by Tom Utescher

CHC freshman Mike Melnychenko (#27) flips a shot past American International goalie Eric Whettell in last Tuesday’s match, helping the Griffins grab their first home field win of the season. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Last Tuesday Chestnut Hill College claimed its first home field victory under new men’s lacrosse coach Brian Dougherty, posting an 11-8 decision over visiting American International College. The out-of-conference win leveled the Griffins’ record at 2-2 overall, while they remained 0-1 within the East Coast Conference.

Mike Landau filled the nets with four goals and fellow freshman Mike Melnychencko chalked up three goals and one assist for CHC, which received 15 saves from sophomore goalie Dakota Maurer. The contest featured relatively few penalties and no man-up goals.

Coach Dougherty especially enjoyed one aspect of the win – the fact that his club battled back after falling behind 0-3 early and trailing 4-5 at halftime.

“We need to learn how to win, because we haven’t won very much,” he said of the CHC team, which was started from scratch prior to the 2010 season. “Every chance we get to learn how to win is going to benefit our guys.”

Even though the college was in the middle of spring break, a fair-sized crown turned out for the game, and the new sport seems to be generating some enthusiasm in the CHC community.

“The students like to watch us, and since this is where I grew up, I’ve also got a lot of my friends and their kids coming to games,” Dougherty pointed out. “Our players’ parents really support us, too. They were here today and they travel to see us on the road.”

The Griffins trailed 4-1 at the end of the first quarter, getting their icebreaker from sophomore Mark Winkelspecht. Chestnut Hill was back within one point at halftime, 5-4, as Melnychenko fired his first goal and Landau netted his first two.

Asked if there’s any one area where he want to see his squad improve, Dougherty quickly replied “Definitely our clearing. That will become a huge factor when we play the tougher teams in our conference. You just can’t give the other team 30 more possessions than you – eventually they’re going to score. When we learn to get the ball from our defensive end up to our offense consistently, we’ll be okay.”

In last Tuesday’s tilt the Griffins helped themselves in regard to ball possession by winning 16 of the 23 total face-offs.

The halftime tally of 5-4 stayed on the board for more than four minutes as the third quarter got underway, then the hosts went ahead for good with a three-minute, 3-0 run. Landau sandwiched two markers around one by Melnychencko in this scoring burst.

The Yellow Jackets were back within one point at 8-7 with 4:54 left in the third quarter, then half-a-minute later Griffins freshman Kevin Sonderschafer looped out from behind the cage to score, sending the home team into the final period with a 9-7 edge.

Landau got off two early shots, but one hit a goalpost and the second burrowed into the outside of the net. American International’s Dan MacIssac stuffed a shot into the upper left corner to make it a one-goal game with nine minutes left, but the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t score again.

In a one-minute span in the middle of the period goals by Melnychenko and sophomore Junji Wiener completed the scoring for the afternoon. The visitors’ last best chance to start a late rally came when CHC had a man sent to the penalty box for a push with 3:29 to go. During the 30-second shorthanded spell, the Griffins’ Maurer turned aside a shot by the Yellow Jackets and Chestnut Hill was soon back at full strength.

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Dougherty remarked afterwards. “This is going to be a journey, and we still only have freshmen and sophomores. We don’t graduate anybody for two years, so if we just keep bringing in solid players and keep developing the players we already have, I don’t see why this can’t be a success.”

UPDATE – The Griffins followed up Tuesday’s win with another home field victory, this time beating the second-ranked team in the ECC, Mercyhurst College of Erie, Pa. Winkelspecht led CHC with three goals and one assist and Landau scored in sudden death overtime to wrap up the encounter with an 8-7 final tally. Maurer made the last of his 13 saves early in overtime to keep the Griffins in it, and sophomore middie Alex Sabia won eight of his 11 face-offs in the game.