Hamilton Off to Best Start in Franchise History
from press release
The Hamilton Nationals are off to the best start in team history thanks to a dramatic 16-15 overtime victory over the Charlotte Hounds today at Ron Joyce Stadium. Matt Dolente's goal seven seconds into the extra session propelled Hamilton into a tie for first place in Major League Lacrosse. The Nationals (3-0) also tied their consecutive wins record after earning their third straight victory.
"What a great shot by Dolente to take that himself," said Nationals midfielder Kevin Crowley. "It takes a lot of pressure off the guys that are going to run out there on offense if he pulls that out. I think he did a great job." Dolente, who admitted this might be the first game-winner of his life, gave Hamilton its second straight one-goal win on their home turf. The goal by the Nationals' faceoff man denied Charlotte a comeback victory after they rallied for two late goals to force OT.
"I don't know if I have ever scored one. I am excited," said Dolente. "Coach always said in the huddle that if we had a transition opportunity to press it."
After winning his 16th faceoff of the game, he raced down the middle of the field and ripped a shot from 10 yards out that beat Adam Ghitleman. Dolente was one of nine goal scorers for Hamilton, who also got production from its top scorers. Joe Walters (3+2) and Stephen Keogh (4+0), fresh off back-to-back NLL titles, were a perfect fit with the likes of Crowley, Kevin Cunningham and John Austin. Crowley, who leads the team in points, chipped in two goals and two assists.
Charlotte was led by Peet Poillon (3+1+0), who scored a late two-pointer to cut the Hamilton lead to 14-13. Jovan Miller also tacked on a goal at 11:44 to pull the Hounds within one at 15-14 and Casey Cittadino tied the game at 13:03. Miller finished the game with three goals. Ghitelman made 16 saves, including one on Keogh with two minutes to play.
The Nationals came out firing with a goal just 17 seconds into the contest. That goal was the first of three straight to open the game, as Roy Lang and Crowley also connected in the first five minutes. After a Hounds' goal, Walters scored his first goal in his first game back from the Rochester Knighthawks. Crowley and Walters extended their point streaks to 18 games, one shy of tying the franchise record. Hamilton made it 5-1 on a shot from Jeremy Thompson that eluded Ghitleman at 9:06. The Nationals closed out the first ahead 5-2.
In the second, the teams reversed roles as Charlotte showcased its offense. The Hounds scored four of the first five goals to tie the game at six. Eric Lusby, who netted the second Charlotte goal, wired a shot by Evan Kirk at 6:51 to erase the Hamilton lead. Charlotte took its first lead of the game at 7:26 on a goal by Josh Amidon. Charlotte added two more goals as part of a 6-0 run to move ahead 9-6. Hamilton managed to battle back late with back-to-back goals. Lang ended the run at 13:10 with his second of the game, and Keogh added his second 48 seconds later to get Hamilton within one at 9-8.
Hamilton regained the lead in the third, opening with the first three goals. Walters struck first at 2:19 with his second of the contest to tie the game. Keogh followed with a dip-and-dunk goal to complete hat trick to give the Nats a 10-9 lead. Crowley then scored his second of the game to put Hamilton in front 11-9. The marker was his 45th as a National, and moved him into second on the team's all-time scoring list.
In the fourth, Hamilton answered an early goal by Mike Sawyer (1+2) with three of the next four goals to take a 14-11 lead. That's when Poillon struck for a two-pointer past Brent Herbst to cut the deficit to one. Herbst played the second half and earned the win, making five saves. The Hounds responded after yielding a goal by Keogh, which gave the Nats a 15-13 advantage. With the marker, Keogh tied his single-game high with his fourth of the game. The lead was not safe as Charlotte (1-3) scored two late goals to set the stage for Dolente's OT winner.
"That was a great game and a great way to win. Credit them, they were shorthanded and played tough. They are a good team," said Walters about a Charlotte team that had travel issues and had started the game one man short. "I thought we let down a few times in the game, which we can't let happen. What an awesome win."
Brodie Merrill and Jordan Hall both reached milestones this afternoon. Merrill played in his 50th game as a National, which is first on the team's all-time list, while Hall hit 50 career games.
The Nationals hit the road for four straight road games, beginning with a Thursday night contest against the Ohio Machine. The game on May 23rd is a 7:30 p.m. start and will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.