Senior goalie Dakota Maurer makes one of his nine saves to help Chestnut Hill College win last Saturday’s ECC opener. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

After playing five of their first six games on the road, the stickmen of Chestnut Hill College made their first weekend appearance at Victory Field last Saturday, delighting Griffin lacrosse fans with an 18-8 thumping of Roberts Wesleyan College, of Rochester, N.Y.

It was the 2013 East Coast Conference (ECC) opener for CHC, and in addition, the home crowd was able to celebrate a historic individual achievement. This is the fourth season of men’s lacrosse at Chestnut Hill, and the program certified its first 100-goal scorer when junior Mike Melnychenko made it into triple digits with the fourth of his game-high five goals.

“A hundred goals in two-and-a-half years – that’s fast!” remarked third-year CHC head coach Brian Dougherty. “When you get the ball in his stick in a good place, there’s a real good chance it’s going in, and that’s a guy everyone wants to have on their team.”

The Griffins, who received three goals apiece from seniors Craig Owen (three assists) and Dennis Klusaritz, Jr. (one assist), improved to 4-3 overall. Senior goalie Dakota Maurer made nine saves in 48 minutes of action, and the other 12 minutes were split between senior David Cutler and junior Jesse McGinley.

Roberts Wesleyan recorded two goals and an assist for both senior Ian Nash and freshman Dom Cianfarano, but the Redhawks headed back north at 3-5 overall and 0-2 within the ECC. CHC’s Dougherty had made sure that his defense kept tabs on Cianfarano, a 6’3” attackman who came into the contest with 23 goals and seven assists in the young season.

Commenting on the Redhawks’ defense, the Griffins skipper said “You always worry about a team that plays a lot of zone, so we did a nice job in the first quarter by coming out and scoring those nine goals.”

Players other Melnychenko shouldered the load on offense for Chestnut Hill in the early going. The hosts jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and after Cianfarano got Roberts Wesleyan on the board, Klusaritz’s second goal of the day made it 4-1 a little over eight minutes in.

When Melnychenko got going, the Redhawks were in serious trouble. He tallied twice in less than a minute, then assisted on a marker by senior Nathaniel Tharp. With a little over a minute left in the opening quarter, Melnychenko completed a hat trick to make it 8-1 and reach 99 career goals. It looked as though number 100 would have to wait until the second period, but with just two seconds on the clock the junior jammed in an unassisted goal to achieve the milestone.

To be honest, there wasn’t a lot of excitement the rest of the way, as Roberts Wesleyan never mustered a serious comeback attempt. The Griffins netted the first two points of the second quarter, and led 13-3 at the half. The Redhawks were unable to score back-to-back goals until the very end of the game; after CHC’s lead peaked at 18-5, the visitors found the net three times over the final seven minutes.

Freshman Michael Plaia finished up with a pair of goals for the winners, who got single strikes from Tharp, senior Mark Lively, sophomore Chris Mertens, and freshmen Tanner Fisher and George Markey.

Back in 2010, Chestnut Hill began to play men’s lacrosse with a roster made up almost entirely of freshmen. Now, finally, the Griffins’ personnel can match the experience of many of their opponents.

“We have 30 juniors and seniors now – we went from one senior last year to 15 this season,” Dougherty noted. “We’ve pretty much taught our guys what we’re looking to do on offense and defense. At this stage, it’s a question of executing consistently, and keeping mistakes to a minimum.”

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