Fleming Island survived a scare from Mandarin, escaping with a 6-5 District 8 Semifinal win over the host Mustangs thanks to two goals each from Danny Schreiber and Hayden LaVangie. This game did not remotely resemble Fleming Island’s 15-3 pasting of the Mustangs just twelve days ago. In the April 3 game, the Golden Eagles shut Mandarin out in the first half while grabbing an 8-0 lead and played the second half on cruise control. Tuesday night, the Golden Eagles fell behind early, got their offense in gear for the second quarter, and mostly stalled out in the second half. Still, a late goal by Schreiber and three crucial saves by Ryan Kelly saved the day. Fleming Island coach Jeff LaVangie was undaunted. “We showed character,” said LaVangie. “Though Mandarin got the momentum, I’m pleased with how we fought back at the end and did not let the wall come crashing down.” Fleming Island won the opening faceoff and fired off five shots before losing possession, but it was the Mustangs who scored first. Attack Casey Connell beat his man around the right side of the Golden Eagle goal and fired a high shot past Kelly. Fleming Island tied the game on a bounce shot from defenseman Beau Yarbrough from the right wing, and took a 2-1 lead with 1:11 left in the first quarter when Hayden LaVangie drove toward the goal from behind, and when closed upon, threaded a quick pass to Schreiber for the finish. When LaVangie scored two unassisted goals to give Fleming Island a 4-1 lead early in the second period, the Golden Eagles were on the verge of pulling away. But the Mustangs, who were outshot 21-8 in the first half, hung close thanks to goaltender Brent Gordon, who made 13 saves. A goal just seven seconds before halftime by freshman Aaron Adams, who took advantage of a Fleming Island turnover in front of the Golden Eagles goal, gave Mandarin an emotional lift that carried into the second half.
Mandarin applied most of the pressure in the third and fourth quarters as senior Jonathon Dister, the Mustang’s leading scorer coming into the game, came alive. Dister scored three goals over the final 24 minutes, one by beating a Golden Eagles double-team and one off of a nifty feed from Connell between three defenders, to pull the Mustangs within one. Mandarin possessed the ball for 2:21 of the final 2:31, firing off five shots, but Kelly came up with three clutch saves and ran out the game’s final seconds with the ball in the corner of the field to preserve the win. “Kelly played really well,” Jeff LaVangie said of his sophomore keeper. Schreiber scored perhaps the most critical goal for Fleming Island, faking a high shot before calmly depositing the ball into the net at knee level to provide much-needed insurance with 8:05 remaining. Schreiber found himself open when teammate Isaac Funyak beat his man on a drive toward the cage, forcing Schreiber’s man to slide over. Sam Barrington notched the Golden Eagles’ other goal. Fleming Island, now 9-5 and winners of six of their last seven games, moves on to Thursday’s district championship game against Jacksonville Bolles, also at Mandarin at 4:00 p.m. The game is a rematch of the Bulldogs’ 5-4 win over the Golden Eagles in March. “If our defense plays like it did tonight, it will be a very even game,” LaVangie said of Thursday’s game. “Bolles will be ready to play.” Mandarin ends its season at 10-8.