final quarter, which gave the Mids a 7-3 advantage.
Following a Navy turnover on a big hit from a Lehigh defender, the Mountain Hawks took the ball in transition and weaved their way down the field with an array of nifty passes. The end result was another goal by Best off of an assist from Marino to pull the Brown and White to within three at 7-4 with 7:02 to go. But, the Mids were able to push their advantage back up to four on another Birsner score, this one coming with 5:29 remaining. Billy Looney then put the game out of reach with his tenth score of the season off an assist from his brother Steve at the 3:16 mark, putting the home team comfortably in front.
Park recorded ten saves on the day, while Russell finished with six. Lehigh was out shot 28-12 on the afternoon, but 16 of 19 on clear attempts and eight of 16 on face offs. Senior captain Jeff King scooped up a team-high nine ground balls for the Brown and White, while junior Colin Mistele added six.
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday April 1, when the Mountain Hawks return home for the first time since March 4, welcoming the Bison of Bucknell to the Ulrich Sports Complex. The game, which is part of the Spring Sports Saturday event and gets underway at 3:00, will be televised live on Service Electric 2 Sports as well as lehighsports.com, with Steve Lomangino and Jeff Tourial on the call.
Photos Copyright (2006), Walt Young.