Harvard Westlake Survives in OT Win Over Chaminade

Fifth-ranked Chaminade scored six consecutive goals in the second half Wednesday and led No. 3 Harvard Westlake 7-6 in the final two minutes, but the Wolverines broke through to force overtime, then won the Mission League matchup 8-7.

Senior Paul Rodriguez scored the game-winning goal on a 16-yard rocket shot from straight on with 28 seconds left in the extra period. Harvard Westlake had possessed the ball the entire overtime but couldn’t solve Chaminade’s zone defense for a decent look at the goal until Rodriguez let it fly from distance.

That Eagles’ defense had stifled the Wolverines for nearly 26 minutes after spotting them a 6-1 lead with a rash of first-half turnovers, ground-ball losses and penalties had kept the ball in Harvard Westlake’s hands throughout the first half.

“Effort and mental focus,” Chaminade coach Steve Lane said of the first half lapses. “We got crushed in the ground-ball war in the first half. Penalties didn’t help us, but I think that was all part of mental focus. We just were not mentally engaged.”

Harvard Westlake (5-2) scored the game’s first four goals and methodically built a 6-1 halftime lead, although the second quarter offered some clues that the Eagles were beginning to dial in. It also hinted at how the Wolverines would salvage the game later.

Chaminade (5-2) blanked Harvard Westlake for the first eight minutes of the second quarter, including stretches of as much as two minutes of Wolverines’ possession time without a shot on goal. Finally, with the clock ticking under four minutes, Asher Early cut from X, took a pass from the wing and curled into the heart of the Eagles’ zone to score, making it 5-1. We would see a similar play later.

After Gideon Hyman took a pass from Rodriguez and made it 6-1 at the 2:13 mark, though, the Harvard Westlake offense went silent for the next 25 minutes.

Chaminade’s defense — Carson Holtke, Thomas Nelson, Jake Cloutier, Ryan Cornelius and a host of others, with Nick Carney anchoring in cage — gave the Wolverines no openings in the second half. Harvard Westlake possessed for long stretches but got few looks at the goal and took even fewer shots. The Eagles earned two “keep it in” calls in the second half and another in overtime, forcing the offense to stay within the restraining box.

“We feel comfortable against a zone defense,” Wolverines coach Erik Krum said. “We were circulating the ball very well; we weren’t forcing the ball. Where we seem to have a problem was when they told us to keep it in the box; running a zone and keeping it in the box, when you’re having defenders pressure you, it is a tough task.”

With Harvard Westlake stuck on six goals — and without its starting face-off middie, Harrison Listen, who was injured on the opening face — the Eagles began to chip away.

Owen Larson scored a man-up goal to open the second half, making it 6-2. Nico Rabushka blew past his defender from X and scored unassisted to make 6-3 with 2:13 in the quarter. Larson scored again to open the fourth, then Mac Griffin scored in transition, pulling Chaminade within 6-5 with 9:42 to play.

Five minutes later, Larson scored his third to tie it 6-6. And two minutes after that, Trevor Roberts took a pass from Griffin in transition and gave Chaminade its only lead of the game, 7-6 with 2:27 to play.

Facing their only deficit, Harvard Westlake went back to the play that had beaten Chaminade’s zone in the first half. Early curled into the crease from X, took a pass from Rodriguez and turned and scored, tying it 7-7 with 39 seconds left.

“You can’t do it without an athletic player like Asher,” Krum said, “without a few athletic players, without a heads-up play on the pass from Paul and Asher coming around. Hats off to those guys.”

Early and Tommy Park each scored two goals for Harvard Westlake, and Rodriguez had a goal and four assists. Larson led the Eagles with three goals, and Griffin and Roberts each had a goal and an assist.

“We still have time,” Lane said. “We’ll piece it together. I feel fine. It’s a bummer to lose, but they’re good. We played a half, and we played them to a one-goal game.”