Ready for the Ride: Oppenheimer, Benzing help Bobcats advance to Motor City

Ready for the Ride: Oppenheimer, Benzing help Bobcats advance to Motor City
By Sam Friedman
April 27, 2008

HAMDEN — There were plenty of reasons for the Bobcats to leave it all out on the field on Saturday. A chance to make the playoffs after starting the season 6-0. A chance to earn a trip to Detroit for the 2008 Great Western Lacrosse League playoffs. An opportunity to silence the opposing team’s trash talking, as both teams did plenty of that throughout the game.

After a slow start to the game which saw multiple misfired passes, a low shot total (13 combined), and a lot of fatigue for both teams ended with an exciting finish as the Bobcats got a very late extra man goal from freshman Jack Oppenheimer with 1:08 left in regulation on Senior Day to send the Bobcats to Detroit as the number four seed in the conference tournament.

For most of the first quarter it was clear just how much the travelling had taken a toll on the players’ bodies. Bellarmine was at the end of a five game road trip. Quinnipiac had just come back from a four game swing of their own. Both teams traded bad passes yet scored twice in the opening frame. The Knights Shane Anderson scored his first of two goals just three and a half minutes in with a shot that was too low for Benzing to reach. Ted Dimond answered with 8:46 remaining in the first to even the score. Oppenheimer earned his first of two goals in the first, with a low shot of his own past Knights goalie Scott Bowles to give the Bobcats a 2-1 lead.

After Matt Holland re-tied the game, Todd Kaiser scored his eighth goal of the year two and a half minutes into the second quarter by intercepting a bad pass from Bowles and circling the net and shot it in to give Quinnipiac a 3-2 lead. The game intensity picked up, as both Benzing and Bowles were forced to make quick decisions to keep the score low, and both goalies had the fortune of seeing shots go off the goalposts instead of past them for goals. The score was 3-2 at the half.

In the second half the teams began to play more aggressively. Just as the Knights had killed a 30 second pushing penalty from Hessel on his push from behind on Poerio, Dilan Graham gave the Bobcats another man advantage five seconds after Hessel was released from his infraction. Fortunately for Bellarmine, the Bobcats failed to score on either man advantage.

After Dimond scored his second goal of the game with 9:19 remaining in the third, Andersen got one back for Bellarmine with 2:49 left in the third. The Knights also got a man advantage on a delayed slashing call on Maceranka, but they did not score. The score was 4-3 after three.

Bellarmine’s season and career goals leader Adam Gardner scored two goals 29 seconds apart to give the Knights a 5-4 lead with 8:12 remaining, but Bobcat sophomore Zach Dendas responded on a man up with 5:57 left by firing a quick shot through a screen past Bowles.

Geoff Griffiths of the Knights was sent off for cross-checking with 1:36 left in regulation, and rather than wait for sudden death, Oppenheimer fired a low shot past Bowles throught traffic with 1:08 left to steal the spotlight. The Bobcat’s defense, with some help from Benzing, was able to hold off the Knight’s desperate final attack for the 6-5 win.

“I knew if I got a chance to play I would stick one,” Oppenheimer said of his game-winning tally. “Messina moved it down to me on the wing and I knew I was going to rip it.”

“In the big picture we talked about what our goals were,” coach Eric Fekete said. “we added this playoff, the team’s been ready for it all season, and that’s been our goal all season. If we go to Detroit, we’ve got a shot at the bid. This team’s worked hard, and I’m proud of them.”

Coach Fekete also spoke positively about the seniors who will play at least one more game in a Bobcats uniform.

“It’s a really unique group of seniors. Those guys are athletic and savvy. All these guys in their own unique way chipped into the success of the team. This is a team thing and they’ve done a great job.”

Bellarmine finished 7-7 on the season, 0-5 in conference play, and 1-4 on their road trip. Quinnipiac was 2-3 in conference play and 8-4 on the season. The Bobcats will play Notre Dame at 5 PM in Michigan on Friday, and the Buckeyes will face the Pioneers following the conclusion of the first game. The Championship game and automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament will be on Sunday an noon.

NOTES: Messina had two assists, on both of Oppenheimer’s goals. … Kasier and Poerio had an assist each for the Bobcats. Jamie Floris had the Knight’s only assist on Gardner’s second goal. … A goal in the 4th quarter by Oppenheimer was nullified because he was in the crease when he scored.

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