Author’s Note: I’ll get this out of the way early . . . after the game a Columbus player let his emotions get the best of him and took a brief run at a Western player. Those inclined can find the video on Facebook. It didn’t take away from the absolutely fabulous lacrosse game but it’s very important to understand the concept of winning with class and losing with it too. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, and nothing came out of it but we’ve seen enough of this already.
I should also note that for those who like to call out referees from the stands . . . I can guarantee you this is one game you would not have wanted to referee. This was a track meet from start to finish and about 99% of us off the field would have been carried away if you had to keep up with this one. I thought the referees were outstanding Friday night in a very difficult game to call.
Okay, on to the game!
Not a lot of downtime. After the game I turned to our photographer and said, this one will take me a lot of time to write up.
For good reason.
Western jumped out quickly and led 5-1 early in the second, only to see Columbus rally back in the quarter before Western scored the last two in the half. The teams swapped EIGHT goals in the last 5+ minutes of the quarter. And it didn’t stop there. Goals were grouped, with traded runs.
But in the end, it was Western reeling off four of the last five goals of the game to capture the hard-fought 15-11 win at Columbus on Friday night in front of a loud and boisterous crowd of fans. It was quite an atmosphere. A little over the top at times (someday it will finally set in that players do NOT hear the yells from the stands about how to play but that will not likely occur until 2027 or so . . .) but not overly so. Mostly the type of cheering and yelling you would expect from a game that had so many twists and turns, with so much on the line.
It was a game of opposites in some ways. 26 goals scored, but it took NINETY-SEVEN shot attempts with SIXTY hitting the net . . . which means the goalies were pretty darn good. Western’s Patrick ‘Kentucky’ Grillo (16 saves/59%) and Columbus’ Max Gomez (18 saves/54.5%) both stepped up big. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, MOST of the shots they saved were IN CLOSE and not easy. Both deserved whatever dinner they were treated to the next night. One area of the game were a difference was made was at the faceoff dot as Western’s Garret Pistiner went 68% for the game and that certainly played a big role in the outcome of the game.
As in the King’s game I covered, Western’s offense revolved around the trio of Michael Fox, Jake Kalinowski and Donnie Kitchen, who combined for 11 goals. Middie Richackson Timothee was held a little more in check in this one but Alec Marinelli stepped up and filled that extra scoring role, with 3G/1A. What was a little different is that there was a lot more dodging and unassisted goals, as Western was able to take their defenders out further on the wings and consistently beat the defender to space in front and finish.
Columbus was led by Carlos Roca and Kyle Alexander with 7 goals between them as Patrick Valerius was focused on more by the slide packages. Columbus was very effective on the fast break and particularly the late trailer who found space in the middle to get open looks. Diego Ucros also got into the action on the break and scored the #SCTop10 goal of the night from in tight.
Another interesting thing was that the defenses played pretty well too. No one really had a bad game. Clears were spotty at times but that was as much the hustle of the ride and the pressing of the back line, and that was when Columbus was able to work the trailing break well. It might be fun for the teams to post the full game on YouTube over the summer for everyone to see . . . this one was very much worth the price of admission!
Western started fast, taking the 2-0 lead 2 minutes into the game. Kitchen curled to right GLE and found Fox cutting back door in front at 10:16 to gain the lead and that was followed 17 seconds later with Timothee gaining his own rebound in front and finishing. Kalinowski split dodged from the top left towards the middle and his right hand hit the top left at 3:26 for 3-0. Columbus got on the board at 1:47 with Valerius taking the re-start in the left corner and beating his defender to the net for the low shot but after a late turnover Fox took the skip pass from Marinelli on the right wing for the laser to the top left corner with 6 seconds left to make it 4-1 after one.
Western made it 5-1 at 9:16 as Fox took advantage of a turnover and beat his defender to goal from the right wing to finish in front. Columbus answered twice to cut it to 5-3. Alexander beat his defender from left behind to the crease for the low shot at 8:14 and at 5:07, on EMO, he found Roca from left GLE to top left for the step down to the low left corner. Western replied 25 seconds later with a Marinelli right wing shot (sorry, missed the passer) for 6-3, only to have Columbus run off 3 goals in 78 seconds to tie it up at 6. At 4:04 it was Roca picking off the clear 40-yards from goal and firing into the open net from there. At 3:12 it was Roca finishing off one of the fast breaks mentioned above, taking the Jean Paul Ojeda feed and at 3:12 it was Ucros finishing off a similar break from the Alexander feed.
Western responded quickly with 2 goals in 30 seconds, as Fox converted the right wing dodge, getting under the defender to finish from the crease at 2:31 and Timothee finding Kitchen cutting down the middle from the right alley for 8-6. Of course, there was a response as Alexander closed it to 8-7 with 18 seconds in the half as he bounced one home on a right alley dodge to end the frantic 5 minutes with Western leading 8-7 at the half.
At 7:53 in the third it was tied again, as Columbus took advantage on EMO as Valerius found Alexander on left wing from top left for the high short side finish. Western again responded twice later in the period, with Fox dodging from right wing to the middle at 3:39 and 14 seconds later, on EMO, Fox took the Kitchen left wing pass top middle for the low left hand shot and the 10-8 lead. Columbus’ Roca got one back at 2:34, going right alley from up top for the low shot that took the game to the fourth with Western clinging to the one goal lead.
The pace didn’t exactly slack off early in the fourth either. 18 seconds in and Kalinowski scored during a 5 on 5, as he worked the left wing, spun right and hit top middle of the cage. Just 15 seconds later Ucros made that highlight play to bring it back within one and at 10:35 it was again Kalinowski, this time face-dodging from left GLE to the crease for the low to high shot and 12-10. The teams traded possessions (27 shots in the fourth alone!) and both goalies came up big, but at 5:19 Western stretched it to a 3-goal lead as Marinelli cut from left GLE and Kitchen found him from left behind for the top left shot. Then with 2:42 left Western took advantage of one more EMO to put the game away as a clearing attempt by Columbus was turned into Fox’s 6th into the open net off the Kalinowski feed. Another fast break by Columbus at 2:09, with Manuel Eboli converting from Valerius was too late and Kalinowski closed it out with 30 seconds left, with Western earning the hard fought road win.
Next up for Western is Gulliver Prep, in Miami, for the right to play the Saint Andrew’s/St. Thomas Aquinas survivor, with the winner of the former gaining the home field advantage for the regional final. Clearly Western’s best season in program history and there might well be more to come. For Columbus, kind of the type of end to the season you would expect, given the turmoil they fought through to get to this point. A number of key players return for them next season.
Faceoffs: Western 17-8
Shots: Western 49-48
Shots on Goal: Western 33-27
Turnovers: Western 19-18
Penalties: Columbus 9-8
Michael Fox 6G
Jake Kalinowski 4G/1A
Alec Marinelli 3G/1A
Donnie Kitchen 1G/3A
Richackson Timothee 1G/1A
Patrick Grillo with 16 saves
Carlos Roca 4G
Kyle Alexander 3G/2A
Diego Ucros 2G
Patrick Valerius 1G/2A
Manuel Eboli 1G
Jean Paul Ojeda 1A
Max Gomez with 18 saves
Thanks to Coach Shanahan and Coach Morrissey for talking to me before and after the game. It was also fun to talk to some of the Columbus assistants, who reminisced about the 2013 season and their run to the Final Eight back then!