If I didn’t have to work for a living I could have made it a fun two-day trip . . . the two schools that hosted are only about 3-4 miles apart . . . Go early, stop at the TB outlet store at Sawgrass, and hit IKEA too.
Hotel over night, eat a lot of stuff.
Got to know Flamingo Road well.
Oh, and watched 4 Top 25 schools at the same time!
Not quite Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my.
But Lions and Wildcats and Bucs . . . too bad Patriots doesn’t roll off the tongue.
On Thursday it was the Western Wildcats hosting the King’s Academy Lions, looking for their first win over a Top 25 ranked opponent this year, as they looked to make their own case for moving up out of the ‘also considered’ status and they certainly accomplished that.
On Friday it was the American Heritage-Plantation Patriots hosting the Benjamin Buccaneers, looking to establish their ascendancy to the Top 10 is sustainable, and they certainly accomplished that.
Two games, a short distance apart, on successive nights, once again showing the spreading parity in the growth of the game in Florida.
I look forward to the day I can maybe make road trips when the schedule aligns with the stars and lax will guide the planet and games will steer the stars. With apologies to the 5th Dimension . . .
Western took advantage of a shortened King’s Academy bench by turning the game into a track meet and wore down the visitors in the second half. Western’s offense started fast with the first 4 goals in a 3-minute period in the first. TKA grinded their way back into it and got it within one goal at halftime but the effort to get back into it is like the body punch in a boxing match . . . you don’t see it at first but the accumulative effect shows up later and the second half opened the floodgates.
Last year King’s was able to gain the one-goal win and this was a game Western had definitely circled for turnaround.
Western’s offense was led by a well-tuned combination of Jake Kalinowski (3g/4A), Michael Fox (5G/1A) and Donnie Kitchen (6G/3A) continually finding each other to the tune of 14 goals and 8 assists, with an added feature of Richackson Timothee being able to dodge from up top and convert from distance on settled situations. Timothee added 3 goals of his own on those downhill dodges and had other chances that missed the cage. It’s a dangerous combination and with the upheaval in the Dade county area Western has a path available to make noise in the bottom half of the Southeast quadrant. Coach Doug Shanahan’s third year at Western is poised to mirror Belen’s last year.
King’s was coming off their biggest game performance in program history two days earlier in their one-goal home loss to Saint Andrew’s and even with a full team would have had trouble with recapturing that emotional intensity but it would not likely have made the difference as Western pretty much hit all the buttons offensively, even in face of the turnovers, many of which were unforced. The teams combined for 52, and although statistically the game looked a lot closer than on the scoreboard, what the stats didn’t show was the shot locations. Most of King’s goals required a lot of heavy lifting while a lot of Western’s were the result of multiple passes and close in open looks. 10 of Western’s 19 goals were assisted and if hockey stats were kept most of them would have been double assisted, while King’s only had 3 assists on their 11 goals.
Both goalies actually played pretty well in the face of the quality of looks but in the end it was Western’s Patrick Grillo who made more of them and that factored into the result too.
Given the time I need to put into the District playoffs I’ll have to skip the goal by goal accounts, so apologies to the kids for that!
After the game, the two teams gathered for pictures (The Sun-Sentinel was there and covered the event) to celebrate the latest chapter of their Lace Up With Lax charity and their was a nice added touch that the king’s kids also were able to make their contributions and donations to the effort!
Way to go everyone involved!
Faceoffs: King’s 17-15
Shots: 39 each
Shots on Goal: Western 28-24
Turnovers: Western 28-24
Penalties: Western 6-4
Donnie Kitchen 6G/3A
Michael Fox 5G/1A
Jake Kalinowski 3G/4A
Richackson Timothee 3G
Colin Blocker 1G/1A
Nick Whitton 1G
Garrett Pistiner 1A
Patrick Grillo with 13 saves
Trace Hogan 4G/2A
Coby McDonald 3G
Michael Kolkana 2G/1A
Jacob Webb and Blake Hernandez with 1G each
Tommy Null with 9 saves
Thanks to both Coach Shanahan and Coach Webb for talking to me before and after the game.
