Mountain Lakes holds off Chatham, 6-5

By Mark Kitchin

morriscountylacrosse

MOUNTAIN LAKES — Christian Cuccinello loves meeting up with old friends but not when they want to take the ball away from him.

Cuccinello was instrumental in Mountain Lakes 6-5 triumph over Chatham on Thursday but he also got plenty of help from his teammates. Cuccinello had a goal and two assists as six different Lakers put the ball in the net. Mountain Lakes improves to 3-1 with the win.

Scott Lynch fired a hat trick for the Cougars (2-2). Chatham rallied from a 6-3 deficit late in the third quarter to make the game interesting. Midfielder Thomas Berger connected off an Austin Pierce crease feed with 3:03 left in the game to cut it to within 6-5. Chatham had several chances to tie and had the ball in the final seconds but the Lakers’ defense and second-half goalie Kevin Beimfohr held up.

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Chatham midfielder Thomas Berger (32) is swamped by Mountain Lakes defenders in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Cuccinello has great respect for Chatham defender Danny Winschuh and midfielder David Gill. Trying to get past them was a game within a game for the Lakers senior standout.

“I played with Danny and Gill on Team New Jersey in the Under Armour tournament in Baltimore,” Cuccinello said. “They are nice guys and very, very good players. … Danny is just an unbelievable take away guy. He can dominate the game in the middle of the field.”

Mountain Lakes got off to a terrific start. Disappointed in a recent 12-6 loss to Bergen Catholic, the Lakers were determined to get on the board early. Mountain Lakes scored three consecutive goals. Cuccinello scored the first one then assisted on goals by midfielders Zander Kotsen and Zach Lesko.

“We knew it was crucial for us to come out to a good start today,” Cuccinello said. “We came out with intensity and energy. It’s great to capture one against a good Chatham on our home field.”

This year’s Mountain Lakes team has displayed tremendous balance on offense. Ten players have registered goals for the Lakers this season. Cuccinello is the only one to have scored seven goals or more.

20 bl mlchatMountain Lakes’ Zach Lesko, left, and Christian Cuccinello celebrate a first-half goal. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“We have a ton of guys on offense that can play,” Cuccinello said. “They have been producing all season for us so far. We have guys who can step in and shoot, know the game and who can convert for us. It’s a huge help to the entire team. It’s a total team effort out there.”

The Lakers knew they would need every one of them. Chatham was full of confidence after toppling neighborhood rival Summit in double overtime earlier in the week. The Cougars rallied with three second-quarter goals by Lynch and only trailed 4-3 at the half.

Mountain Lakes had just enough firepower to stay ahead in the second half and was helped by a good defensive effort and solid goalie play by junior Beimfohr who made eight saves.

“We have two great goalies (Beimfohr and Paul Kimmelman, who had four first-half saves) that are anchoring our defense,” Cuccinello said. “We have returning guys Jack Siddron, John Spagnola, Gene Schuckmen, maybe they didn’t get as much time as they wanted last year but have come out with a lot of intensity, a lot of enthusiasm. They are great leaders on the defense.”

2 bl mlchatChatham’s Austin Pierce and Mountain Lakes midfielder Robert Gossett are in pursuit of the ball. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Lakers scored a pair of goals to start the third quarter and open up a 3-goal lead. Davis Thompson took a Smith crease feed and connected with a righty shot to make it 5-3 at the 10-minute mark. Six minutes later Kotsen’s ground ball created a transition goal when Brad Smith converted a pass from Brad Landry. It made the score 6-3 at 4:25 in the third quarter and proved to be the game-winning goal.

“Brad is so much fun to work back there with,” Cuccinello said. “He knows the game so well; great shooting, great feeding, great everything. He’s just a great overall player.”

As expected Chatham rallied and at times came close to tying. Richard Berger connected on a hard righty shot with 3:53 left in regulation to make it a two-goal game. Chatham won the face-off and drew a holding penalty. Thomas Berger connected on the man-up goal off of Austin Pierce’s feed to make it a one-goal game with just over three minutes left.

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Mountain Lakes defenseman John Spagnola moves step for step with Chatham attackman James Sullivan. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Chatham’s best chance to score came in the two-minute mark when a hard shot by Gill deflected off Beimfohr’s stick. The Lakers used two timeouts to keep from turning the ball over, but still lost it with 39 seconds when Cuccinello was stripped on a double team. Lynch fielded the ground ball and Chatham called time out with 26 seconds left, however their plans failed to materialize due to a loose ball off a stick check and the Lakers emerged with the win.

“It was very important for us to come out here and get this win today,” Cuccinello said. “We’re very thrilled to be able to do it.”

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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