It didn't start pretty for the Chesapeake Bayhawks during Saturday's Major League Lacrosse semifinal at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass., but a momentum-changing string of four points in 48 seconds left the Bayhawks smiling at the end.
Kyle Dixon, the man dubbed Reggie Miller for his record-holding 28 two-point goals this season, scored back-to-back deuces in the second quarter to rally Chesapeake (11-4) past the Boston Cannons (9-6) with a 16-10 victory.
The Bayhawks will look to become the first team in MLL history to win four league titles as they take the field against the Denver Outlaws (12-3) on Sunday at 3 p.m. Chesapeake last captured the crown in 2010.
"It's a game-changer," Dixon said of the two-point goal, a non-factor in the college game. "And it got some momentum going in our direction. After that, we couldn't miss the net."
The feeling was a welcome one for a team that missed the cage completely on 10 of 17 shots taken in the opening 15 minutes.
At the opposing end, Boston was perfect. The Cannons scored on each one of their five shots in the first quarter, prompting Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle to consider removing goalie Kip Turner, who won an MLL title as a member of the Cannons a year ago.
"After the first quarter, if he didn't start making the save I was going to go to [backup T.C. DiBartolo]," Cottle said.
But Turner, much calmer after finishing the game with 14 saves, laughed it off.
"He better not have thought about yanking me," he said. "Coach tells me every day to fight. I'm going to keep fighting."
Mike Stone, who grew up in nearby Wellesley, Mass., led the way for Boston with two goals and two assists in the first half, and it wasn't until the second quarter that Chesapeake started to struggle against MLL Offensive Player of the Year Paul Rabil.
Rabil, who set the single season points record this year with 72, dished out his second assist on a slick pass that sliced through the heart of Chesapeake's defense and presented Ari Sussman with an easy finish, putting the Cannons up 7-4 with 11 minutes to go in the half.
And while Rabil continued to command defensive attention, the Bayhawks responded by ramping up the physicality. Rabil returned the favor, laying a crushing hit on Michael Kimmel which forced Rabil to spend the next 60 seconds in the penalty box.
With Boston ahead 7-5 and down a man, Chesapeake turned the tables on the defending champs.
Dixon stormed down the field and fired a two-point bullet from outside the arc to even the score, and 48 seconds later he gave the 8,090 fans at the antique stadium an instant replay. With Boston midfielder Matt Smalley backing toward his own goal, Dixon crept forward slowly before firing a quick bullet, again from two-point range, to put the Bayhawks ahead, 9-7.
"I kept watching Smalley's feet and as soon as he hit the line, I pulled up," said Dixon, whose shot has been clocked as high as 104 miles per hour, which he says isn't that fast. "I just get it off really quick. And you can see how important those two-pointers are. That's a huge swing."
Boston coach Steve Duffy said his team couldn't respond after the back-to-back goals by Nixon.
"That was a big momentum switch for them," Duffy said. "That's their game. We tried to fight through it but we weren't able to."
Turner's suddenly exceptional play between the pipes didn't help the Cannons' comeback chances. He made a point-blank save as the horn sounded to end the first half and looked like a different player in the last 30 minutes.
Ben Rubeor also found his groove in the second half, scoring five of his six goals to bury the Cannons in their own backyard.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun