CCBC-Essex picked a bad time to run into a hot goalie.
The Knights' offense had been on a roll, averaging nearly 19 goals in their previous six games. But Herkimer County (N.Y.) Community College's Brett Queener's spectacular performance yesterday ended the Knights' dreams of winning a second straight national title.
Queener made 20 saves, from a variety of angles and with several parts of his body, and Herkimer ran off seven consecutive second-half goals to rally for a 10-5 victory over host CCBC-Essex in the National Junior College Athletic Association title game.
Second-seeded Herkimer (17-2) gained revenge for last year's 17-16 overtime loss to Essex in the championship game in winning its second national crown in three seasons.
Essex (11-4), the No. 4 seed, was trying to become the first Maryland school to win back-to-back titles, but couldn't solve Queener.
The combination of the goalie's acrobatic stops, ability to throw 50-yard clearing passes with ease and the speed with which he occasionally ran through the Essex defense proved too much for the Knights.
In addition, Essex committed an unusually high number of turnovers that kept its offense from finding any rhythm and helped Herkimer turn a 4-3 deficit into a 10-4 lead.
"Their goalie just made great saves," said Essex's Jonathan Beard. "We [also] had some stupid mistakes, and they capitalized on them."
Queener made 11 saves in the first half, keeping the Generals in the game, as Essex had a number of good scoring chances and held that 4-3 lead at the break. The Knights appeared to be gaining control with strong defense and a patient offense.
But Herkimer took command after the break. The Generals scored three quick goals early in the period to take a 6-4 lead.
Herkimer offensive MVP Adam Zuder-Havens (two goals, three assists) tied the game at 4 with a leaping, 10-yard shot with 13:38 left in the quarter, and then an odd bounce helped the Generals.
After an Essex shot clanged off the crossbar and bounced out about 15 yards. Herkimer got the loose ball and quickly turned it into a fast break that Rob Renetta finished for a 5-4 lead with 12:03 left in the period. The Generals quickly won the ensuing faceoff, and Jedd Gardner scored 13 seconds later.
"That was the way the ball bounced today," Essex coach Brian Duncan said. "Last year, the ball bounced our [way]."
Zach Heyl gave Herkimer a 7-4 lead with an extra-man goal with 6:34 remaining in the quarter, and Queener, the defensive MVP, then made a big stop about 90 seconds later.
Beard (one goal, two assists) got the ball alone in front and made three fakes before firing a shot that Queener kicked away.
The Knights didn't score again until Matt Healey (one goal, one assist) recorded a goal with 1:02 left -- moments after Queener left.
Queener played at Penn State before running into academic problems. He was energized by finding out over the weekend about his 3.5 GPA. "Our defense played great, and I was just seeing the ball," Queener said. "I didn't want to lose this game."
Chad Henry (two goals, one assist) and Derek Franzen (two goals) also helped Herkimer. Adam Wade, Andy Bishop and Jim Kleb each contributed a goal for Essex.
CCBC-Essex 2 2 0 1 -- 5
Herkimer 3 0 4 3 -- 10
Goals: E--Wade, Bishop, Beard, Kleb, Healey; H--Zuder-Havens 2, Henry 2, Franzen 2, Butler, Renetta, Gardner, Heyl. Assists: E--Beard 2, Healey; H--Zuder-Havens 3, Henry, Renetta, Burton, Butler, Spinelli. Saves: E---Sadtler 15; H--Queener 20.