BRIDGEWATER, N.J. - When the Bayhawks' third-quarter lead nearly evaporated, it was hard not to think about the last time they played in New Jersey. That's when the Pride scored 14 second-half goals to win with 22 goals, the most the Bayhawks have allowed this season.
But the Bayhawks weren't about to let that happen again. They locked down defensively in the fourth quarter and did a tremendous job of ball possession as they continually squashed all New Jersey efforts to get anything going.
The result was an 18-16 Bayhawks win last night in the regular-season finale. The Bayhawks (10-4) will play host in a semifinal next week against an opponent to be determined.
Baltimore coach Gary Gait said the fourth quarter was time to show the league what his team was about.
"We realize that the playoffs are coming up and this is a statement," said Gait. "This other team [New Jersey] is going to be in the playoffs, and we could face them next week. It was a statement game that we could, even if we don't play well, we could beat them."
The Bayhawks looked out of step early. New Jersey jumped out to a 4-1 lead, and was up 7-3 late in the first quarter.
Baltimore then completely dominated the next 17 minutes, outscoring the Pride 9-1 to take a 12-8 lead early in the third quarter. In the second quarter alone, the Bayhawks had a 7-1 edge as six different players scored.
That's when the league's leading goal scorer almost single-handedly got New Jersey back in the game. Jesse Hubbard scored his team's next four goals.
With the score 16-14, Baltimore goalie Greg Cattrano (21 saves) came up with a big save off his knee to keep it a two-point game as time expired in the third quarter.
The Bayhawks needed two goals to extend the lead to 18-15 before New Jersey's Jon Hess scored with 47 seconds left. The Pride got the ball off the ensuing faceoff and Cattrano made a save with 40 seconds left.
"The guys held it together and we made smart decisions in the end that gave us the victory," said Gait.
Bayhawks 4 7 5 2 - 18
New Jersey 7 1 6 2 - 16
Goals: B-Shek 4, Millon 3, Prout 2, Nadelen, Wills, Sonke, Gait, Cantebene, Hanford, Fulks, Sims, Blatchley; NJ-Hubbard 5, Jalbert 3, Hess 2, Curry 2, Melchione, Dooley, Massey. 2 pt. goals: NJ-Hubbard. Assists: B-Blatchley 2, Sims, Shek, Wills; NJ-Hess 5, Malone, Dooley, Urick, Curry. Saves: B-Cattrano 21; NJ-Koudelka 16. Att. - 3,259.