April 28, 2012

Hopkins Ends Loyola's Bid for Perfect Season

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com
Live Blog Replay

BALTIMORE -- Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala was the picture of exhausted relief following a gutsy act of survival by the Blue Jays on Saturday. Finally, after excruciating, back-to-back losses that tested the confidence of a once-top-ranked team that suddenly could not score, visiting No. 10 Hopkins had found a path to victory, in this case a 10-9 thriller over top-ranked Loyola.

Beating previously-unbeaten Loyola, the Blue Jays' neighborhood rival, before 6,000 fans at the sold-out Ridley Athletic Complex, made it taste sweeter. But for Hopkins, winning in any fashion -- in this case, with a dramatic, game-winning goal by midfielder Rob Guida with 2.3 seconds remaining in overtime -- eased the April pain for the Blue Jays.

"We finally made a play," Pietramala said. "We couldn't seem to do that going back to the Maryland game [on April 14]. I feel like Maryland beat us twice. We were hung over from it [in last week's 8-2 loss at unranked Navy].

"Loyola is the real deal. They know how they want to play, and they know who they want to do things with. We got caught up in their style of play a little bit. We made some unintelligent decisions at times.

"But we had our best week of practice all season, and we had a lot of fight today."

On a chilly, overcast day, Loyola (12-1) and Hopkins (10-3) engaged in entertainment that was as sloppy in stretches as it was physical, and was full of fast-break excitement and outstanding goalie play.

The game featured a Hopkins offense that, after producing a combined three goals over its previous 90 minutes in losses to Maryland and Navy, found its stride by taking a 5-0 second-quarter lead. And it featured a Loyola team that, following a terribly slow, turnover-prone start, roared back with a stirring fourth-quarter comeback highlighted by four unanswered goals to force overtime.

In the end, Hopkins answered the call, and the Blue Jays needed a razor-close miss by the Greyhounds to aid them. First, after Loyola attackman Justin Ward sent the home crowd into euphoria by tying the score at 9-9 with five seconds left in regulation, Greyhounds attackman Eric Lusby slipped into the heart of the Hopkins defense, took a perfect feed from Sawyer, and sent a 10-yard rocket off the left post with 2:20 left in overtime.

Johns Hopkins midfielder Rob Guida celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime that gave the Blue Jays a 10-9 victory over previously unbeaten Loyola.

That allowed the Blue Jays, who had committed 11 second-half turnovers to help Loyola's cause, to settle in with a last-shot plan. And the shot unfolded in an unlikely manner.

Greyhounds defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins checked the ball out of Blue Jays midfielder John Ranagan's stick on the right wing with about 10 seconds left. Palmer picked up the loose ball about 10 yards from the cage near the goal line.

As Loyola's defense regrouped, Guida slipped into the crease area, flashed open, and Palmer hit him with a low line-drive pass. Guida tipped the ball between Loyola goalie Jack Runkel's legs. Game over.

"I kind of one-timed [the shot] in. Luckily, it trickled in," said Guida, who completed the first hat trick of his career. "I was able to lose [a defender] for a second, and Zach made a great look."

"I think [the Greyhounds] kind of looked at the ball for a split second [and lost containment inside]. I saw the head of Rob's stick in there and went for it," said Palmer, who snapped a recent scoring slump with two goals and two assists.

"There was a pass from my left into the crease, but I didn't see the ball when it passed through the crease," said Runkel, who finished with 14 saves. "I never saw it go through my legs."

It was a fittingly wild way to end a wild contest that included a combined 31 turnovers and a never-ending battle over tempo. Hopkins, which also got two goals apiece from midfielders Lee Coppersmith and Mark Goodrich, tried successfully to be more deliberate early. Loyola, which had seven different players score and got two each from Lusby and midfielder David Butts, constantly tried to force the action with its up-and-down style, and got its way in the second half.

In the end, it was kind of a wash. Loyola senior J.P. Dalton won 14 of 23 faceoffs, yet Hopkins out-shot the Greyhounds 40-28. And with the exception of a fast-break goal by defensive midfielder Pat Laconi that pulled the Greyhounds to within 9-8 with 3:04 left in the fourth quarter, Loyola failed to generate offense from its transition defense, as long stick midfielder Scott Ratliff and Hawkins went a combined 0-for-6.

Two of those misses were painful for Hawkins. He hit the crossbar on a fast break with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter. Then, with just over a minute left in regulation, Hawkins sent a wicked, 12-yarder off the helmet of Blue Jays goalie Pierce Bassett. It would prove to be Bassett's ninth and final save.

Two things espelled Loyola's demise. First, in an excellent battle between probable first-team All-Americans, Hopkins close defenseman Tucker Durkin shut down Loyola attackman Mike Sawyer, who entered the game with 40 goals but scored just once against Durkin. That goal cut the Hopkins lead to 7-4 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

Second, Loyola committed four second-half fouls, and Hopkins cashed in twice on goals by Goodrich and Guida, who gave the Blue Jays a 9-5 cushion with 14:13 left in the fourth, following an unnecessary roughness penalty on Dalton.

As it turned out, Hopkins would require every bit of that cushion to escape with its 13th consecutive win over the Greyhounds and its 47th in the 50-game series.

"We had the run we were looking for the whole game," said Ward, who came from behind the net, leaned in and barely beat Hopkins defender Gavin Crisafulli to send the game into overtime. "It's just unfortunate."

"[Hopkins] jumped on us and out-hustled us early. We lost our composure a little bit," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey. "We haven't been in a position of a lot of adversity. We had to re-energize our team at halftime. I like how we responded."

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