Senior attackman Rob Bailey was the best player on the field last night, as he showed early in the fourth quarter, when Navy needed him the most against its fiercest rival.
Thirty-eight seconds into the final period, Bailey broke an 11-minute scoreless drought by the Midshipmen, stopped Army's best rally of the evening, and sparked Navy to a 13-11 victory over the Cadets before 6,235 chilled spectators at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The victory, the third straight by No. 12 Navy (5-2) over Army (1-4), brought mixed feelings to Navy coach Ritchie Meade. He spent four seasons as Army's offensive coordinator, before taking over in Annapolis this year.
"We obviously don't want to lose. I'm close to this team now," Meade said. "But the Army guys are some of my guys. I know how much it hurts in the other locker room. I feel very humble. I feel good that we won, but I feel for my opponent because I have great respect for them."
Meade feels good today because Bailey played like a team captain should, and his defense stopped a third-quarter Army surge by holding the Cadets scoreless for nearly the last 21 minutes of the contest.
Bailey, who led the Midshipmen with three goals and three assists, scored his biggest goal after Navy had blown a 10-7 lead by allowing three unanswered goals midway through the third period. Brian Pavlick tied the score at 10 with 5:32 left in the period.
From there, Navy's defense went to work, and Bailey got the Midshipmen's offense untracked with an outstanding goal. With Army defenseman Brendan Sheehan hanging on his right arm, Bailey rolled to his left along the crease and sent a left-handed shot past goalie Travis Loving to give Navy an 11-10 lead.
"I was fortunate that the goalie was hanging near the pipe. I don't think he saw the shot," Bailey said. "It was important to get that first goal in the fourth quarter. They rallied in the third quarter, but everybody stepped up tonight. It's a huge, traditional game, and it's great to win it in this stadium."
After Bailey's goal, Navy goalie Garrett Luebker (nine saves) made a great save with 11:30 to go, and attackman Charles Bertrand (three goals) converted the Midshipmen's third, extra-man goal with 8:58 left to extend Navy's lead to 12-10.
Army, tiring noticeably, then committed five turnovers, before the Midshipmen clinched the victory when midfielder Charles Costello scooped up a loose ball in close and scored with 2:32 left.