Dual goalies fill Bayhawks' need

Pro lacrosse


The way the New Jersey Pride was firing on the Bayhawks' net in the first half of Saturday's game at Johnny Unitas Stadium, it was going to take quite an adjustment for the hosts to come back.

Six inches and 69 pounds proved to be just enough.

Coach Scott Hiller pulled goalie Matt Russell (Navy) at halftime in favor of fellow rookie Greg Havalchak, effectively replacing the team's smallest player with its biggest. And for a New Jersey team that had scored 10 goals in the first 30 minutes, it didn't take long to notice.

"I think they hit me with a few shots early on," Havalchak said with a chuckle. "If they didn't see the change, they were definitely out of luck."

The Pride's first shot of the second half caromed off Havalchak's leg, and the second thumped off the 6-foot-1, 225-pound goalie's chest. With far less visibility of the net, New Jersey was outscored 10-6 after the change and lost, 17-16, in overtime.

With his 12 saves, Havalchak earned Major League Lacrosse Rookie of the Week honors, and Hiller named him the probable starter for the Bayhawks (4-5) for tonight's game at the Philadelphia Barrage (7-2).

But Russell did more than wallow on the sideline after being replaced. The 5-foot-7, 156-pound goalie kept warm and waited for an opportunity to contribute.

It came when New Jersey had possession in the final minute, trying to nurse a one-goal lead. Hiller called on Russell, whose quickness and athleticism helped bait the Pride into taking a shot and allowed him to chase down the loose ball behind the net.

"I'm not so sure Greg Havalchak would have backed up that shot that gave us possession for the [game-tying] goal," Hiller said of his strategy. "It's good that we can take advantage of Matt's attributes as well as Greg's, and we'll use them both as much as we can."

Havalchak's size allows him to sit back in front of the net and forces opposing attackmen to wait patiently for an opening to shoot. Conversely, Russell said he invites opponents to fire on net, so he can spark transition the other way.

A four-year starter at Rutgers, Havalchak held the Bayhawks' starting role for three weeks, but hurt his knee and allowed 19 goals July 1 in a loss to the Rochester Rattlers. The next game, Russell made 13 saves in the Bayhawks' win against the first-place Boston Cannons.

"Obviously we're both competitors, and sometimes one guy's style of play is just going to step up and make the difference in a game," Russell said. "I think it was a great call [by Hiller on Saturday], because Greg stepped up in the second half. He came in and made a lot of good saves early on and gave us the momentum. I guess we're a good duo."

With three games remaining and six teams still vying for the league's final playoff spot, a hot goalie might turn out to be the difference. The Bayhawks hope they have two.

"Whoever is playing well will probably stay in," Hiller said. "But if they're both playing the same, we'll probably need them both."


Bayhawks tonight

Matchup -- Bayhawks (4-5) @ Philadelphia Barrage (7-2)

Site -- Villanova Stadium

Time -- 7:30

Outlook -- After two straight wins, the Bayhawks find themselves still in the hunt for the final Major League Lacrosse playoff spot. With three games remaining, San Francisco (5-4) currently holds the fourth and final spot, but the Bayhawks are one of four teams trailing by just one game. To keep pace, they must win on the road against a Philadelphia team whose only two losses came against first-place Boston. But with confidence from beating the first-place Cannons earlier this month and completing a fourth-quarter comeback Saturday against New Jersey, coach Scott Hiller's young team is still talking about postseason possibilities. Fresh off an overtime game-winner, veteran Mark Millon leads the Bayhawks with 21 goals, while Roy Colsey and B.J. Prager each have 17 for the Barrage.

David Selig

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