The Novi Wildcats avenged their loss to the Saline Hornets earlier in the season by knocking the Hornets out of the playoffs, ending their season, with an 11-8 victory at Hornet Stadium on Thursday.
Novi got off to a quick start, scoring in the first minute of the game, but as usual, the Hornets used their steady approach to work themselves into a rhythm. Tyler Schaefer tied the game about 4 minutes in with his 30th goal of the season on a feed from Brett Braun. Jay Graden then scored a goal sandwiched between two goals by Sam Ozminkowski as the Hornets took a 4-1 lead with 1:25 left in the first period. Novi retaliated with a goal of their own in the last minute but Tom Needham scooped up a loose ground ball to give the Hornets one more scoring chance and they converted when Braun collected a loose ground ball near the net and scored to make it 5-2 Hornets at the end of the first period. The first 6 minutes of the second period were nearly scoreless before Ozminkowski got the hat trick, scoring off a feed from Braun to give the Hornets a 6-2 lead. During this stretch, junior Greg Houle made some notable moves to pick up several of the 7 ground balls he collected during the contest. Novi came right back after Ozminkowski’s goal, taking the ensuing face-off and beating the Hornet defense to make it 6-3. The Wildcats dominated the rest of the half, scoring twice more to cut the Saline lead to 6-5 at the half.
The third period was all Novi as the absence of four Saline seniors due to injury or illness started to show. The Wildcats started to wear down the Hornets and the Hornets started to make some uncharacteristic turnovers, but the first 9 minutes of the period were scoreless as the Hornets clung to their one goal lead. Novi finally broke through to tie the game at 6 with 2:28 left in the third and then added two more goals in the next 90 seconds to take an 8-6 lead into the final period. Braun scored his second goal of the night, taking a slick pass from Graden and scoring just 20 seconds into the final period to cut the Wildcats lead to 1. Novi responded with a goal 90 seconds later, then added two more to take a commanding 11-7 lead with 6:52 minutes to play. The Hornets continued to battle and Braun got his hat trick and team leading 40th goal of the season with 1:56 left to complete the scoring.
A disappointing way for the Hornets to end the season for sure, but it was a memorable season with the Hornets winning their first ever SEC men’s lacrosse championship (going undefeated in conference play) and earned their first ever sweep over rival Ann Arbor Pioneer. The Hornets finished with an overall record of 11-5-1. Senior co-captain Brett Braun led the team with 40 goals, 37 assists and 64 ground balls and will continue his lacrosse career at Central Michigan University next year. Junior Tyler Schaefer had 30 goals and 15 assists on the season and collected 45 ground balls himself. Senior Zach Cameron was third on the team in goals with 26, collected 34 ground balls and won 49 face-offs, while Senior Sam Ozminkowski had 25 goals and 20 assists on the season. Sophomore Jay Graden was fifth on the team in goals with 13 on the season, along with 8 assists. Senior Brian Beasley ended the season with 12 goals and 7 assists. Sophomore midfielder Tom Needham collected 40 ground balls and won 78 face-offs on the season.
Senior defender Mark Hoffman paced the defense with 58 ground balls and will continue his lacrosse play at Endicott College next year. Junior defender Chris Krueger had 49 ground balls, senior defender Griffin Sibo had 35 and senior long stick midfielder and co-captain Cam Peters had 26 ground balls. Senior goalkeeper and co-captain Dylan Peace recorded 142 saves on the season and showed his speed and quickness by collecting 15 ground balls.
The Hornets depth was evident in the fact that 35 different players saw action for the varsity square this year, 22 of those players saw action in 10 or more games, 20 different Hornets scored a goal and 31 different Hornets collected a ground ball.
1ST PERIOD (SALINE 5-2)
8:33 SALINE T.Schaefer, assist Braun
5:54 SALINE Ozminkowski unassisted
3:17 SALINE Graden, assist T.Schaefer
1:25 SALINE Ozminkowski, assist Houle
0:06 SALINE Braun unassisted
2ND PERIOD (SALINE 6-5)
6:26 SALINE Ozminkowski, assist Braun
3RD PERIOD (NOVI 8-6)
4TH PERIOD (NOVI 11-8)
11:41 SALINE Braun, assist Graden
1:56 SALINE Braun, assist Ozminkowski
***I would like to personally thank Bill Needham for his assistance this year with Boys LAX.