Survive and advance: Last-second goal paves way for Cocalico victory

By on May 17, 2017
Cocalico’s Bryce Shaffer fends off the BeBerks Catholic defender during Tuesday’s District playoff opener in Den Photo by Preston Whitcraftver.

Cocalico’s Bryce Shaffer fends off the BeBerks Catholic defender during Tuesday’s District playoff opener in Den Photo by Preston Whitcraftver.


Cocalico captured a first-ever playoff win Tuesday night in a first round District Three Boys’ lacrosse game with Berks Catholic in Denver. If it is possible, the 8-7 final score was a bigger margin than it sounds.

The Eagles played from behind for much of the night on Talon Field, tying the score three times in the first three periods, only to see the Saints re-take the advantage on the scoreboard. That third tie took place with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter. A foreshadow of what was to come.

Head coach Matt Oberly admitted after the game that things were a bit sluggish for the first 38 minutes of play.

“It was an ugly game, played by two teams that just became two really good teams, beating the heck out of each other. Trying to get that last goal,” he said.

Early in the fourth period, Catholic had three opportunities to grab back the lead. All three shots were from point blank range, less than five yards in front of Cocalico goal-keeper Ben Puodziunas. Somehow, the senior keeper kept the ball out of the net, keeping the score deadlocked.

With 6:45 remaining junior midfielder Nick Harbst put the Eagles in front 7-6. The defensive intensity held both teams at bay for nearly five minutes before the Saints knotted the game at seven on the second goal of senior Nate McKnight.

Catholic controlled the face-off, as they had 13 of 20 times on the night to set up the final frantic 1:07 on the night.

The Saints, coming off a time out, restarted behind the Eagles net. Circling the ball around to the front, Catholic attempted a cross-field pass which skidded out of bounds. A turnover to Cocalico.

The Eagles quickly crossed mid field, working their way to junior attack Owen Zimmerman, whose angled shot hit the side of the net with 28 seconds remaining.

On the restart, senior midfielder Bryce Shaffer dodged from behind the net, dove forward and whipped the ball back into the net with 19.8 seconds remaining. Freshman Noah Palm dominated the ensuing face-off, scooped up the ball and played keep-a-way as the clock ticked down to zeroes.

The entire bench rushed onto the turf, mobbing Shaffer and Puodziunas as the celebration erupted.

“I know that when I make those saves, it gets the team excited,” described Puodziunas. “I try not to think about it. I just stand in goal and do my thing.”

“He just reacts,” added Oberly. “He’ll say there is no thinking involved, but there’s a lot of behind the scenes work. He just knows what to do. That’s muscle memory.”

The Eagles did outshoot the Saints 21-20, but only 12 were on goal as sophomore keeper Chris Straub made four saves. Puodziunas had 12 saves and that was the difference.

Offensively, Zimmerman and Palm had two goals apiece while Shaffer was joined on the tally sheet by junior Mitch Caffrey, Harbst and sophomore Sam Stewart. Harbst, Palm and junior Ethan Steffy were credited with assists.

The District Three quarterfinals are up next for the Eagles when they travel tomorrow (Thursday) to face top seeded Palmyra at a time to be announced.

“Palmyra is one of the best teams in the region and possibly the state,” said Oberly. “They are well coached. It’s going to take a complete effort. If we can shore up the intensity and take care of the ball, there’s no reason we don’t fight with them every step of the way.”

That, and keeping Puodziunas in what he calls “the zone,” doing his thing.


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