(Full story as published June 2, 2013 on Three Village Patch)
By Rich Arleo
Seven-goal run caps 11-6 victory for Patriots.
A goal by Ward Melville senior captain Christian Mazzone with 11 seconds left in a tightly-contested first half helped turn the tide as part of a seven-goal run, sparking the Patriots to an 11-6 win in the Class A County Championship.
The game started off in a defensive struggle before a scoring flurry just over five minutes into the first. Ward Melville struck first at 7:25 with a goal by Kevin McKeever off an assist from Mazzone and then grabbed a two-goal lead just 30 seconds later when Brendan Hegarty buried one. It took Smithtown just 20 seconds to answer back, however, and stop the run with a goal of their own.
The Bulls were able to grab a 4-3 lead with a goal by John Day with 8:44 left in the second quarter, but it was the last time they would have the advantage. After Ward Melville’s Jack Bruckner tied it with just under five minutes left, goalie Daniel Nemirov made a huge save on a one-on-one chance which led to a transition and the game-winning goal from Mazzone with 11 seconds left in the half.
“I feel like whenever I can do my job in the cage and get a quick alley we’ll be able to get some transition which really turns the tables,” Nemirov said. “That was a two-goal swing to end the half which really gave us momentum in the locker room.”
The Patriots then scored five more unanswered to put the game to bed.
“We were feeling good at halftime,” Nemirov said. “We were right where we wanted to be in a perfect spot to take the win and we did the job.”
Head coach Michael Hoppey also credited the save and goal to end the half as a momentum swing, but was sure to note that it was their play in the third quarter that really clinched the win.
“We hadn’t been in alot of close games but we were anticipating it,” he said. “I think we played our best quarter of the year in the third quarter. This has been a big hurdle for us getting out of Suffolk County, a lot of time that’s the toughest game.”
Amidst speculation that he would be retiring after 32 years with the Three Village School District, a drenched Hoppey said shortly after his water-cooler shower, “It’s not official yet, we’re still figuring it out.”
Ward Melville moves on to play Massapequa Saturday at Hofstra for the Class A Long Island Championship.
“We looked at the tape of Massapequa and they’re a very good team,” Hoppey said, “so we’ve got our work cut out for us Saturday.”