Above photo photo by Enstone Images
With the defending state champs struggling this season at an uncharacteristic 8-8 and without their starting goalie, Austin Farwell (concussion) or face off guy, Kyle Brown (knee) this looked like the best chance Bishop Moore has had in a few years to advance past their district foe.
For the first twenty-four minutes that is how it looked like it would play out.
Will Stricker led a Bishop Moore offense that looked like they were unstoppable. Sticker’s shooting was on point. He picked up a ground ball at midfield and went straight to the goal for one. He took a pass from teammate Robbie Bennett for another and Bennett added one of his own for an early 3-0 lead.
On the third goal the Highlanders were flagged for a cross check adding insult to early injury. But, in what would be come a pattern for LHP when the chips were down, they won the face off and Christian Cisneros scored short-handed to bring it to 3-1.
After each team traded a couple of turnovers the Highlanders got the ball and moved right into their offense. After a short possession Lukas Kott made a great bounce shot to make it 3-2 with 7:08 left in the first. One and a half minutes later Cisneros made a great inside pass to James Stine who made a nifty finish on the doorstep to tie it up with 5:29 remaining in the first quarter.
With just over three minutes left Bishop Moore’s freshman defender Jackson Canfield made a great take away and the ball ended up int he stick of Christian DiPaolo who gave the Hornets a 4-3 lead with 3:08 left in the first with a nice low shot to the far post.
A face off violation gave it back to BMC and Joey McKenna would eventually find Jake Kieffer inside afor another before the end of the quarter to give the Hornets a 5-3 advantage at the end of one.
Despite a face off win the second quarter started shaky for the Highlanders. They were forced to spend an early timeout to avoid a turnover but then turned it over anyway after the time out. This led to another goal for Will Sticker who got his hat trick with 10:34 left in the half making it 6-3.
A few seconds later LHP found themselves man down with a locked in penalty. However, once again, LHP got the ball back and scored man-down to bring the score to 6-4. They got the ball back after the face off and called their second time out.
After killing much of the penalty LHP finally gave up the ball but with short time left to take advantage Bishop Moore is flagged for a slash and the rest of the advantage was negated.
Despite some tough defense the Hornets were able to put together one of the few long possessions either team had in this game until Michael Brauman was able to find Stricker for his fourth goal of the game to make it 7-4 with 7:18 left in the half.
A nice save by Bishop Moore’s Andrew Owens turned in another good possession by the Hornets and Robbie Bennett scored on a nice bouncer off of a pass from Parker Blystone to make it 8-4.
A short EMO for Lake Highland had just expired when Ethan Carpenter found Cisneros who made it 8-5 with 3:44 left in the first half.
The next :34 seconds were wild as both teams traded turnovers and the action went back and forth. Finally LHP put it on the ground right at midfield and Stricker found Brauman for the 9th Bishop Moore goal of the half. Bishop Moore wasn’t done yet and with 1:05 left in the first half they made it 10-5 as DiPaolo made an fantastic pass to Kiefer and the freshman added another to give the Hornets a 10-5 lead going into half time.
Bishop Moore’s first half shooting was spot on as nearly every shot was on cage and they were efficient with the ball. Turnovers were the story of the first half for the Highlanders. Although they had a solid advantage in face off wins they had turned it over 17 times in the first half. If they were to get back in the game that was going to have to improve.
Michael Fess took over the goal tending duties for the LHP in the second half but he was tested early as the hot hand of Will Stricker continued and he scored his fifth goal of the game on a pass from Brauman to make it 11-5.
Then Lake Highland started playing like the champs. They put together a great possession and a barrage of shots. Some just off the mark and others turned away by Owens. Finally, Christian Cisneros stuck one just under his arm on the near post to make it 11-6 with 7:18 left in the third.
The following face off was sent back to the Fess in the LHP goal who found face off man Brandon Mintzer and he sprinted end to end and buried one to make it 11-7 getting that LHP sideline pumped up and that is a dangerous thing.
The Highlanders came right back again as Ethan Carpenter took it unassisted on an alley dodge and the Highlanders were back in it at 11-8 with 6:27 left in the third and Bishop Moore called a time out to try and regroup and stop the LHP momentum.
