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Canisius takes lax title with four OT win

Reid Martin felt low, but his Canisius teammates did their best to keep his spirits up. They did that by continuing to feed the finisher the ball even though he was struggling to score against Nichols’ tough defense.

The junior rewarded them for maintaining their unwavering belief, as he uncorked a blistering shot that found nothing but net late in the fourth overtime to end an epic Monsignor Martin Athletic Association boys lacrosse final that had plenty of chances, fine goaltending and even a little controversy.

Martin’s goal with 44.1 seconds left enabled Canisius to defeat the Vikings, 7-6, Thursday before an estimated 1,000 at St. Joe’s Robert T. Scott Athletic Complex. Seconds after senior Boston University-commit Jack Seminara had misfired on a shot, the Crusaders kept the play alive with Michael Tierney eventually dishing the ball to Martin in the perimeter. Martin quickly cut through an open lane, fired from an angle and scored the goal that enabled Canisius to clinch its first lacrosse title since 2009.

“Honestly, I just saw I had an opening, so I took the shot,” said Martin, who missed six games with a broken hand but scored twice Thursday to increase his season total to 25. “I had a lot of opportunities in the overtime. It was frustrating. I had to finish one for my team. … Everyone kept telling me I would put it in the back of the net sooner or later. It was really exciting.”

Canisius (13-7) advances to the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship game on either May 30 or 31 at Mitchell Field on Uniondale, L.I., to play a still to be determined opponent.

“If anyone deserved it, he was a little snake-bitten this game, but who better than Reid to score the game-winner,” fifth-year Crusaders coach Joe Smith said. “I kind of had to do a double take. I was surprised he took the shot, just the angle he had and distance.”

That’s not the only reason Smith did a double take.

Nichols thought it had the game won earlier in sudden death, with 2:55 left in the third overtime period only to have the goal called back because of a crease violation. Still, before the Vikings realized it was no goal, they had rushed the field to start celebrating what they thought was their first playoff title since 2005 only to be shooed to the sideline by the officials.

At least play was stopped. Two years ago when Timon thought it had won a game in overtime at St. Joe’s, players were celebrating what they thought was a hard-fought triumph only to have action continue with the Marauders scoring in transition for the controversial win.

This one wasn’t nearly as controversial as television replays confirmed a hard-cutting Keaton Arkeilpane had a foot in the crease before firing the ball into the net.

“That was our wake-up call,” Martin said.

“We had our chances to win,” said Nichols’ Aaron Fanti, who finished with two goals. “We can’t blame it on the one crease call. We had other chances. We just didn’t score.”

Both teams had chances, with the Vikings’ David Pfalzgraf looking the part of a goalie who came into the game with an astounding .620 save percentage. Canisius counterpart Callahan Glinski rose to the challenge and stopped 11 shots, including several point-blank opportunities with his 6-foot-2 frame.

“He played probably his best game I’ve seen him play this year,” Smith said of his goaltender. “He just stood tall and was the backbone of our defense.”

The Crusaders almost let this one slip away against a Nichols team that usually plays them tough. Canisius turned a 3-1 halftime lead into a four-goal lead with 4:17 left in the third quarter on goals by Seminara and Pat Crangle, the latter’s second of the game.

Nichols, which had trouble early on offensively because it struggled in the faceoff circle, scored three times in the final 1:38 of the period.

Fanti started the spree by driving to the net and scoring just after a man-advantage situation had expired. Nichols then forced a turnover leading to Jake Parentis scoring the first of his two goals with 41.1 left. The Vikings then beat the clock as Parentis fired in a rebound with four-one hundredths of a second left.

Nichols stayed on that wave of momentum and tied things 2:19 into the fourth quarter on a goal by Connor Schutte. The Vikings applied pressure after that, but Canisius forced a turnover and took a 6-5 lead with 6:30 left on Brad Pohlman’s transition goal. But just 48 seconds later, Schutte struck again, beating a double team during a man-advantage situation.

Then both teams slowed the pace, waiting for the other to flinch and make a costly mistake,

Canisius’ Will Smith, who went 14-4 on faceoffs, won the last faceoff of the game at the start of the final overtime period. Nichols never gained possession as the Crusaders patiently passed the ball around, looking for the right opportunity. It finally presented itself, enabling lacrosse to become the latest Canisius sport to win a championship this academic year.

“We didn’t want to be the one sport in our school not to win a championship,” said Seminara, who also helped football win the state Catholic title during the fall.

“We’ve waited so long for this,” said Smith, “I’ve never felt like this before. It’s my first championship. The whole team came together. I can’t describe it.”

email: mrodriguez@buffnews.com