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By Matthew De George
(Ed. note: Standouts were chosen only from Sunday’s four playoff teams.)
As celebrations go, Teddy Malone would’ve picked something other than X-rays.
Malone had plenty to enjoy from a May 6 game against rival Malvern Prep, the Haverford School attackman scoring five goals and adding an assist to avenge an earlier loss to the Inter-Academic League powerhouse in a 9-8 win. But late on, an errant slash to this hand spoiled the party, resulting in a fractured metacarpal and an early end to his junior season.
“It was a bummer,” Malone said Sunday.
Lucky for Malone that his Mesa 2022 team is like a souped-up version of his high school squad, featuring 10 Fords. Malone and his high school teammates were at the center of a triumph Sunday that had no hospital-trip caveats attached.
Malone drove the Mesa attack, scoring a hat trick in an 8-7 win over New Jersey powerhouse Leading Edge in the Class of 2022 final at the Big 4 Champions League at Grange Park in Allentown.
In many ways, the time with Mesa is an extension of Malone’s high school run, with plenty of high-level additions.
“We’re such a tight-knit group of guys, with the other programs that guys on Mesa come from,” Malone said. “But we have a great team chemistry, and we understand how each other plays, and we play off each other well.”
Attack Tag Team
For Malone in attack, that means playing with Ryan Goldstein. The Radnor attackman – and Harvard commit Malone’s future adversary at Cornell – has a similar skillset, with both adept operators at X. So when they’re on the same attack line, they have to extend their comfort areas.
Malone certainly looked great working on the crease in the final, taking the distribution from Goldstein on two of his goals.
“It’s great playing with Ryan,” Malone said. “We both play X, so sometimes he’s on the crease, I’m at X, or I’m on the crease and he’s at X. I just know he always has his head up, and he knows that I’m always looking for him. Both of us, we make those around us better.”
Malone’s high school teammates were well represented in the final. Chuck Cacciutti (Penn) made nine saves in a stellar effort. Avi Mehl scored a goal, as did Bo Page. Will Costin and Patrick Gillin led the defense.
Big 4 Champions League 2022 Standouts
Ryan Goldstein, attack, Radnor (Pa.) / Mesa / Cornell
Goldstein and Malone play similar positions out of X, but they’re able to play together. Neither is physically imposing or overly quick. However, both are superb passers with soft hands around the cage and a low-to-the-ground quickness that is difficult to defend. Goldstein had a goal and an assist in the semifinal and two big assists in the final.
Chuck Cacciutti, goalie, Haverford School (Pa.) / Mesa / Penn
Cacciutti and Nate Brown (Radnor, Pa.) split time, but the final was all Cacciutti, and he replied with an outstanding performance, making nine saves. That included an outstanding double save while scrambling in the first half, as Mesa led 6-3 at the break. Cacciutti is outstanding at stopping low shots, unafraid to get his body in the way and collapse into what shooters think is open space. He’s also surehanded in his distribution.
Patrick Gillin, LSM, Haverford School (Pa.) / Mesa
Gillin got up and down the field at will Sunday. An athletic LSM, he works very hard on the ground and was a big part of Mesa stalemating Leading Edge’s Luke Engelke on draws in the final. Gillin was impressive in transition (though fellow pole Kevin O’Brien was the one to get a goal in the semifinal) and solid in his defense, particularly in clogging up passing lanes.
David Link, attack, Delbarton (N.J.) / Leading Edge / Villanova
Link isn’t the biggest attackman, but he’s slippery. He knows how to use his body to get where he needs to go and create space to shoot. Link scored twice in the final, including one where he rolled off a defender around the cage to spin and score. He also scored in the semi, an 8-7 win over Laxachusetts.
Matt Dollive, midfield, Wall (N.J.) / Leading Edge / Army
Dollive is a massive middie coming off a 37-goal, 27-assist, 45-ground ball campaign for Wall. He’s active on both ends of the field, has the physical size to go into gritty areas on offense or take punishment in transition and he’s got a cannon of a shot. He scored twice in the semifinal, where he was one of the best players on the field, and added a goal in the final on a lethal stepdown shot.
Luke Engelke, faceoff midfield, Pingry (N.J.) / Leading Edge / Duke – NLF No. 31 ’22
Engelke was almost unbeatable in the semifinal, going 13-for-16. He was less so in the final, with Mesa throwing a pair of guys (led by NLF No. 16 Andrew McMeekin (Episcopal Academy, Pa. / Princeton) at him in a 7-for-14 performance. Engelke created instant offense time and again with his clean wins, adding an assist in the win over Laxachusetts. The tall lefty’s stickwork is the best of any faceoff man in the ’22 class, and it doesn’t take long for that to show up.
Tripp Didden, defense, Deerfield (Mass.) / Leading Edge / Johns Hopkins – NLF No. 56 ’22
There’s a lot of talent in the LE defensive unit, and Didden had one of the better days among the poles. It’s easy to spotlight someone like NLF No. 29 ’22 and Yale commit Konrad Miklaszewski (Montclair, N.J.) whose athleticism and dynamic game jumps out at you. Didden’s stay-at-home fundamentals might not have the same wow factor, but it’s the necessary basis for a strong defense, and he’s able to take away his man without much fanfare.
Charlie McGurrin, defense, Phillips Exeter (N.H.) / Laxachusetts
COVID-19-related interruptions in New England mean that McGurrin hasn’t gotten a ton of games, which is why he’s still uncommitted. He won’t be for long. Nominally a close defender, he has the athleticism and stick skills to play LSM. McGurrin is also a good hockey player, so you know his feet and stickwork are good. He’s physical with an active stick, and at 6-3 with long arms, he’s difficult for attackmen to get around.
Timmy McNamara, goalie, Tabor (Mass.) / Laxachusetts / Denver
Take your pick when your two goalies are McNamara and Ohio State commit Oran Gelinas (Middlesex, Mass.). The latter may have the flashier profile, and with his 6-4 stance, trying to shoot high on him is pretty much just a turnover. But McNamara was just as impressive Sunday. He’s also got a big frame and he’s outstanding at getting down low for shots and super quick in his post-to-post movements. McNamara also shines as a vocal communicator.
Beau Keough, attack, Roxbury Latin (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Keough may be uncommitted, but much of the Laxachusetts attack rolled through him. He helped direct traffic in the semifinal and was one of the most consistent attackmen on the weekend. He’s got quick feet, crafty moves out of X and a deceptive ability to create space for himself with a surprisingly long reach.
Peter Malitas, attack, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH / Duke
Malitas has an ideal blend of strength, speed and smarts. He can dodge from up top, he can work from X, he can speed into a shot or tip-toe on the crease. He scored once in the semifinal, unleashing that heavy shot of his, and he brings a diverse attacking skillset to the table.
Brendan Donnelly, goalie, Germantown Academy (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Donnelly and McNamara are similar goalies. They both are tall and fill the cage such that you’d think the move would be to shoot low, but they’ve developed a tremendous ability to cover those areas. Donnelly produced a handful of first-half saves against Mesa, including a great 1v1 denial.
Matt McCarthy, defense, Episcopal Academy, Big 4 HHH, Penn
Billy McKinney‘s ’22 squad has plenty of depth on defense, including a pair of absolutely outstanding LSMs in NLF No. 39 Chuck Kuczynski (Allentown Central Catholic, Pa. / Syracuse – read more here) and Ryan O’Connor (Springfield, Pa. / Villanova / read more here). But McCarthy’s stay-at-home defense was some of the best on the weekend, with his ability to keep pace with attackers and help off ball.