NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Showing unshakeable poise and confidence throughout the game, Christopher Newport posted the program's most historic victory as CNU capitalized on an outstanding effort by Matt Hayden and an overtime goal by Nick Kirschke to upset second-ranked Salisbury 8-7 in an epic Capital Athletic Conference battle on a sun-splashed Wednesday afternoon at Captains Turf Field.
Recording the program's first victory against a ranked team, Hayden was a wall between the pipes. Playing with confidence far beyond his years, the freshman compiled 12 saves, including several edge-of-your-seat stops late in the second half. Kirschke also helped pace the Captains by winning eight faceoffs to go along with a pair of goals, including the clincher.
In addition to the first-year phenoms, John Thompson chipped in with three goals, highlighted by a man-down score late in the fourth quarter, which helped kick off the team's final push. Adam Abbate also contributed two points, while Steven West caused three turnovers on the defensive end.
With the victory, Christopher Newport improves to 8-2 on the season, including 2-1 in league action. The loss is the first of the year for the Sea Gulls, who now sit at 10-1 with a 3-1 mark in conference play. The setback is the first regular season league loss for Salisbury since 2011. SU had won 17 conference CAC tilts before Wednesday.
Refusing to be pushed around by the 10-time national champions, the Captains showed a steely resolve after finding themselves down 7-4 late in the third period. After the visitors secured a three-goal edge, Thompson found a rhythm and started picking apart the SU defense. With two minutes remaining in the third, the junior unloaded a dart to the back of the net to kick off the comeback.
Down by two entering the fourth, CNU continued to plug away. First, the defense stepped up as Abbate caused a key turnover and Hayden made back-to-back saves during a 30-second onslaught. Following the second stop, the Captains took control and pieced together a textbook man-down fast break. With numbers, Abbate found some space and fed the ball to Thompson, who ripped his second consecutive goal from the top of the zone to pull the hosts back within one at 7-6.
After handling the rest of the man-down situation, Christopher Newport went right back to work. After another save by Hayden, the offense settled in. With less than four minutes remaining in regulation, Billy Crist shuffled the ball back to Thompson, who sniped another one-timer into the top corner of the net to knot the game at seven.
Back on even ground, the Captains continued to battle. With time running down, Hayden made his 12th save and took advantage of bullet off the post to send the game into overtime.
Having no use for moral victories, CNU stormed out in overtime and landed the fatal blow. On the faceoff, Kirschke took the ball cleanly and scooted right into the Salisbury zone. Without hesitation, the freshman found a sliver of daylight and unloaded the biggest goal of the season with a rocket that capped off the comeback and sent the sideline into a full-out frenzy.
Overall, Salisbury held a 33-25 advantage in shots and a 29-23 lead in ground balls. However, CNU's defense was the difference as Hayden posted 12 saves and the Captains caused nine turnovers to keep the SU attack on its heels.
Proving that they could play with the Sea Gulls from the start, the hosts were evenly matched throughout the game. In the first quarter, the two teams traded blows. Salisbury struck first before Abbate answered at 3:09. Six seconds later, in a preview of things to come, Kirschke won the ensuing faceoff and blistered his first goal of the game to give CNU an early advantage.
After Salisbury responded with two consecutive goals to take a 3-2 lead in the second period, Christopher Newport battled right back. Following three saves by Hayden during a rapid-fire assault, Thompson landed the biggest hit of the game. Once the offense took control in the SU zone, the two teams battled for a loose ball along the back line.
Refusing to lose possession, Thompson lowered his shoulder and laid out a Sea Gull with a vicious blow. After keeping the ball, Joey Rolando capitalized on the hit and wrapped a gorgeous shot around the post to knot the game at three with nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Although Salisbury struck for a pair of late tallies to grab a 5-3 halftime lead, Christopher Newport kept calm. In the middle of the third quarter, Teddy Pekalski was a beast along midfield. The bruiser checked a ball away from Salisbury and continued to fight any Sea Gull who tried to pick it up. Unleashing a barrage of stick checks to keep the ball on the ground, Pekalski's efforts paid off as Brooks Billings corralled the roller and took the ball into the SU end.
Shortly thereafter, following a penalty, Aaron Chrzaszcz scored off a feed from Hunter King to whittle the deficit back down to one. Although the Sea Gulls ripped off back-to-back scores to regain a three-goal advantage, Thompson took over with three consecutive tallies before Kirschke added the final nail to seal the edge-of-your-seat victory.
The overtime triumph was the second of the year for CNU after also toppling Eastern in an extra session on March 6. Making the win even more incredible is the fact that Salisbury played just one freshman and started five seniors, while the youthful Captains ran out eight first-year competitors, including three in the starting lineup.