It turned out to be quite a week for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse.
It shaped up to be challenging from the outset with the Bayhawks playing two games in the span of three days with 1,600 miles separating the two sites.
Factor in weather delays that caused both contests to become marathons and you will understand why the Chesapeake players are looking forward to resting on Sunday.
Thursday night’s game at Denver was delayed three different times due to a pregame hailstorm and in-game thunderstorms and took almost five hours to complete. Saturday night’s home game was a virtual repeat with numerous lightning strikes in the Annapolis area leading to a two-hour halftime break.
The Bayhawks were more than happy to wait out the weather in order to complete a revenge victory over the Atlanta Blaze.
Standout attackman Lyle Thompson continued his sensational season by amassing eight points as Chesapeake beat Atlanta, 16-13, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Thompson, the leading scorer in the MLL, totaled five goals and three assists to increase his season point total to 33 in just five games.
“I’m just trying to play my game. Our coaches have really allowed me to do that. They have shown a lot of confidence in me and given me the freedom to make plays,” Thompson said. “Coach has told me to be aggressive and take advantage of the defenders that are covering me. I’ve been using my athleticism to run by defenders.”
Rookie midfielder Andrew Kew scored four goals while veteran attackman Steele Stanwick (Loyola Blakefield) contributed two goals and an assist for Chesapeake (3-2), which never trailed in the game.
Midfielders Matt Abbott and Colton Watkinson added a goal and assist apiece as the Bayhawks got payback after being routed by the Blaze, 19-10, in their home opener last Saturday night.
“It was a tough week. We had two games with delays. We had guys in and guys out of the lineup. It was a tough week, but we kept fighting,” Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle said.
“We needed this win. You want to say one game doesn’t make a difference, but this win does make a difference. It was important to get back on track,” Cottle added. “I feel like we’re improving. Atlanta got after us last time. We came out and played much better this time.”
A big factor in the first meeting was the loss of Chesapeake faceoff specialist Kenny Massa, who suffered a concussion early in the first quarter. Massa missed Thursday night’s game against Denver, but returned Saturday night and made a big difference.
Massa captured 18 of 32 faceoffs to neutralize Atlanta’s Alex Woodall, a rookie out of Towson University and St. Mary’s High.
Close defenseman Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland), who also missed Thursday night’s game, had four ground balls and three caused turnovers Saturday while holding high-scoring attackman Tom Palasek to one goal.
Rookie attackman Brendan Sunday, a Towson University product, led Atlanta (3-2) with three goals and two assist.
“This win was huge. It helps us a lot to know we are able to finish off a game,” Thompson said. “We had been struggling to put together four periods. We’re still working to do that, but at least tonight we were able to finish strong.”
An all-out brawl combined with multiple lightning strikes caused the contest to be delayed several times.
Chesapeake led 5-3 with 10:20 remaining in the second quarter when tempers flared and things got ugly. Midfielder Ryan Keenan of the Bayhawks delivered a high check to a member of the Blaze and that brought retaliation.
Every player on the field got involved with the fight and there were pockets of players squaring off and throwing punches. Just as it appeared calmer heads had prevailed, Chesapeake defender Warren Jeffrey and Atlanta attackman Randy Staats threw down the gloves and began bare-knuckle battling with their helmets off as well.
It took officials almost 20 minutes to sort things out as confusion reigned and both coaches demanded explanations. When the smoke cleared, Staats and Jeffrey had both been ejected while multiple players from both sides had received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
When play resumed, Chesapeake had possession with a four-on-three situation and Stanwick scored easily from the doorstep.
The Bayhawks won the ensuing faceoff and Stanwick scored again just 38 seconds later, beating Blaze goalie Chris Madalon one-one-one from point-blank range when it was a five-on-four advantage.
Thompson scored two goals and had three assists as the Bayhawks took a 10-8 lead into intermission. Kew had a hat trick in the first quarter, scoring all three goals off sidearm crank shots from the right wing.
Thunderstorms moved into the area just as the teams left the field for halftime and numerous lightning strikes that were visible from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium led to a lengthy delay.
Some fans waited on the concourse for considerable time hoping the game would resume soon, but eventually even the hardiest headed for the parking lots. There were about two dozen fans in the stands when the game concluded around 11 p.m.
Chesapeake was clinging to a 14-13 lead late when it got a big defensive stop to prevent Atlanta from tying. Midfielder Nick Mariano then dodged down the right alley and shot on the run, beating Madalon off-side hip to give the Bayhawks some breathing room with 3:10 left.