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Long’s late goal lifts Springfield over Garnet Valley

CONCORD >> Calm was in short supply in the Springfield huddle in the final minute Thursday night.

The Cougars had just scored what appeared to be the go-ahead goal — from defender Nick Matty, no less — only to see it disallowed by a simultaneous timeout call, delayed as it wended its way from the Springfield bench to the referee.

But the breath of composure, as it often is, was provided by Kyle Long.

“You’re a little like, what could’ve been?,” Long said. “But the game’s not over. We had 58 seconds, had a possession. I think the coaches were a little bit more worried about that and we were just trying to regroup and get a good possession, and that’s what we did.”

When the team reconvened after a missed shot on goal with nine ticks left, still level with Garnet Valley, Long again did the talking. And his equanimity shined on the field, even as any betting man in attendance would’ve wagered on Long being the player whose number the Cougars called.

Long wouldn’t be deterred, sneaking in front of the cage and burying a shot with 4.4 left to send Springfield home a 6-5 winner in a battle of Central League elites.

The marker, which completed a hat trick and represents the 200th point in the junior All-Delco’s career, wasn’t as easy as Long made it look. The University of Maryland commit took possession on the restart behind the net with 9.9 ticks left. With Garnet Valley defenseman Chad Hrivnak shadowing, Long rightly assumed he’d get one-on-one coverage. Joe DeBernardi, stationed on the crease, peeled off to provide a shooting lane, and Long bolted to the right side of goalie Jason Rose’s cage, exploiting a sliver to space to squeeze off a shot that beat Rose just under the crossbar.

“They weren’t really sliding, so I knew coming off that, I was going against a bigger defender, so I was trying to create space,” Long said. “I threw a left-to-right split (dodge) to create that space and just exploded. I knew they weren’t going to slide, so I just let it fly.”

The hectic finish yielded nearly as many goals in the game’s final 2 minutes, 47 seconds (five) as in the previous 45 minutes (six). Evan Trizonis snuck one past goalie James Spence at the 2:47 mark, injecting intrigue to a game Springfield (3-2 overall, 3-1 league) appeared to be killing off with a 4-2 edge. The margin was built by a pair of Mike Tulskie goals in the second and third quarters and protected by a young defense riddled with injuries that required senior middie Mike Vent to grab a long stick. Yet still they kept the Jags off the board for nearly 31 minutes from before halftime to the late barrage.

“We’ve just got to play smart, communicate,” Matty said. “It’s easy once you start communicating.”

Instead, Trizonis set the stage for a frantic finish. Long appeared to seal matters at 1:17 when Garnet Valley sloppily tried to double with Rose out of the crease and Long flicked a shot into the vacant cage.

But the Jaguars (3-2, 3-1) had no intention of going quietly. Using Rei Lopez’s efficiency with 14 wins in 15 faceoffs, they rattled off two quick goals, heady efforts by Jacob Buttermore at 1:02 and :44.

“It’s just that motivation,” said Buttermore, who scored three times. “We didn’t want to lose this game. Garnet Valley-Springfield, the rivalry goes back and forth and we don’t want to lose this game.”

Andrew Pickett picked a fine time for his only draw win, setting up Matty’s erased tally. After Long fired a shot high of the target, the Cougars covered and got another chance to draw up the final play, the perfect set up for a player whose mindset is usually pass-first to pull a sneak attack at the cage.

The goal bore a striking resemblance to the one Long deposited in the state semifinals against Avon Grove last year, as the Cougars advanced to lift the PIAA title. The same lens is useful for a team that lost its first two games this season, not unlike the 1-5 start last year that pivoted, in part, with an April win over Garnet Valley.

“I think it means a lot,” Long said. “You look, we started off with one loss in the Central League, and last year, we were looking a lot worse at this time. I think we still have so much to work on, offensively, defensively, clears and rides, but we’re starting to get better, and you can see the improvement even from last Tuesday.”

Also in the Central League:

Radnor 8, Haverford 6 >> Connor Pierce recorded a hat trick, and Drew Brown set up four goals to complement his marker as the Raiders rebounded in the back end of their all-Main Line week after losing to Conestoga Tuesday.

Clayton Proctor scored twice, and Tucker Ballbach registered eight saves for Radnor (4-2, 3-1).

Jack Daly tallied four goals, and Luke McCallion scored twice to go with a 14-for-16 day at the X for Haverford (4-2, 2-2).

Ridley 10, Harriton 4 >> Brock Anderson scored four goals, and Cade Stratton posted a hat trick for the Green Raiders (4-2, 3-1). Sean Crowley added a pair of goals, while George Santilla turned aside 13 shots.

In the Inter-Ac:

Episcopal Academy 14, Penn Charter 5 >> Jake Martellucci had himself a day with six goals and three assists as the Churchmen (4-1, 1-0) opened league play with a decisive victory.

Nate Emrick and Cole Johnson scored twice each for EA, while Jake Floyd-Jones stopped 13 shots.

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