Kevin M. Neibauer
LaxPhilly- A Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network.
In an absolutely thrilling Final, the Sea Spray have been crowned as the Inaugural Champions on the Arena League West.
Not just the teams but, the players had fans in awe of some of the performances.
How good was this series? The Grizzlies took Game One, 9-8 when Steve McKinlay notched the game winner with just :33 to play.
The Sea Spray rebounded to take the second game and tie the series with a Sudden Life Overtime goal from John Hofseth just :59 in.
“Not a lot of times in sports do you get a redo. Today we had a redo. Let’s figure out what went wrong yesterday and let’s fix it,” Sea Spray Coach, Russ Heard.
The outcome resulted in a 15:00 mini game to determine a Champion.
Keegan Bell won it for the Sea Spray, 2-1 on a “oh by the way” shot that found it’s way to the net with 65 seconds remaining.
Bell was simply attempting to get a reset but fortune was shining on the Sea Spray.
“It was all about trying to get a reset. We knew it was crunch time … just trying to get a reset off the pads. Luckily my stick saw more than I did, and it found the back of the net If I am being completely honest, I didn’t even see it go in. I saw the (Grizzlies) fans put their hands on their heads so I figured it went in.” Bell spoke candidly.
So, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s discover how it got to that
Game Two ..Opening Quarter
It what amounted to a must win for the Sea Spray, they came out a bit sluggish and found themselves behind the eight Ball, 5-2 after the first
Keegan Bell (4g) started the scoring on a power power play goal set up by Connor Goodwin (3a) and John Hofseth at the 10:14 mark.
Erik Maas (3g,1a) putting home a pretty feed from Brian Smith got it even at 9:52.
The teams couldn’t hit rope for 5:21 until Andrew Joseph (1g,1a) put the Grizzlies in front, 2-1.
A minute twenty eight later, John Hofseth (5g, 3a) continued his big day when he converted off feeds from Rob Hofseth and Nick Preston to even the score for the Spray.
The Grizzlies simply growled and went to work.
Astin Robinson (1g), made it 3-2 which set up the final minute when Harrison Smith (2g) at :55 and Erik Maas at :07 brought the curtain down on the opening quarter.
The Sea Spray regrouped with league MVP, Gordie Phillips (1a) and Dalton Lupul (1a) setting up Bell at 10:51.
Goodwin picked up his second helper with Tyler Kirkby picking up his first of 10….yes,10 assists on another John Hofseth tally.
Aidan Baker (3g,1) countered shorthanded stretching it to 6-4.
A minute fifty later, Goodwin and Kirkby became play makers again,this time for Bell cutting it to a 6-5 score.
The Sea Spray went on the advantage with Kirkby and John Hofseth finding Nick Preston at 8:46 to even the score at 6.
Maas ended the half with the Grizzlies holding a 7-6 edge.
Moving Right Along
.Aidan Baker pushed it to 8-6 at 12:22 but, Nick Preston hit a pair at 11:23 and again at 9:49 with Kirk y setting the table for each.
Aidan Baker and Bell exchanged lamp lighters with John Hofseth joining in at 5:41 giving The Spray a lead, finally,10-9.
Maas brought about the third tie of the quarter but, with :40 remaining, John Hofseth closed the third with the Spray holding an 11:10 lead.
Here We Go Time
It all came down, for the first time, to fifteen minutes 1:46 in, Harrison Smith got it back to a tie at 11-11.
Nick Preston scored on the man -up with help from Bell and, who else? Kirkby.
A minute twenty later, Rob Hofseth (1g) hit net and the Sea Splash were gaining confidence with a two goal lead.
Save that confidence thought..Grizzlies team Captain, Mitch McDole scored at 2:03 and again with just :50 remaining on the advantage and off to overtime they would go.
Ot took :59 for John Hofseth to save the Sea Spray season…
On to the Extra Stanza
Numerous chances by both squads resulted in the Spray scoring first..Kirkby …who else…set up Preston with a minute twelve played.
Maas countered at 6:38 to set the stage for the Bell heroics and a victory party in Vancouver.
“It was tooth and nail, no one gave in an inch. It was just a battle and a huge goal by Keegan Bell to pull it out in the end,” said Sea Spray coach Russ Heard. “You couldn’t get two teams who were more evenly matched.”
Inside the Numbers
For the regulation game.
• Power Plays had the Spray going 3 for 5 and the Grizzlies 2 for 6.
• Shots on Goal- Grizzlies 45, Sea Spray…75…that is not a misprint…75!!!
“Humph played great this whole series, unbelievable,” Bell said. “It was just about staying confident. The fact that we got 75 shots on net is unbelievable for us as an offence. We knew what we were doing was working. Humph was staying big in there, so we just had to make sure as we moved forward into the late areas of the game, we are staying tough, keeping those shots going – he can’t stop all of them.”
Matteo Tack stopped 32 for the Spray with Brandon.Humphrey stopping 61.
Overtime Numbers: Humphrey added to his monster day with ten saves off a dozen shots.
Matteo Tack stopped 8 of 9.
Series Numbers: The teams combined for 285 shots on Goal.
Humphrey faced 147 giving up only 23 with Tack looking at 138 surrendering 22..
How good are they?
Humphrey had a goals against of 11.40 with Tack posting 10.91
Save % had Humphrey with .844 and Tack .841
• Gordie Phillips was league MVP
• Humphrey garnered Most Outstanding Goaltender.
• Nick Scott named Defensive Player of the Year.
• Jake Foster was leading scorer with 30 goals and 73 points while tied for 2nd with 43 assists,
• The Sea Splash Coaching Staff, Russ Heard, Andy Ogilvie and Blair Bradley, named Coaching Staff of the Year.
To close, congrats to the Sea Spray and the Grizzlies and the entire ALL for a great season!!!
I would like to end the season with words of wisdom from Grizzlies Head Coach, Rob Williams.
“Sometimes (losing) is just the way it falls. I don’t think you can ask anything more from the players – overtime in the first game and 2-1 in the second one. It was a great series, great for the league.”
Kevin has followed and promoted the game of lacrosse since May 19, 1974.
The same day the Philadelphia Flyers won the Cup, the Philadelphia Wings were introduced to Neibauer and Philadelphia.
Kevin has covered many sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and.. lacrosse. A former licensed football referee and baseball umpire, Kevin brings a unique insight to his game coverage.
A published writer in JustHockey Magazine, Kevin covered the American Hockey League as well as a monthly story on a pugilist where Kevin used the pen name, The Rink Rat. Neibauer turned his attentions to lacrosse for a few years and does his part, whether podcasting or writing to grow the game. Kevin branched out to his roots and currently provides insight for all Philadelphia teams for Edge of Philly as well as his full-time duties with LaxPhilly.