By Matthew De George
(Ed. note: Standouts were chosen only from Sunday’s four playoff teams.)
It didn’t feel like the usual Sunday tournament game to Noah Dacanay. The goalie has been with Big 4 HHH for three years, but something about the intensity of the Class of 2023 final at the Big 4 Summer Champions League felt different.
The longer the game against Leading Edge went with the margin of one goal, the more it felt that way.
“I think it was a very intense game,” Dacanay said. “It’s my first time being in a championship like this, and all the pressure was on today. I was really excited, too, and the energy from the previous game, I think we carried it over and we knew we had to get this dub.”
Dacanay did the job with five massive saves in the second half, leading Big 4 HHH to a 5-4 win over Leading Edge at Grange Park in Allentown, Pa.
Dacanay benefitted from the stout defense in front of him that lowered the amount of work he needed to do. He entered a 2-2 game and kept Leading Edge to one goal until the very end, when they added a consolation tally at the buzzer.
Coming Through in the Clutch
Along the way, the Penn Charter (Pa.) goalie made five saves, including two within an instant of each other, moving well laterally to his right to deny a feed on the crease and then stoning the rebound when it was collected on the doorstep.
“They fed the crease,” he said. “I got it with my gloves, it wasn’t the cleanest (save). But he picked up the ball and I just tracked his stick, locked my eyes right on his stick and put my hands where it’s supposed to be and made the save.”
Big 4 HHH got goals from five different players in the final. Josh Gibbs (Germantown Academy, Pa.) had a goal and an assist. Jack Vandegrift (La Salle, Pa.), Owen Black (Penn Charter, Pa.), Leyton Bracken (La Salle, Pa.) and Drew Filipovits (Parkland, Pa.) also scored.
The intensity of the game was reflected in how happy Dacanay and his teammates were afterward in getting the win.
“I think it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened to me on this team,” Dacanay said. “This is my third year on this team, and I know this championship knows a lot to these kids that have been here for six years. We did it for them, we did it for the team.”
BIG 4 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2023 STANDOUTS
Owen Black, midfield, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
The imposing middie is easy to notice on either end of the field. He scored a goal in the final and had an assist in the semifinal. In both games, he provided strong two-way play. Black has a strong upper body, a good passing eye and the athleticism to move the ball out of trouble and hound opponents in the defensive half.
Nick Walter, attack, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Walter scored three times in the semifinal, a 5-4 win over Laxachusetts. He’s got an athletic build and is tough to stop when he gets a head of steam, plus he’s got a heavy shot and quick hands to change his shot angel. Walter is also a hard worker on the ground and a capable distributor.
Wells Bergstrom, defense, Manheim Township (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
There’s a lot of balance in the defensive corps, as evidenced by a scant 23 goals allowed in six games on the weekend. Much of it has Manheim ties, thanks to Bergstrom, Austin Day and a pair of middies from the Blue Streaks. Bergstrom is just a solid all-around defender, with the technique and athleticism to matchup with opposing attackmen and the savvy to help in passing lanes and off-ball.
John McCurry, attack, Wall (N.J.) / Leading Edge
McCurry, who had 62 goals and 80 points for Wall this year as a sophomore, absolutely wowed for Chris Roy‘s group. He scored three goals in the semifinal, including a diving effort on the crease where he one-handed a goal home. McCurry tallied twice in the final, including one move where he split a double team on the crease and managed to go top corner on a shot as he was falling to the ground. He is quick enough to run by defenders and strong enough to bull them over, with the hands and shot to operate when he’s not in close quarters.
Creter was darn near unbeatable. He went 11-for-14 in the semifinal, then 8-for-11 in the final with a goal. But perhaps even more impressive than all the clean wins and all the offense he generated was how much he was willing to fight on the ground when he didn’t win it clean. As his goal showed, he’s not just a clean technician at the X but an all-around lacrosse player who does more than win draws and hot-potato the ball to a teammate.
Shawn Lyght, defense, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Every time you look up, you notice Lyght. Part of that is because he cuts such a huge presence in the defensive half, with his rangy frame. But he’s also constantly attentive to the play, either defending on the ball or sliding. He’s got a heavy stick that is always in the hands and uses his physicality smartly, one tool in a vast arsenal.
Karter Williams, defense, Hough (N.C.) / Team 24/7
Williams stands 6-3 with a long stride. He covers a ton of ground in the open field and has great feet in close quarters. He’s so long and physically imposing that he keeps attackmen far away from where they want to be. Williams also has an active stick that he uses to great effect.
Oliver Buch Peters, goalie, Charlotte Catholic (N.C.) / Team 24/7
Peters’ measurables are eye-popping: He’s 6-5 and fills ever bit of the top corners of the net. He’s also quick at getting off his line a step to massively cut down angles for shooters and tall enough that when he crouches to prep for low shots, he still has the upper corners covered. Against top competition on the weekend, he allowed 12 goals in three games against teams that weren’t Leading Edge. And while LE had his number, he battled hard throughout.
Beau Chouinard, attack, Thayer (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Chouinard is one of those attackmen that the ball seems to often find. He’s comfortable orchestrating from X to generate chances for himself and teammates, always keeping his head up for cutters. He’s got a quick first step and shifty moves, and he works well off the ball. Chouinard scored a goal in the semifinal loss for Laxachusetts and was consistently one of their top chance creators.
Rocco Boland, faceoff midfield, Millbrook (N.Y.) / Laxachusetts
Laxachusetts won all three of its games on Saturday allowing just eight goals total, and a big reason was its monopoly of the ball. Against Big 4 HHH in the semifinals, Boland won eight of 11 draws. He’s low to the ground with quick hands and quick feet to get himself out of danger when he wins, or a scrappy mentality to battle on the ground if he doesn’t win the draw.