Benz Leads Eastern Past King's to Freedom Title Game

ST. DAVIDS, Pa.- Eastern built a 5-0 halftime lead and held on to top King's, 12-3, to advance to Saturday's Freedom Conference title game. In winning today, the top-seeded Eagles (14-2) set a new high-water mark for wins in a year and run their unbeaten streak to nine games.

The Eastern offense was good enough early, but the story of the first half was the play of Aaron Benz. The senior goalie made 12 of his career-high 20 saves in the first 30 minutes. Many of those saves were spectacular.

"Benz was amazing," head coach Kevin Wallace said after the game, " that first half could have just as easily ended at 5-3 or 5-4. Their kid [King's goalie Brendan McGrudden] played well too, but Aaron dominated the start of the game."

The Eagles scored twice in the first four minutes of the game to grab a 2-0 lead. The first goal came after a strong save from Benz at the near post. With a flag down on the field after the Eastern clear, Will Johnson wound through the King's defense along the goal-line-extended. The senior midfielder went over top of McGrudden for his first of two goals on the afternoon.

The Eagles then took advantage of the ensuing man-up chance with a brilliant low-to-high finish from Eric Waibel. The Eagles scored five times with an extra man. The Eastern man-down unit, on the other hand, was flawless. the Eagles were short-handed for four minutes int he game and did not give up a goal.

The two early goals looked good, but McGrudden and the King's defense turned away the Eagles for the remainder of the period and the result remained in question as Benz had to turn away several close-range efforts from the Monarchs.

King's won the faceoff to start the second period and after an extended possession went man-up on a cross-checking call. The Monarchs got the look they wanted on the doorstep, but Benz came up with a big save on a low shot from the edge of the crease and Andy Jameson ran the clear to kill off the rest of the penalty time.

As they did in the first half, the Eagles scored a pair of goals in close succession. Chris Farrar set up the first one. The 2013 Freedom Conference Player of the Year found Waibel cutting to the goal and fed him at four yards out. Waibel made the nice catch in traffic and went over top of McGrudden with the shot for a 3-0 lead. Thirty seconds later, Will Johnson drove into the front of the goal and found Grant Ferguson on the left wing. Ferguson fired a high shot at the near post for his first of four on the afternoon.

King's had several chances to cut into the Eastern lead, but Benz was ready in every situation. King's had its final man-up chance of the half with a 30-second opportunity with a minute to play. After the time on the penalty expired, Mark Cyron checked the ball free and Ky Allen won the ground ball to give the Eagles a chance in transition with time running down. Shawn Farmer ran the clear to the edge of the crease and was forced right by a trio of King's defenders. Farmer found Ferguson on the doorstep alone against McGrudden. Ferguson threw a series of fakes and buried his second of the day with 4.3 seconds on the clock.

The Eagles failed on their first man-up chance in the second half, and the Monarchs grabbed their first goal of the game shortly after a man-up chance ended. Lenny Fox drove down the right alley and found a low corner with 12:15 remaining in the third period.

The Eagles stretched the lead to 7-1 with two more man-up goals in the middle of the third period. Ferguson scored the first with a two-man advantage after Will Johnson drew a pair of defenders with a hard dodge down the right alley. Will Johnson made it 7-1 two minutes later on a shot from distance after a good ball reversal by Kyle Gillam.

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