When Kyle Meagher drifted to the far post to deny the final shooter, his teammates raced to his crease to celebrate the U16 championship. The Gold Team’s 7-6 shootout victory provided an exciting finale to the Roots Youth Box Lacrosse League (YBLL).
“It was great to see so many one-goal championship games,” said Roots Box Lacrosse League Founder and Program Director Brad Gillies. “It led to high drama and lots of big-time plays by guys. It was fun to watch and be a part of it.”
Gillies forecasted that the finals would see some one-goal games. And he was right. Three of the four divisions Monday featured one-goal contests.
That was certainly the case in the U16 title game between the Gold and Green teams. The Gold squad outscored the Green squad 1-0 in the shootout to capture the championship. Jackson Monte’s goal on his team’s first shot proved to be the game-winner. Meagher and Green Team netminder Tyler DeRue, who finished with 28 saves, combined for five stops in the shootout.
“It was awesome, but as a team, we did well to put ourselves in a position to do that,” said Monte. “I knew once I had a shot, it was my turn to do something for the team.”
Meagher, who finished the game with 27 saves, also stood tall in the shootout, as he recalled his final stop.
“I felt nervous at first, but I knew they were coming from a certain direction,” said Meagher. “I felt prepared and finally got into my groove.”
The contest went to a sudden-death shootout after the teams played to a 6-6 tie after 44 minutes of play. Anthony DeMeo forced the extra session after scoring on an outside out with 12:21 to play. DeMeo finished the night with a pair of goals. His first of the game, at 14:55 of the opening half, gave the Gold Team a 4-2 lead.
The opening frame was a back-and-forth battle with three lead changes. Twice the Green Team rallied to tie the contest. Ethan Shappee (three goals) forced the second tie as he notched back-to-back markers to tie the game at four. His second goal, on a power play, came off a coast-to-coast rush that he buried at 19:23. However, a one-handed diving finish by Mark Henderson with just 30 seconds left in the half, helped the Gold Team reclaim the lead at 5-4.
The second half was a goaltending duel between Meagher and DeRue, as just three goals were scored over the final 22 minutes. The Green squad mounted another comeback to take its second lead of the contest midway through the final frame.
Jack Holbrough got things started with a rocket from the outside 2:13 into the half. Brady Ruffalo then notched his second of the night at 7:33 to give the Green Team a 6-5 lead. But the Gold Team would tie the contest again as DeMeo scored on an outside screenshot to force the shootout.
The game was a fitting ending on a night that saw four champions crowned in the YBLL.
“These athletes worked extremely hard each week and continued to improve,” said Rochester Knighthawks defenseman Mike Manley, who coached the Gold Team with Gillies. “Every game was extremely close, which is just a testament to the level of competition in the league. These athletes throughout the past year have missed out and sacrificed a lot due to COVID. It was great to see these athletes being able to compete at such a high-level week in and week out and get back to a sense of normalcy.”
Manley also coached two other teams to victory in the YBLL Finals. In the U14 Division, the Penn Yan, NY, native joined Jake Pulver behind the bench to coach the Green Team. The Green squad used a second-half 4-0 run to knock off the Gold squad in another exciting one-goal final, 4-3.
Co-MVP Avery Valenti scored three of the Green Team’s four goals, including the eventual game-winner with just 3:56 to play. Valenti sparked the four-goal rally as he finished an end-to-end rush early in the second to make it 2-1. He struck again at 9:37 to even the contest. Austin Moore scored just over a minute later, connecting on a low outside shot. Valenti then finished the scoring to make it 4-2.
The Gold Team added a late goal by Brodie Joyce to cut the lead to one, but co-MVP Sven Habitzreuther secured the Green team’s win as he finished with 21 saves.
In the first half, it was a perfect 22 minutes for the Gold Team as they blanked the Green squad, 2-0. Chace Cogan scored a pair of goals on feeds from AJ Quagrello. In goal, John Buck was unbeatable as he would finish the contest with 21 stops.
The U12 Finals also produced a title for Manley as he coached alongside Jordan Jarvis. The contest featured a showdown between the top two teams in the division. The top-seeded White Team powered its way to a championship in a 9-5 win over the second-seeded Black squad.
The White Team used a balanced attack as it received goals from seven different players. MVP Brody Kaye led the way with three goals, while Talin Parks posted four points (1+3) and Cahlan Smith chipped in with three (1+2). Goalie Landon Tantillo earned the win in a 16-save effort.
The White squad broke open a 2-2 game with six straight goals in 13 minutes to take down the Black squad. With 30 seconds to play in the first half, Smith’s goal gave his team a lead that it would never relinquish.
In the second half, Kaye went to work, scoring back-to-back goals to put the White Team ahead 5-3. He converted a breakaway chance for his first of the night. He followed that up with a rip from the outside. The White squad continued to pour it on with Collin Smith, Mason Endres, and Parks’s consecutive goals to pull away at 8-3. The Green Team tried to counter with a pair of goals from Cole Goetz and one by Jack Lawrence with under three minutes to play.
In the first half, the Green Team scored three of the game’s final four goals. They rallied twice to even the game on markers by John Burrows and Goetz in the opening frame. Goetz also collected a game-high 13 loose balls, while goalie Mason Ditzell finished the contest with 17 saves.
Ditzell, the son of former Knighthawks defenseman Scott Ditzell, also played in the U10 Division Finals. In his first of back-to-back finals, he made 20 stops to finish with 37 saves.
In the title game, the Gold Team edged the Green squad 5-4 to capture the night’s first championship. Liam Miller scored three times to earn MVP honors, including two tallies in the first 22 minutes in what would end in a 3-3 tie. His second goal tied the game with 30 seconds to play in the opening frame.
The Gold Team jumped out to a 2-0 lead to open the contest on Jace Altieri and Miller’s goals. The Green Team, however, mounted a three-goal run to take its first and only lead. Maxwell Osborne and Maddox Felton scored to tie the game at two, and Griffin Goetz made it 3-2 with a tally with 1:20 to go in the first.
The second half was more of a defensive struggle with Ditzell (Green Team) and the Gold Team’s Jack Pearson (11 saves), both playing outstanding in net. After three goals early in the half, neither team would score in the game’s final 14:25. The Gold Team would earn the title by outscoring the Green side 2-1 in the final half with Joel Ekstrom notching the game-winning marker at 7:35.
Jordan Jarvis and Donny Moss were the winning coaches in the game that set the stage for four incredible finals to complete another successful Roots Youth Box Lacrosse League season.
“I am thrilled with the growth of the league over the past three years,” said Gillies. “Not only on size, but the skill and true box being played are what are most important to me. And with each older division, you can see the improvement as there are more and more players with box experience.”