Final Battle of the Division I Undefeated: Issaquah Comes to Mercer Island
Last regular season losses of 14-5 in the first week of play in 2008, playoff loss 10-4 at Issaquah eliminating MI from the playoff picture for the first time in five years. With the likes of Travis Wright missing, is the Eagle squad as capable as last year? this is their first test, and Mercer's third test - this week. Mercer will be missing their starting face-off man in Spencer Tierney after their game with Bellevue earlier this week. This game is the last undefeated battle in division 1, both Issaquah and Mercer Island enter tonight with 7-0 perfection in conference. Issaquah's strength lies in the "Three Stooges" at midfield: Jordan Goldstein, Riley Goodman and Jake Director; Mercer has depth that has finally matured. Daniel Shields and the "Stooges" may be the deciding factors in a well-matched line-ups from starters to bench. This one always promises to be a thriller!
Danny Shields wastes no time in putting his mark in at 11:13, after Caditz takes the first face-off from midfield. His shot his standard finish, as Danforth just couldn't track that one. Face-off possessions may determine the goal tally, as each offense can score regularly. On the next face-off, Goodman picks one up, and moves it around, Jordan Goldstein sweeps right, and buries a rocket in the top left corner, even at 1 with 10:06 to play. Issy's next possession sees director slip his man on a dodge and score a lefty rip to lead 2-1 at 7:53 in the first. A possession struggle trading opportunities would ensue, down nearly to two minutes when a failed Mercer Island clear finds Giraud racing back to the goal, to face Todd Jones one on one. Giraud has no chance, Jones' score gives Issaquah their third unanswered goal and a 3-1 lead. Shields does what he has done so many times, dodges inside into four defensemen turns, opens, and scores with 33 seconds left in the quarter. After one, Mercer trails 3-2, both goals scored by Shields for Mercer, and two of three by Goldstein and Director.
Starting the second quarter, MI wins possession, and starts firing. four minutes go by fighting for ground balls and possession, leading to an EMO opportunity for Mercer, squandered by shooting selection, giving Issaquah an opportunity. With three of the top ten shooters playing, we would expect unrivaled firepower, but game experience and fatigue may decide that for Mercer, playing a decidedly settled game plan. Issaquah has really only been successful working from Midfield. Mercer gets a possession late in the second quarter, using their first time-out with 4:36 remaining. Shields works inside and out, these two teams clearly aware of each others strengths and weaknesses, continue to circle each other in the ring, looking for a weekness to exploit. As the clock ticks down to 2:32, Issaquah and Mercer have reached somewhat of a stalemate. Neither have capitalized on their EMO opportunities. MI uses their last time out to maintain possession, and Stephen Taylor starts with the ball. He finds Caditz who sweeps right finding a hole in the bottom right, to tie up the game 3-3 with 42 seconds remaining in the first half. Giraud makes a save, and "the Jungle" is loggerheads at 3 goals a team.
Issaquah's offense gets solid possession time to start the third, though the EMO drought persists. Unable to capitalize in four minutes of ownership, Mercer trades and after two minutes, gives it back to Issaquah who finally breaks the EMO draught as Goldstein waits on the pipe from Jones, and buries the ball ith Giraud out of position. Issaquah takes the lead just over 6 minutes in the third quarter. Mercer would answer right back, neither team letting the other gain momentum. Caditz took another drive from up top, and smokes a heater past Danforth to tie the game at 4, with 5:14 remaining in the third. The Eagles burn two more minutes before MI attempts to clear. Struggling to clear at midfield, Mercer turns it back to Issaquah, with 1:38 remaining in the period.
I don't know how many epic fourth quarters a team can play against top level competition, but Mercer Island is going to find out this fourth quarter. Mercer gets a man-up opportunity on their first possession, but cannot capitalize. Again, Daniel Shields will bring inspiration, driving from the back corner, and hopping the corner to dunk it on Danforth at 10 minutes to go up by one 5-4 Mercer. Shields is the story of the evening. On Mercer's next possession, Shields waits patiently behind the cage, and draws his drive, shoulder down, around the pipe. He freezes Danforth, and pops it in over his shoulder, to give MI a 2 goal lead with 6:25 left to play in the fourth. Issaquah has another opportunity, but Mercer is all over possession in the fourth. As time dwindles, Mercer slows the game down which is brutal to Issaquah's high-speed run and gun offense. at 2:20 in the fourth, Mercer goes man-up and looks to kill the clock. under a minute, Shields, Bernal, and crew ride the clock down to 10 seconds before turning it back to Issaquah. Mercer's Daniel Sheilds again, makes the difference- scoring goals and also slowing the pace for a team who has played three tough games in seven days. Mercer goes 8-0, redeeming their two losses last year, and standing alone at the top of the Division undefeated.
Player of the Game: Daniel Shields 4g
Issy 3 0 1 0
Mercer 2 1 1 2
MI: Shields 4g, Caditz 2g
Issaquah: Goldstein 2g, Director 1g, Jones 1g
Giraud had 11 saves in the slow-paced attrition. Mercer's 15 turnovers to Issaquah's 8 should tell a different story.