Friday, August 1, 2008

Merrick Thomson Nets A Hat Trick, Staying In first place on the MLL Top Scorer’s list

PISCATAWAY - Last Saturday, it was the offense which carried the Pride to victory against Washington.

Thursday night, in the back end of a home-and-home with the Bayhawks, it was all about the defense, though not for lack of trying on the offensive end.

While the Pride put up 16 goals, despite pulling on the reigns with eight minutes remaining, the Rob Scherr and Ryan McClay-led defense stole the show, holding the Bayhawks to eight goals, with help from Danny Brennan’s performance at the face-off X.

After missing time with a broken hand, suffered in the back-end of consecutive MLL Goalie of the Week efforts, and struggling in his first games back in uniform, Scherr was nothing short of dominant in goal, stopping 24 of 30 shots in 53:16 of gameplay to earn Bud Light MVP Honors.

“There are a lot of things you have to worry about,” Jacobs said, “but Robby I don’t have to worry as much.

“He’s been great all year.”

“The last two games I didn’t feel like I was playing my best,” Scherr said, “so it was nice to come out and play like that. It’s a good feeling.”

While he is likely to earn his third Goalie of the Week Award, the MVP Honors were a first for Scherr.

“Obviously getting the win is the first priority,” Scherr said, “but it’s a nice honor. It’s a good feeling to get recognized.”

The Pride’s defensive effort was powered by the oft-underappreciated McClay. As always, in addition to leading the team, McClay was a groundball machine, scooping up 13 loose balls.

“He’s the kind of guy where if you challenge Ryan to get ground balls, he’s going to do it,” Jacobs said. “Whatever I tell him to do, he’s going to do it.”

“That’s what I focus on,” McClay said. “I was a little upset last-week with my off-the-ball defense, tonight was more about knowing to slide or not slide and not getting caught in no-man’s land, and when you’re doing that right the ground balls tend to come.”

In the victory last week, in which Buggs Combs scored eight goals, Jacobs was critical of the team defensive. His opinion of the team’s slides was far different following the win Thursday.

“Last game we played on our heels,” Jacobs said, “this week weplayed them much farther out. Rather then letting them dictate to us, we dictated to them.”

“Our communication was a lot better,” McClay said. “There were a couple of situations late there that were pretty impressive.”

“I can’t say enough about [the defense],” Scherr said. “Those guys play hard, they play tough, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

After helping lead the Pride’s runs in a relatively-even face-off game last week, Brennan showed why he was the NCAA’s top face-off specialist in 2008, dominating for 20 wins on 28 face-offs.

“It’s phenomenal,” Jacobs said. “It makes me look like an idiot for not putting him in there sooner.

“You have to take everything within perspective though. Washington is not a great face-off team.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Scott Urick had another strong game for the Pride, scoring four goals and adding an assist, while Merrick Thomson and Chris Unterstein each had hat tricks.

Derek Cherney opened the scoring in the game’s first minute for the Bayhawks, but the Pride responded with three of their own. Dan Chemotti knotted the score at 2:06, and Tim Treubig put the Pride ahead at 4:30. Taking a page out of last week, the Pride took the resulting draw down for a Scott Urick goal and a 3-1 lead, before Matt Ward ended the run.

The Pride responded with another 3-1 run to end the quarter. Stephen Peyser was first to tally, then Thomson added a spectacular goal in traffic. Billy Glading answered right back for the Bayhawks, but Urick scooped up a loose ball among a storm of flags to put the Pride ahead 6-3 through one quarter.

The Pride added the first four of the second frame to extend their run to five-unanswered points, with Urick leading the way with a goal, to complete his hat trick, and an assist alongside goals by Chemotti, Matt Danowski and Greg Peyser to stretch the lead to 10-3 before Jarett Park ended the tear at 6:49.

Danowski’s defensive efforts helped extend the Pride lead as he intercepted a Bayhwaks clear attempt while Washington was out of position. While substitute netminder Chris Collins got back in time to stop Danowski’s shot, the rebound fell to Unterstein who buried it from the doorstep.

Kyle Dixon ended the first-half scoring with a laser from inside the two-point arc to make the score 11-5 at the break.

Unterstein added his second consecutive Pride tally at 4:42, and Urick his fourth of the game at 13:49. Unterstein completed his hat trick just :30 later. McClay ended the defense-driven quarter with a hard body check on the third’s final shot.

“Unlike a lot of people, I’m always about getting balls off the ground not playing the guy,” McClay said. “It felt pretty good tonight.”

Thomson earned his hat trick, and moved back into first place on the MLL Top Scorer’s list for 2008, by scoring the first two goals of the final quarter to put the Pride ahead 16-5, and in doing so enabled the Pride to issue the pull-back order, as they elected to simply run the shot clock on each possession rather than attempt to stretch their lead.

With the win, the Pride maintain their slim playoff hopes, needing losses by Phildelphia and Los Angeles this week, as well as likely needing a Long Island defeat, the Pride are left with a choice to relax for the weekend or scoreboard watch.

“I’ll do both,” Jacobs said. “I’ll relax while I watch the scoreboards.”

By Bobby Ingram

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