WESTFIELD, NJ - It was shaping up as a turning-point-in-the-season game for the Chatham boys lacrosse team. The Cougars had climbed out of a five-goal halftime deficit to tie the game on a goal by Connor Byrd with four minutes showing in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime.
But just as Chatham was poised to take its shot at victory in overtime, a timeout call was reversed, allowing Westfield's Jake Engelke to connect for his third goal of the game, lifting the Blue Devils to an 8-7 win Tuesday at Gary Kehler Stadium.
Chatham goalie Ryan Ness had come through with the crucial save, his eighth of the game, on Westfield's first possession of the extra session and Ryan Chase had the ball in his stick when Chatham coach Tony Calandra called for a timeout. The referee whistled for time, but there soon was a huddle between the three officials. It was determined that Chatham had "too many men on the field" before the timeout call and possession was awarded to Westfield.
Seconds later, Engelke scored to give Westfield (4-3) the win.
"I didn't see too many guys on the field," Calandra said. "I didn't see it. We were trying to call a timeout the whole time. We were trying to call a timeout, he gave us a timeout and then he changed the call after he gave us the timeout. We'll have to look at it on film and see."
In the first half, Chatham (5-4) was stymied by Blue Devil goalie Jack McCauley, who came up with seven saves in helping his team build a 6-1 advantage. The only blemish on McCauley's effort was Byrd's goal off a feed from Max Schelling in the second quarter.
Westfield scored two goals in transition in the first half, one after Schelling's blast hit the crossbar and bounced out toward midfield.
"I thought we hit some pipes early," Calandra said. "Their goalie made some nice stops and then we settled down in the second half and just played and I thought that was a great effort coming back. We didn't do anything differently."
Westfield switched to junior goalie Theo Dardia for the second half and Chatham started its climb back behind Colin Hart, who won every faceoff he took in the second half. He finished the game with by winning 80 percent of the faceoffs, taking 15 of 19.
Mac Bredahl scored unassisted to cut the Chatham deficit to 6-2 and, a minute later, Byrd fired in a shot off a pass from Ryan Decker. Hart won yet another faceoff and that led to Decker's unassisted goal, slicing the deficit to 6-4 with 6:09 left in the third.
A little more than a minute later, Schelling made a power move to the net, spinning to shed his defender and muscling inside to finish his chance and make it a 6-5 game.
Westfield scored early in the fourth quarter to gain a 7-5 cushion before Schelling's blast (see below) from up top hit the back to the net midway through the period.
Byrd's goal off a pass from Decker (see below) made it 7-7 with 4:00 showing on the clock.
"I thought we battled, I thought we played hard," Calandra said. "We just never got another opportunity. They stalled for the last two minutes (of the fourth quarter) and then they scored in the first minute-and-a-half of overtime."
COUGAR NOTES: Two years ago when Chatham traveled to meet Westfield and took a three-goal lead into the fourth quarter, only to lose by the identical score of 8-7 ... Hart's tremendous faceoff day sparked Chatham's comeback as he went 5-0 in the third quarter and 4-0 in the fourth. Overall, he was 15-4 in the circle ... Chatham plays host to Delbarton, 11 a.m. Saturday at Cougar Field in a rematch of last year's Morris County Tournament final won by the Green Wave, 10-8.