A smothering defense, timely goaltending and seven different scorers led Notre Dame to a 10-10 tie with The Atlanta Blaze of the Major Lacrosse League Sunday in South Bend. Irish goalies Shane Doss and Owen Molloy contained a Blaze that included ND alum Conor Doyle and several former All-Americans in the Loftus Center.
While nine division one contests kicked off the 2016 regular season the day prior, Notre Dame hosted The Blaze in an early Super Bowl Sunday showdown. Ed Lubowicki, Chris Molloy, Kristina Perkovic, Meighan Garnsey and Tammy Schantz were among the dedicated parents who made the pilgrimage to South Bend. The Blaze brought 18 players to prepare for an inaugural season of 14 games that begin in April. They are led by Hall of Fame Coach John Tucker and legendary player, now promoter, Liam Banks. Their roster includes Kevin Rice (Syracuse), Adam Ghitelman (Virginia), Josh Dionne (Duke), Jake Bailey (UNC), Ryan Tucker (Virginia), Jeremy Noble (Denver), Randy Staats (Syracuse)…you get the picture. A collection of All-Americans, leveraging today’s game as a means of securing playing time. It wasn’t an exhibition.
Twitter feeds, parent texts, Instagram and sideline spectators served as my local eyes. Shane Doss drew the start in goal for ND versus an attack line that included Notre Dame alum Conor Doyle, along with Syracuse All-American Kevin Rice. The duo were part of a December trade with Rochester, where Rice scored 96 goals en route to a league championship appearance. Doyle was a 30 goal scorer last season, while leading ND to it’s second consecutive final four appearance.
Senior Matt Kavanagh staked the Irish to a 1-0 lead on an an assist from freshman Ryder Garnsey. As you’d expect, it was Doyle who lit the Blaze, tying the game at 1-1. Notre Dame responded, when Brendan Collins ripped a left-handed shot on the run to put the Irish back on top. Atlanta drew even as the first quarter ended in a 2-2 tie. Defensively, Eddy Glazener and Jack Sheridan were aggressive and physical. Matt Landis returned to the lineup, showing no signs of rust. He and Rice brought out the best of each other. Thomas Stephan and Alex Hurdle also saw action and provided needed depth. As was the case in the Air Force and Navy scrimmages, scores from the previous quarter were erased.
Bobby Gray opened the scoring in the second, with the Irish on the man advantage. It was Gray’s second goal in as many games, for a 1-0 advantage. Crisp, methodical ball movement on another man advantage led to a Mikey Wynne goal and a 2-0 ND lead. Eddy Lubowicki recorded an assist. For Wynne, who missed the Air Force game, it was his first of the preseason. Atlanta responded, scoring with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, cutting the ND lead to 2-1. Sergio Perkovic restored the two goal advantage with a patented rip. Atlanta retalliated, notching their second of the quarter as time expired. Notre Dame would win the second quarter 3-2 and the half, 5-4.
A team effort on faceoffs, led by PJ Finley and long stick middies John Sexton and Hugh Crance, enabled a battle over each draw. The Irish began the third as they did the first. Matt Kavanagh struck first, giving the Irish a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Owen Molloy was now in goal and forced to make brilliant back to back saves, followed by a stick side save up high. That lead would melt, with the Blaze scoring three consecutive goals, staking a 3-1 advantage. That’s when Sexton and freshman middie Drew Shantz scored their first goals of the season, getting the Irish square, 3-3. Atlanta punched a fourth goal, before Perkovic would counter, splitting two defenders as the third quarter ended in a 4-4 deadlock. For the game, ND led 9-8. A stable of midfield talent contributed, with Ben Pridemore, Cole Riccardi, Trevor Brosco, Timmy Phillips, Kyle Trolley, Pierre Byrne and Brooks Tyrell splitting time. Defensively, midfield was equally stout, with Nick Koshansky, Bobby Collins, Schantz and Austin Gaiss rotating . John Travisano spelled Finely at the faceoff X and fared well.
The fourth quarter began with the Irish exploiting the man advantage. Mikey Wynne’s second goal was the result of Eddy Lubowicki’s second assist, 1-0 Irish. ND Coach Kevin Corrigan had the lineup fluid in the fourth, with an extensive flow of players moving in and out. Patrick Headley saw time at LSM, Grad student Carl Walrath returned and saw action at attack, as did Tyler Ruhle and Brendan Gleason. Chris Carter and Will Young battled at close defense. Molloy was forced to make several stellar saves to preserve the lead. But with just over three minutes to play, Atlanta tied it, 1-1. With 0:21, The Blaze would score again to secure a 2-1 fourth quarter victory and a 10-10 tie after four quarters and the conclusion of preseason.
Now the fun begins. Preseason top ranking in both the conference and the nation. Division One’s most difficult schedule. Arguably, one of the program’s most talented teams, playing in The South, by the beach, in the Dome and near the Dome. Reunited with old friends and the introduction of new. Follow the advice of a parent who had six division one athletes, the late Bob Kemp… “Enjoy the experience. It will fly by and you’ll not want to regret a thing.” More to Come. Go Irish!