The Ohio Machine kicked off its 2014 season with a resounding whistle-to-whistle victory against the reigning Major League Lacrosse runners-up Charlotte Hounds Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Ohio jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game as newcomer Kyle Harrison scored on his first shot in a Machine uniform. The team finished the first quarter leading 6-0 before winning 15-8 behind 23 saves from starting goalie Scott Rodgers and hat tricks from midfielders Jake Bernhardt, Peter Baum and Kyle Harrison.
“We had a bunch of guys play extremely well tonight,” Harrison said after the game. “(Bernhardt) shot the ball very well tonight, (Baum) shot the ball well tonight, Marcus Holman did some things behind the cage for us.”
“It was certainly a group effort.”
The win marked the Machine’s first opening-day win in its three-year history as well as the team’s largest margin of victory.
Harrison said the team is excited about the win, but stressed that it’s important to stay focused on the task going forward.
“It’s clearly always a good thing to start out the season with a win,” he said. “But it’s a long season, and we got to make sure next weekend we come out ready to go as well.”
After the early Ohio advantage, Charlotte stormed back to within one goal in the third quarter, but a Jake Bernhardt goal gave the Machine an 8-6 advantage with 8:22 left in the frame. Over the ensuing two minutes, Bernhardt and Marcus Holman each scored their second goals of the game to expand the lead 10-6 in favor of Ohio. The Hounds never made it back within two goals the rest of the game.
Playing without 2013 leading scorer Logan Schuss – who scored 28 times as a rookie last season – and reigning team assist leader Steele Stanwick, the Machine spread the ball around as seven different players contributed goals. Harrison, Holman, Jim Connolly – who is the Machine’s all-time leading scorer – and Erik Krum all scored within the first six minutes of the game.
Even without two key players, Harrison said there are a lot of strong players on the Machine roster.
“We have a bunch of young guys on this team that are extremely talented,” he said.
Machine Head Coach Bear Davis said the absence of Schuss and Stanwick didn’t shake up the team’s playing style.
“Actually it’s the same system, we really didn’t change a whole lot,” Davis said at halftime.
With less than eight minutes left in the third quarter the Machine nearly saw a goal come off the scoreboard. Charlotte’s Joe Cummings believed he had a goal and Hounds coach Mike Cerino threw the challenge flag, but Bernhardt hit the target during the ensuing continuation. The Machine was able to rest easy as the referees ruled Charlotte’s attempt a miss.
If the ruling had been reversed, the Hounds would have been credited with a goal while Bernhardt’s goal would have been removed from the score sheet.
The Machine’s six opening-period goals are the second-most all time in any single quarter for the club and it marked the first time Ohio held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter in team history.
After the three goals from each of Bernhardt, Harrison and Baum, Holman and Connolly added two a piece while Krum and Kevin Cooper each had one. Eric O’Brien won nine-of-14 face offs and Matt Dolente won eight-of-13.
Rodgers’ 23 saves came on 31 shots on goal from the Hounds.
Charlotte was led by two goals each from Joe Cummings, Ryan Young and Matt White.
The Machine is scheduled to stay on the road next week as it travels to Denver, Colo., to face-off with the Outlaws May 4. The team’s first home game is set for May 17 when Ohio hosts the New York Lizards at Selby Stadium at 8 p.m. in Delaware, Ohio.