American Heritage-Plantation came into this one in a position so many of the newer, rising programs have in the last few years . . . can they show their progress makes them the equal of the traditional powers in the state. Last year it was Cardinal Mooney over St. Thomas. When Oxbridge finally beat Saint Andrew’s and Ponte Vedra over LHP. It’s a difficult step mentally but it is also like graduating college.
And on Friday night the tassel on the graduation cap was moved from one side to the other.
The night started off auspiciously for Benjamin as their star FOGO, Michael Lobosco, will miss the rest of the season for the Bucs and that robbed me of a great game within the game, as he would have been facing off versus Daniel Haimes of AH-P, one of the better kept secrets in South Florida. Lobosco’s absence was felt as Haimes went 4-2 in the first period and then won the last 14 in a row and those possessions were killers in the end as it allowed AH-P to overcome 21 turnovers.
One of the reasons players from teams like Western, King’s and AH-P go under the radar is due to how many times I get to cover games that are Top 10 matchups plus the way the schedules have trended the last two seasons. Most of the schools down here have gone to a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday calendar for most games, while in the past I could pretty much find a game every day of the week I could cover. So players like Haimes, and his teammates Kadin Schillo (4G/1A), Zak Bitar (2G/3A) and Goalie Jake Marek (12 saves, including 6 of 7 shots on goal in the 4th when Benjamin threw everything at him), are just now being rolled out to a bigger audience. It was the same with the Western kids mentioned above, as well as the King’s kids, who’ve made enormous strides from last year. I used to really enjoy in past years finding those hidden gems on teams that were not necessarily serious programs and now the programs are coming to me.
Any question of AH-P being tight before this game was quelled right away as Schillo scored twice unassisted early in the game to and then EVERY other AH-P goal was assisted . . . and that is why this team is dangerous next week, when STA defends their lengthy District winning streak. They played at STA in the regular season and STA held serve 11-7. The District is at University School this year and now I have a tough choice between this and the BDDFIF.
Benjamin has struggled this year scoring against the Top 10 teams they have played and although they host their District, and already have defeated Jupiter, the Warriors have started to score in bunches again and the rematch will be tougher without their faceoff star.
So many interesting possibilities coming up this week . . .
AH-P jumped out with the first three goals and then it was Benjamin scoring twice in the last 90 seconds of the quarter to make it 3-2 after one. Two early second quarter goals reestablished the 3-goal lead but Benjamin held AH-P off the board for about 12 minutes and chipped away, finally tying it up at 5 at 10:52 of the third, but from on it was AH-P running off 4 goals in the third to take the 0-5 lead after three. The story of that run was how well the team ran their offense, as 6 players contributed either a goal or assist in that run. The EMO offense was potent for the Patriots and a key part of that run was a shorthand effort that long pole Connor Maron made, dashing 60+ yards after a turnover, setting up a wide open Skip Coolidge on the low left.
Benjamin threw everything at AH-P in the 4th, getting off 13 shots, most of them in the first 7 minutes or so, but only a Trevor Natalie individual effort found the net and late in the game it was Bitar finding Schillo for a one-timer on the crease to make it a 10-6 final.
One team on the rise and looking forward to a program-making event and another looking to regroup and see if a disappoitting season can be salvaged.
Faceoffs: AH-P 16-2
Shots: Benjamin 31-26
Shots on Goals: Benjamin 18-16
Turnovers: AH-P 21-14
Penalties: 8 each
Kadin Schillo 4G/1A
Zak Bitar: 2G/3A
Skip Coolidge and Ryan Robins with 1G/1A each
Grant Sizemore and Ethan Heim with 1G each
Connor Maron and Daniel Haymes with 1A each
Jake Marek with 12 saves
Trevor Natalie 2G
Chase Farriss 1G/2A
AJ Levitt, Rigby Peckham and Eric Sorenson with 1G each
Bryce Kendrigan with 6 saves
Thanks to both Coach Moore and Coach Cordrey for talking to me before and after the game