Wins over Minutemen, MegaWhales set up a Valentine’s Day battle for crown
Greg Rogowski’s fourth goal of the night broke a 10-all tie with two minutes remaining in regulation, and the defending-champion Blazers and league-leading goalie Joe Evans made it stand up in a 12-10 victory over the MegaWhales to capture a spot in the Boston Box Lacrosse League finals.
In the other semi-final game played at South Shore Sports Center in Hingham, Mass. on Feb. 7, Will Walker’s five goals and hat tricks from Greg Lally and Ben Smith led Bullseye to a 16-11 win over the first-year Minutemen, to earn a place in the championship game, to be played on Valentine’s Day.
The Minutemen and Bullseye had actually played three one-goal games during the regular season, with the new team handing the first-place squad its first loss of the season with an overtime win in early November. This game started like it would be the same kind of nail-biter, with the Minutemen holding a 4-3 lead after 10 minutes of play, before Lally fueled a rally with two goals and an assist to help Bullseye build a lead to 7-5 by halftime.
The pace picked up early in the second half, but Bullseye got the better of the end-to-end, alternate scoring, expanding the lead to 10-7 five minutes into the second half. From there, the team – which won the regular-season crown for the first time this season – held the Minutemen scoreless for 13 minutes, while Ben Smith and Chris Breiner potted two goals each, with Walker netting one. John Uppgren picked up three assists during the run.
The Minutemen tried to mount a late comeback but, despite two late scores from league-leading goal scorer Bryce Serriello, the gap was too big to overcome.
Walker’s six points led the way for a balanced Bullseye attack that saw Lally and Uppgren contribute four points each, Smith add the hat trick and multi-point nights from Breiner, Vin Curran and Chris Curtis. Serriello finished with five goals and two assists to lead the Minutemen, who got a hat trick from Nick Gorrasi, a goal and three assists from Cam Joyce and two points from Rob Murray.
The nightcap featured two teams that saw a one-goal differential through three contests over the course of the regular season. While the Blazers captured two of three games to win the season series, there was little doubt the playoff tilt would be a close one.
In the early going it was the Blazers’ Rogowski and the MegaWhales Mike Maggio trading goals, with Maggio’s hat trick giving the pink squad the edge with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. From there, James Fahey and Marty Bowes put the Blazers back on top until Dan Hettler’s score just before the half knotted things up at 4.
The real story of the 4-4 first half was the goaltending, with both the Blazers’ Evans and the MegaWhales’ Chris Hettler robbing their opponents time and again, a theme that would continue even as the scoring and the pace picked up in the second half.
The teams split the first 12 scores of the second stanza, with the neither team establishing more than a one-goal lead as the lead changed hands six times over 20-plus minutes. Rogowski finished his hat trick early in the half, but then turned feeder, connecting twice with Bowes and once with Randy Fraser to lead the Blazers, while Grant Whiteway picked up the scoring load from Maggio , netting the last five goals of the game for the MegaWhales. Every goal was assisted, as both teams conserved possessions and worked their offenses to find something that could work against the hot goaltenders.
Ultimately, Rogowski got back in the scoring column by finishing a feed from Ryan Stone – Stone’s first point of the season – to give the Blazers the 11-10 lead. Evans made it stand up with two late stops and James Fahey scored an empty-netter to make the final 12-10.
Rogowski finished with four goals and three assists, Fahey and Bowes registered hat tricks and Fraser potted two goals on the night for the Blazers, while Whiteway’s five scores and Maggio’s four goals and an assist led the MegaWhales, who also got multi-point nights from Dan Hettler and Mark Goodrich.
Joe Evans earned Legit Player of the Week honors with 25 saves on the evening. Evans also corralled seven loose balls on the night. Of the league’s regular goaltenders, Evans tops the save percentage standings by a wide margin, having stopped .767 of the shots he has faced this year.
The Blazers hope to defend their title – they won the BBLL’s first combined fall-winter league last year, but also won the fall and winter sessions dating back to 2014 – against aa familiar opponent, having defeated Bullseye 12-10 a year ago to capture the crown. This season, Bullseye swept the three meetings in three close games, one of which wasn’t decided until the second overtime.
The teams meet at 9 p.m. on Valentine’s Day to decide the season, followed by a consolation game.
The Boston Box Lacrosse League, a member of US Indoor Lacrosse, plays at South Shore Sports Center in Hingham. For stats, standings and more information on the league, go to BostonBoxLax.com. The league posts announcements and commentary on Twitter and can be followed @BostonBoxLax.
Legit Player of the Week honors go to the individual whose all-around contributions had the most significant impact to his team’s performance. Legit Lacrosse operates lacrosse superstores in Mashpee Commons and Hanover, Mass., with everything a player could possibly need to make his or her game legit, including a full selection of box equipment. For more information, go to legitlacrosse.com; on Twitter @LegitLacrosse.
South Shore Sports Center is located at 55 Recreation Park Drive in Hingham; fans and friends can watch games from the arena seating or at the Skybox Lounge, where food and drinks are served. Information is available at southshoresportscenter.com.