By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Absegami jumped out to a 3-0 lead on visiting Northern Burlington on Wednesday afternoon in a nonconference matchup, but as the turnovers began to pile up, the lead started slipping away.
The Greyhounds rallied to take a 5-4 lead, survived a third-quarter run by the Braves, and held Absegami scoreless in the fourth to score a 10-7 victory.
“We could not get ground balls. We had so many 50-50 opportunities, and they came up with everything. When you’re playing defense 80 percent of the time — our goalie did a great job today, but you have to pick up ground balls and you can’t turn it over. Every time we went on offense, those guys weren’t getting enough touches so they felt they had to hurry up (and shoot) because they didn’t know when they were going to see the ball again,” said Absegami coach Greg Goodwin. “Their face-off guy (Kyle Matthews) did a great job today. He’s good, and that makes a big difference. They played well. We had certain opportunities, but a lot has to do with gaining possession. It’s like anything, when you keep the ball out of the hands of our offense, their best defense was their offense. When they can control that, that makes a big difference.”
It was all Absegami (10-2) early on, as the Braves got goals from Randy Collins, Evan Sibson and Gary Lamkin to jump out to a 3-0 lead. But Northern Burlington struck in the waning seconds of the first quarter, and Tom Breslin’s goal turned the tide for the Greyhounds. They went on a 4-1 run in the second quarter to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Sibson — who has more than 200 career goals — scored to cut the deficit to 6-5, and later Collins added a pair of goals to tie the game, 7-7. But Absegami struggled with keeping possession and sustaining offensive attacks, and eventually the offensive pressure by the Greyhounds took its toll on the Braves’ young defense and goalie Luke Gifford. Despite the onslaught of shots, Gifford did play pretty well, finishing with 19 saves.
“The thing is, with Evan and Randy, obviously they are top-notch players, but we’re very young and inexperienced in certain cases, and that kind of showed today with guys not getting ground balls and things like that. But, you have to learn from this,” Goodwin said.
Northern Burlington (9-6) took the lead for good when Davis Hallman made a great pass to Nate Ruffenach, who finished in front of the net to make it 8-7. Breslin, who finished with a game-high five goals, added two more down the stretch for the Greyhounds.
Goodwin said his team has to wipe the loss from their minds quickly, as the Braves travel to Mainland on Thursday for another tough matchup.
“We’re not an elite level team, but we’re a good Cape-Atlantic League team. It’s Ocean City and Mainland, and the rest of us are battling for that next spot. That’s where we are right now, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “We have to go to Mainland tomorrow, but sometimes it’s almost better to get right back into it. In any sport, after a tough loss, sometimes the best thing is to play the next day. Especially a game like that (against Mainland), because we’re not supposed to win. We’re supposed to go over and get it handed to us, so we’ll see what our mentality is. Then, we have Ocean City on Monday. We’re hoping by the time the playoffs come, we’ll get tough. We have to get tough.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN