Chesapeake Bayhawks general manager and head coach Dave Cottle received difficult news this past week.
Cottle learned that star attackman Lyle Thompson would miss a majority of the season after being diagnosed with a torn labrum. Thompson sustained the injury while playing indoors for the Georgia Swarm of the National Lacrosse League.
Chesapeake announced on Friday that Thompson probably will not be able to play for at least six weeks. That means the former Albany All-American may wind up missing 10 of 14 regular season games.
Losing a dynamic playmaker and scorer the caliber of Thompson would normally be devastating, but the Bayhawks have been doing quite well without him so far this season. Steele Stanwick, Colin Heacock and Josh Byrne have comprised a quite potent attack that has helped the Bayhawks win four of their last five games.
Midfielder Myles Jones has been another key component of an offensive that has displayed outstanding chemistry in recent weeks and was really clicking on Saturday night.
Heacock continued a red-hot start to his sophomore season at the professional level by scoring three goals and assisting another to lead Chesapeake to a convincing 13-8 victory over the Ohio Machine in soggy conditons before an announced crowd of 3,154 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Byrne, the 2017 Major League Lacrosse Rookie of the Year, netted two goals as Chesapeake improved to 4-2. Jones totaled two goals and an assist for the Bayhawks, who closed out the first half on a 6-0 run to take control.
“Lyle is obviously a great player and we’re a lot better with him than without him, but we’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got. It’s got to be the next-man-up mentality,” said veteran midfielder Matt Abbott, who contributed a goal and an assist to the win.
Rookie midfielder Ian MacKay scored two goals, one of which was a crucial 2-pointer, as the Bayhawks took over sole possession of third place in Major League Lacrosse. Stanwick chipped in a goal and two assists for Chesapeake, which dominated possession and completely shut down a potent Ohio offense.
“I think we played the best first quarter we’ve played all season, and probably the best first half defensively,” Cottle said.
Goalkeeper Niko Amato notched 15 saves to anchor a suffocating defensive effort for the Bayhawks, who held the defending MLL champions scoreless for a stretch of almost 38 minutes.
Attackman Marcus Holman (Gilman School) scored unassisted with 6:23 left in the first quarter to cut the Ohio deficit to 4-2. The Machine would not find the back of the net again until midfielder Jake Bernhardt scored unassisted 57 seconds into the fourth period.
“What I was most proud of was the effort. Matt Rees ran out five shots and Niko got one. How many second-chances did we get by winning ground balls on our offensive end?” Cottle said. “We really gave great effort tonight. We weren’t beautiful, but we made a lot of effort plays.”
Cottle had been concerned about how Chesapeake would play coming off a bye week. He did not make any lineup changes in hopes of maintaining continuity after two road wins.
“Most of the teams in this league are losing off the bye. For our team to post a win after a bye is a real compliment to our players,” Cottle said.
Heacock scored twice on strong moves from behind the cage to get Chesapeake started while MacKay was the calayst of the 6-0 run. The Vermont All-American scored a power-play goal off a no-look backhand flip then fired in a 2-pointer that ignited the Bayhawks.
Abbott spotted MacKay coming onto the field all alone off a substitution and hit him in stride with a dump pass. MacKay, who made his MLL debut two weekends ago against Boston and totaled two points, reared back and ripped a left-handed shot that whizzed past Ohio goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr (Maryland), who kept his team in the game by making 18 saves.
“I thought we played very unselfishly tonight. They were sliding early to us so moving the ball quickly kept them off-balance and we were finishing out shots on the backside,” Abbott said. “Defensively, we played phenomenal. Even when the offense did make turnovers and mistakes they kept them off the board.”
Amato made seven saves in the second quarter as Chesapeake shut out Ohio. He only needed to stop three shots to hold the Machine scoreless in the third period as well.
Amato received great support from the close defense of Garrett Epple, Goran Murray and Matt Rees. Those three got assistance from long pole midfielder C.J. Costabile and short stick defenders Isaiah Davis-Allen and Mark Glicini as the Bayhawks put the clamps on the Machine.
Chesapeake let down a bit in the final frame, allowing a 5-0 run in the span of six minutes as Ohio clawed back to within 13-8. Midfielder Kyle Harrison (Johns Hopkins) fired in a 2-pointer with 4:17 remaining to make things interesting then narrowly missed another 2-pointer two minutes later.
Officials ruled that Harrison’s foot was on the arc and the Bayhawks held on to win by five.
“Unfortunately, we let up a few goals at the end. We got a little tired, a little complacent,” Jones said. “A win’s a win in this league and they all count the same.”