WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – It was a game that fell into the hands of the respective goalies.
In the end, Shawnee High School’s Phil Gardella and Washington Township’s Mike Pagano were both up to the challenges they faced.
They each gave up a goal early in the game, but then each closed the door on their opponents the rest of the way.
The result was a 1-1 tie in an Olympic Conference American Division matchup of top 10 teams against each other on Wednesday.
Pagano was beaten in the game’s first four minutes when Brian Lorenz scored with an assist from Mike Funaro to give No. 3 Shawnee a 1-0 lead.
Gardella was beaten by Jason Arakelian with an unassisted goal 15 minutes later for No. 5 Washington Township, but neither goalie wilted after that.
Pagano ended up with eight saves, including a game-saver in the closing minutes of the second overtime period.
Gardello recorded seven saves for his team, and kept his team alive, even though both coaches, Shawnee’s Ryan Franks, and Township’s Shane Snyder, said they believed Township had the better of the way in the second half.
“Last time we played these guys (a 3-1 Shawnee victory) I thought we had the better of the play and earned the result,” Franks said. “This time I thought we were lucky to get out of it 1-1.”
A senior, Gardello later spoke about how he has learned to adjust to the pressures of playing in a big game, which is almost always the case when Olympic American teams meet.
“The Olympic Conference is a real tough schedule with teams like Township and Eastern,” he said. “Every game counts. Every game is a playoff game.
“You can’t afford a loss. And if you do mess up, every team is going to punish you. It’s all good. It’s good competition.”
Gardello took the blame for giving up the one goal he allowed, saying he had his hands on the ball and should have made the save.
“I have to blame myself,” he said. “It slipped out of my hands and I should have controlled it. But I think we bounced about after giving up that goal.”
At the time, none of his teammates blamed Gardello for giving up the goal. Coming as early as in did in the game, there was no indication that neither team would score again.
However, as the game wore on and went into two overtimes, the pressure on the goalies became more and more intense.
Again Gardello was equipped to handle what the Minutemen threw at him, showing a sense of confidence that led to his making a couple of big saves.
He said a goalie has to learn to reject the negatives.
“You’ve got to push that thought out of your head,” Gardello said. “You can’t be thinking if I mess up right now it’s going to cost the game. You really have to concentrate on the task at hand of not seeing that ball go in the net.”
On the other end of the field, Pagano, a junior, says he took a similar mental approach to the game.
“You just have to get prepared for each game,” he said. “Once the game gets into the later parts, I always try to keep it safe. By then the adrenaline is rushing, so it’s like this is just happening without really noticing what’s going on.”
Pagano made two huge stops in the second half. The first came with Shawnee appeared to have a break-away opportunity, but he stepped out of the net and kicked the ball clear.
In the closing seconds of the second overtime Shawnee almost stole the win. The Renegades appeared to have an open net, but defender Sean Zemlak got a foot on the ball just before it cleared the goal line.
Then it was up to Pagano to follow up and keep the ball out, which he did by catching the ball and clutching it to his body.
“He made some great saves early in the second half and on that one he was just at the right place at the right time,” said Snyder. “It was like a scrum and it ended up in his stomach. So it worked out good.”
Washington Township 1-0-0-0-1
Goals: Brian Lorenz, S, Jason Arakelian, WT, Goalies: Phil Gardella (8 saves), S, Mike Pagano, (7 saves), WT