BY JIM SCHILTZ
NISKAYUNA — With three consecutive goals to end the first quarter and five more to start the second, Niskayuna put itself in a great position Thursday afternoon against Suburban Council lacrosse rival Shenendehowa.
That doesn’t happen without the ball.
“The more times we possess the ball, the more opportunities we have to score,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said after a 13-6 homefield victory. “The kids did a great job of getting the ball in our hands, and we executed.”
Faceoff specialist Jon Pfohl, his cast of wings and a stingy defensive group shared top billing with the big guns as Niskayuna moved to the top of the league’s North Division with its ninth straight win against Shenendehowa.
Lucas Quinn paced the offense with five goals and a pair of assists. Niskayuna (6-0, 7-2) held a 9-1 lead after its second-quarter run which included three goals by Quinn, and the Silver Warriors were up, 12-3, heading into the final frame.
“This was a big game for us,” said Pfohl, who has been filling in for injured Dylan Pantalone. “Little things. A little extra effort helped us win.”
Niskayuna finished with a 17-4 faceoff advantage, and went 16-2 with Pfohl taking the draws.
“We thought today was a day where we’d have an opportunity to win faceoffs. I didn’t know how many we’d win, but I thought we’d have a chance for big day, and we executed,” said Vorgang. “He [Pfohl] was a kid who definitely changed the complexion of the game.”
“Their faceoff kid did a great job, and when there were opportunities for us to get the ball off the ground, they were winning there, too,” said Shenendehowa coach Jason Gifford. “Wing play was huge for them.
“We thought one of the key factors would be those 50-50 balls. We’ve got to get better at that.”
John Prendergast stood out with his wing play and three goals, as did Jake Shephard, with his wing play and work as a long pole defensive midfielder.
Logan Michalisin, Bill Braungart, Pat Holmes and Jake Miller were other key defensive figures.
“I like seeing the defense play well,” said Prendergast, a senior midfielder. “There was one play where Holmes knocked the ball down, ran through three guys and got the ball to the offense. Things like that are great.”
Coinciding with Niskayuna’s first-half scoring run was a span of over 13 minutes in which Shenendehowa failed to produce a goal.
“Our defense played very well,” said Pfohl, a sophomore. “Especially in the beginning of the game. They held them down.”
Matt Stucchi pulled Shenendehowa into a 1-1 tie with 5:26 left in the first quarter, and the Plainsmen didn’t score again until Liam Cannon’s man-up tally with 3:56 remaining in the half.
Cannon and Owen Putman scored two goals apiece for the state’s No. 15-ranked Class A team.
“We knew we’d be scouted,” said Gifford, whose Plainsmen came in with a four-game win streak. “Niskayuna did a great job of taking away our strengths.”
Aidan Byrne and Matt Sexton scored two goals apiece for Niskayuna, Nick Testa made five saves and Pfohl received addition wing support from Mike Doxie and Ryan Sitterly.
“We fought a lot,” said Pfohl. “We got down low and grinded it out.”
Niskayuna finished with a 34-20 shot advantage, and had a slight edge (23-20) in the ground ball battle.
Niskayuna played without North Carolina-bound midfielder Aidan O’Brien, who is out indefinitely with a groin injury. Pantalone (broken ankle) is expected to play his first game of the season Saturday at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
Shenendehowa 1 1 1 3 — 6
Niskayuna 4 5 3 1 — 13
Shenendehowa scoring: Matt Stucchi 1-1, Dakota Rainville 0-1, Liam Cannon 2-0, Brian Nelsen 0-1, Owen Putman 2-0, Pete Russo 1-0. Niskayuna scoring: Lucas Quinn 5-2, James Sexton 2-0, Evan Maloney 1-1, Aidan Byrne 2-0, John Prendergast 3-0, Sam Assini 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Shenendehowa, Anthony Tebano, 12 saves. Niskayuna, Nick Testa, 5 saves; Jack Lynch, 1 save.
More photos of the game at The Daily Gazette.