Bayhawks Rally to Edge Nationals and Earn Spot in Title Game

ANNAPOLIS, MD Midfielder Michael Kimmel scored the winning goal off a beautiful quick-stick shot with time winding down as the Chesapeake Bayhawks outlasted the Hamilton Nationals, 13-12, in a thrilling Major League Lacrosse semifinal at PPL Park.

Midfielder Casey Powell set up the decisive score, dodging from behind the net then finding Kimmel wide open out front. Kimmel saw open space so he cut to the crease, took the pass from Powell and one-timed a shot past Hamilton goalie Brett Queener to put the Bayhawks ahead with 1:25 remaining in the game.

"I saw Casey Powell with the ball and he always draws a lot of attention. It was a beautiful pass from Casey and I just kind of slapped it in," said Kimmel, who scored two goals in the final 7:09 to help the Bayhawks rally. "It feels great to have a hand in helping the team to such a big win. The two at the end were just a case of being in the right place at the right time."

Powell beat a short stick defender from behind and appeared to have an opening to take the ball all the way to the goal, but pulled back and surveyed the field in time to spot Kimmel cutting from up top.

"I had the inside roll, but I saw Brodie Merrill coming out of the corner of my eye. So I rolled back out and saw Kimmel wide open on the crease. Brodie had to make a decision and he chose to close down on me," Powell said.

Hamilton won the ensuing face-off and called timeout to set up a play in an attempt to tie. Midfielder Kevin Crowley, the league Most Valuable Player, got open just inside the 2-point arc and fired a direct shot that Chesapeake keeper Kip Turner turned away. Hamilton was subsequently called for interference, giving the Bayhawks possession.

Head coach Dave Cottle called timeout to organize the clear and a long pass into the offensive zone was caught by Powell, allowing Chesapeake to run out the final 10 seconds.

Kimmel finished with three goals, one of which was a 2-pointer, to lead Chesapeake (10-5), which will seek its fifth Major League Lacrosse championship on Sunday. Attackman John Grant Jr. and midfielder Ben Hunt both contributed two goals and an assist for the Bayhawks, who will be trying to secure their third title in the last four years.

"This game was a microcosm of our entire season. We've played a bunch of one-goal games and have kind of been grinding it out all the way through. We kept battling because that's what we do," Cottle said. "It wasn't the easiest game. We always seemed to be playing from behind, but we just kept fighting and found a way to pull it out."

Attackman Drew Westervelt scored two goals while Powell and attackman Ben Rubeor added a goal and assist apiece for second-seeded Chesapeake, which will meet No. 4 Charlotte (8-7) in Sunday's 3:00 p.m. final. The Hounds upset top-seeded Denver (14-1) in the first semifinal on Saturday.

"Charlotte is explosive. They're a real bear to guard. We're looking for a high-scoring, up-and-down game," Cottle said.

Turner finished with 14 saves, including several big stops in the fourth period when the game was on the line.

"Wow! What a game. Hamilton played great and we really had to step it up to compete with them," Turner said. "I'm so proud of what our defense did down the stretch. We knew we had to shut them down to give our offense a chance and everyone just took their game to another level."

Chesapeake struck first as Kimmel unleashed a blazing shot from beyond the arc that deflected off the goalie's stick and went into the net for a 2-pointer. Hamilton responded with a 3-0 run with Crowley scoring a goal and assisting another.

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