Blazers Defend Title in Overtime

Evans, Bowes lead 12-11 win over Bullseye in fall-winter finals

Greg Rogowski netted a pass from Marty Bowes 1:08 into overtime and the defending-champion Blazers overcame the first-place Bullseye squad 12-11, extending their streak of title game dominance in the Boston Box Lacrosse League that started in 2012.

Bullseye held the advantage in loose balls and shots on goal and won nearly every face-off of the night, but the Blazers were able to stay within striking distance thanks to the hot goaltending of Joe Evans, who was battling fever and flu-like symptoms in addition to Bullseye’s shooters.

The teams traded goals throughout, with Bullseye jumping out to a 3-1 lead only to see Marty Bowes net consecutive goals – on feeds from Brandon Dube and Randy Fraser respectively – to knot the game with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half.

Joe Nardella won the ensuing faceoff, then found a seam and blasted one home to give Bullseye a 4-3 lead, Will Walker scored twice more before the half, but his goals were answered by Rogowski and Jeff McLaren and the game went into the half with Bullseye ahead 6-5.

The second half saw the defenses stand tall early, with only two goals scored during the first 10 minutes, both from Bullseye’s Vin Curran, who gave his squad the only three-goal edge of the evening.

Bowes closed the gap off a Fraser feed, Kyle Baker canned a Rogowski feed before Fraser quick-sticked home a cross-crease feed on a fast break started when James Fahey created a turnover, grabbed the loose ball and broke out. The Blazers couldn’t take their first lead of the game, however, as Walker canned his fourth goal of the night, but Bowes knotted the game at 9 with 6:40 remaining on a length-of-the-floor dash, a move that Fahey emulated a moment later with another floor-length fast break, giving the Blazers their first edge of the night at 10-9.

But when Nardella won the ensuing draw and fed Walker who blasted a shot by Evans, and John Uppgren laid out from goal-line extended on the ensuing possession, Bullseye had the edge and appeared to be headed for its first BBLL title.

With just under a minute remaining, Bowes took a feed from Fraser and appeared to be bottled up in the corner, but broke free to tie the score.

Bullseye earned the next possession and drew a penalty, but Evans kept the score knotted to force overtime. He also stopped the first shots of the extra frame, nearly killing off the penalty. From there, a cross-check and a retaliation penalty turned the ball over to the Blazers, who killed off the remaining man-down time and then got the Rogowski goal just before the shot clock expired.

Evans made 29 saves in the win, and shared Legit Player of the Week honors with Bowes, who scored five goals and added an assist. Rogowski had a hat trick and four points, and Fraser added four points as well. Defenders Fahey and McLaren both hit for a goal and an assist, with those uncharacteristic long rushes essential to overcoming Bullseye’s pressure defense.

Walker’s five goals led Bullseye, which got two goals and assist each from Curran and Chris Breiner, plus multi-point nights from Uppgren and Greg Lally. Chuck Jaffe made 18 stops in net for Bullseye.

Bullseye, which finished the regular season in first place for the first time in league history, had defeated the Blazers in all three of the teams’ regular-season meetings this session.

On the season, Bryce Serriello of the Minutemen led the league in goals (53) and points (63); Rogowski led the league in assists (25) while Nardella racked up 179 loose balls, which was 1 shy of being exactly double the mark of the second-place player, Bowes, who had 90 loosies. Vin Curran of Bullseye topped the league in caused turnovers with 22, and also led the league in penalties with 11, totaling 16.5 penalty minutes. Joe Evans led the league’s regular goalies with a .763 save percentage and 374 saves.

The 2016-17 season was the BBLL’s second campaign using the combined fall-winter format — instead of separate fall and winter sessions – and the Blazers have won both title games over Bullseye. A year ago, the final score was 12-10.

The Blazers have dominated the title game for five years from now, previously taking the title from Bullseye in the Winter of 2014 and the Fall of 2013, topping the MegaMen for the Winter 2015, Fall 2014 and Winter 2013 crowns, and beating the Orphans for the title in the Fall of 2012.

The BBLL has an active summer league, but the teams from its premier fall-winter season are not represented in the summer session. BBLL Summer starts in June.

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.