Lake Highalnd wasn’t about to let that happen, however, and just 13 ticks of the clock later and Jackson Colling got his first goal of the night to make it 11-9 with 6:14 on the clock.
Christian DiPaolo was able to stop the the run at four goals when he made an excellent move into the middle and got a good shot off from a great angle to make it 12-9 with 3:03 left in the quarter.
The third quarter was played at a blistering pace as LHP was able to impose their fast, scrambling, style of play. They out shot Bishop Moore 12-8 and only committed four turnovers.
The intensity continued into the fourth quarter when at 10:49 Lucas Kott did it unassisted with a great outside shot to make it 12-10 at 10:49.
The Highlanders were flagged for an illegal body check and with two man down goals in the game already and momentum on their side I had to wonder how this was going to work out for the Bishop Moore extra man unit.
Lake Highland brought serious pressure with the man down team but Stricker got off a huge shot that rang the post and sent the ricochet nearly into the stands. His second shot found the twine, however and it was 13-10 Bishop Moore with 9:47 left in the game.
Right off the face off Lake Highland’s Buck Daley found Jack Phillips to close the gap once again and make it 13-11 with 9:39 left.
A holding call on Bishop Moore gave the Highlanders an extra man opportunity and Jack Phillips took a pass from James Stine and brought them to within a single goal with 8:45 remaining.
Bishop Moore’s freshman, Jake Kiefer, saw an opening and made a hard dodge underneath his defender and made the shot to stretch it back out to a two goal lead at 14-12 with 7:35 left in the game.
Bishop Moore was flagged for off sides and LHP took advantage as Jack Vaughan took a pass from Cisneros and with 6:07 left in the game it was 14-13. Moments later Phillips tied the game at 14 and the Higlanders looked like they were not going to be stopped.
In a strange moment that left LHP’s Jack Phillips injured on the field and a slashing call against the Highlanders as well, Bishop Moore found themselves with another EMO chance. While Phillips was able to walk off the field it did not look good.
The EMO could not have gone any worse for Bishop Moore as the LHP man down team forced a turnover and scored their third man down goal of the evening to take the lead. With 2:35 left in the game Lukas Kott added another to make it 16-14 and you could feel it slipping away from the Hornets for good.
Carpenter scored for LHP as he drove from the corner getting a step on his man and he drew the late flag on the play, giving LHP the ball and the EMO. Cisneros scored a late goal to ice the game for the Highlanders on a play that typified the second half. On a wild loose ball scramble both teams playing hard the ball just bounced up out of the crowd right into his stick. He sprinted to the cage and made a great finish.
The game would finish at 18-14. It’s important to note that this was not a collapse by Bishop Moore. They played well, only turning the ball over a handful of times during the great comeback by the Highlanders. This was the defending Champs with their backs against the wall, deciding they weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
Some of the things that have plagued this team through out the season were not a problem in this game. With F/O man, Kyle Brown, out for the Highlanders last night senior captain Brandon Mintzer got the job done with Jackson Colling doing a great job at the X as well. When I saw this group play early in the season they leaned hard on Colling to carry the offense. Last night nine different LHP players scored goals. With Austin Farwell out for this game Michael Fess stepped in and played a great second half for the Highlanders and got the job done.
Coach Spaulding was happy to see his guys step up. “Their backs were against the wall and they knew the season was on the line and we saw a lot of different guys step up…the sidelines were rocking. It was cool to see our guys come together, stick together, not give up, and just kind of grind through some tough moments.”
He knew they had just gotten past a quality opponent in Bishop Moore. “That other team played great. Hats off to them. The coaching staff and players alike. Stricker was shooting the ball lights out. They were grinding out ground balls all over the place and playing hard. They really outplayed us in the first half.”
“We talked to our guys at halftime about just winning the next 24 minutes. Brandon Mintzer, our senior captain, really stepped up and our man down team did great. We scored three man down goals, only gave up two man down goals, and we scored a couple man up. Those are areas that have really been trouble spots for us and I told the guys I was really concerned about the man up/man down situation coming into this game….and they proved me wrong.”
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. The Highlanders travel to Apopka for the next round. Apopka avenged an 11-6 regular season loss to West Orange and won the District 11 title with a 7-6 victory on Thursday night. The winner of that game takes on the winner of the Timber Creek vs Hagerty game.