As the Sayville defense clamped down, and with goalkeeper Pat Fleming vacuuming up one shot after another, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats went back to the basics. Get the ball and run.
After leading from nearly start to finish Friday afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River High School, the Wildcats saw what had been a three-goal lead slowly wither away. With 6:24 left in the fourth quarter, they found themselves in a tied game against a team they hadn’t beaten in their last three tries.
Both teams traded turnovers until finally the Wildcats forced one that sent them out in transition. The ball ended up in the stick of senior Mike Malave, a four-year varsity player, who cut up the right side and unleashed a long shot over his left shoulder that one-hopped into the cage with 3:30 left, giving Shoreham an 8-7 lead.
“All season we’ve been about transition,” Malave said. “We get a little unsettled situation and we can just take the ball to the goal.”
As Malave caught the ball, he could see the Sayville defense wasn’t in position yet. Rather than pull out to run a play, he quickly reacted.
“I felt I had a guy one-on-one, no slide coming in the back,” he said. “I was shooting high all day and I put one low finally and it went in.”
Malave’s goal, followed by another quick transition strike with Tom Rotanz scoring off a game-high fifth assist from his brother Tim Rotanz, capped off a 9-8 victory for the Wildcats as they improved to 5-0 in Division II.
Shoreham coach Tom Rotanz said the team’s been scoring in transition all season and they weren’t about to change strategy now. They live by it or die bye it, Rotanz said.
“Our middies believe in it,” he said. “Our middies know if they get the ball down there in any type of four-on-three, we have a very good chance of putting it in.”
While the season may still be in its infancy, the win was a big one for the Wildcats. They had lost their three previous games to Sayville, all at home, by a combined five goals. In 2009, they lost in the regular season and playoffs by the score of 9-8.
Fittingly, the Wildcats won by that exact score Friday, an ever-so-slight act of redemption.
Of the last five games between the two schools going back to 2008, four have been a one-goal game.
“We marked this game on our schedule right from the beginning of the season,” Malave said. “Sayville’s a team that beat us here on our field the past two years. It’s always a good rivarly.”
Sayville (3-2 Division II, 4-2) made things interesting when Dan Koehler scored off a feed from Josh Tordik with two seconds left. But it wasn’t nearly enough time for the Golden Flashes to win a face-off and get a shot off. Tordik led Sayville with four goals and an assist.
The Wildcats’ offense struggled to get going in the second half against Sayville’s zone defense. It was the first time this season they faced a zone. The Wildcats scored only one goal over a 20 minute, 30 second span of the second half.
“They sort of got used to what were doing,” Malave said. “We had to change up a little bit, but they knew what we were really about on offense.”
Rotanz said it comes down to patience against a zone.
“I think we ran something like six different zone offenses,” he said. “We just tried different things and a couple times we just got layups. Other times the goalie made a great save.”
The combination of the Rotanz brothers on attack accounted for a good portion of the offense. Tom had two goals with an assist and Tim had one goal to go with his five assists. Senior Connor Drost added a pair of goals from the attack as well.
Shoreham led 3-0 in the first quarter before Sayville answered with two of its own. The Wildcats got the lead back to three after Malave scored off a feed from Trevor Brosco on a man advantage with 8:02 left in the second quarter. Once again the Golden Flashes responded with two straight goals to slice the Wildcats’ lead back to one.
Shoreham defenseman CJ Higgins scored early in the fourth quarter to make it a 7-5 Wildcats lead. Tordik answered with two of his own to tie the game for the first time since the opening minutes.
Brosco, who won eight of 12 face-offs in the first half, was limited in the second half because of a calf injury. Malave took over the face-off duties in his abscense.
“He’s a vital part of our offense,” Rotanz said.
For a game that featured some physical play, both teams did an outstanding job staying out of the penalty box. The Wildcats got whistled for one 30 second penalty the entire game. Sayville had two cross-check penalties, one of which the Wildcats converted into a goal.
“We kept our composure all game,” Malave said.