CORNING, N.Y. -- As advertised, the Essex-Herkimer lacrosse game yesterday proved to be a high-scoring, intense matchup for the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association championship.
In the end at Corning War Memorial Stadium, the Herkimer Generals successfully defended their title with a 17-11 win over the Knights. Herkimer finished 16-0 overall and 13-0 in the NJCAA. The seniors on the squad have never lost in their careers at Herkimer Community College -- a 35-0 mark.
Herkimer took the lead 17 seconds into the game on a goal by David Signor -- the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
With 42 seconds left in the first period and Essex leading 3-2, Herkimer attackman Peter Colburn tied the score with a close-range shot that had been deflected off Essex goalie Stanley Rote.
Rote then held off a fierce Herkimer attack in the final seconds to keep the score tied after one period.
"The game was very intense," said Signor, a midfielder who scored three goals. "I knew it would be a fast-paced and high-scoring affair."
Essex started the second period with five straight goals in four minutes, a flurry that included a great diving goal by Thornton with 9:08 left in the period. The Generals, down 8-3, rebounded with five straight goals, including an incredible shot by Alexis Arguello, who was pushed as he scored.
"It was a big gut check for us in the second period," attackman Erik Merkel said. "Essex came out and put us down 8-3 early. We were not worried -- we knew that there was a lot of time left and that anything could happen. Everyone just pulled together in the second half."
With the score tied at 8 at the start of the third period, both goalies came on strong. Rote made 25 saves in the game, and Herkimer goalie Alex Rosier, a member of the 1993 all-tournament team, had 20.
"We were doing everything we had to do to win the game in the first half," Essex coach Tim Puls said. "Rote is the best goalie in the country, no doubt. We just did not control the tempo in the second half."
Herkimer took the lead in the third period on a goal by defenseman Michael Joyce. Herkimer outscored Essex 9-3 in the final two periods.
Essex, which finished 12-1 overall and 8-1 in the NJCAA, was led by Rife Hilgartner's two goals and two assists.