Joe Hammes scored off a restart 46 seconds into overtime to give the Milwaukee Wave a 12-10 overtime victory and the 2012 MISL Championship with a 2-0 series victory against the Baltimore Blast on Sunday evening at U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The championship was the Wave’s second in a row, and sixth overall in the club’s history, with Marcio Leite earning the series’ Most Valuable Player award after scoring five goals in the two games.
The Wave’s opportunity came after Blast forward Machel Millwood played a ball over the boards while trying to clear from his own end. After taking timeout to set up a play, Marco Terminesi swooped in from the right side to play the ball to Hammes on the left, and his first time, right-footed shot curled into the right corner of the net, sending the crowd of 5,243 into celebration.
“Coming out of the timeout, Marco played me a great ball,” Hammes said. “I shot it hard when I saw the shot and it went in.”
The Wave had claimed victory against the Blast in last season’s championship game as well, taking a 16-7 victory in Baltimore. After winning Friday’s Game 1, 14-2 on the road at 1st Mariner Arena, Wave coach Keith Tozer was thrilled with the perseverance his players showed on Sunday to rally to force overtime and claim victory.
“Each one is different,” he said of the club’s six titles. “I am extremely proud of the organization, coaches and players. Winning back-to-back championships in this great league, when you know you are being hunted all season, is special.
“We had a tough run at the end of the season, but I am so proud of the players and how they persevered and played in the championship.”
For the Blast, falling at the final hurdle for the second consecutive season was tough, but after working through the turnover in his squad from last year’s side, Coach Danny Kelly was pleased with the season as a whole.
“Although we didn’t win, we had a good year,” Kelly said. “With new players it was a process in the beginning. Starting the season with three losses and ending up in the championship game makes me extremely proud of the players and the organization.”
The Blast had taken control early in Sunday’s game, earning a 4-0 lead within the first 2 minutes, 44 seconds as first Ptah Myers drilled a rebound off the end boards into the roof of the net and then Millwood stripped a defender and fired between Wave goalkeeper Marcel Feenstra’s legs from the right side. The game was a physical one, with Leite and Pat Healey being sent to the penalty box for coincidental minors after a coming-together in the Blast end, and before those penalties expired Baltimore’s Scott Buete was also sent to the box, giving the Wave a 4-on-3 power play.
The Wave weren’t able to capitalize there, but after Leite and Healey left the box Fabio Ribeiro did cash in on the 5-on-4 advantage, driving Giuliano Oliviero’s restart low into the left corner of the net with 4:02 to play in the quarter. The Wave were then set to get a second power play after Baltimore’s Stephen DeRoux was called for a trip, but after an ensuing scuffle Hammes joined him in the penalty box.
Having received a break from Hammes’ penalty, the Blast scored again early in the second quarter as Warren Ukah’s low cross from the left was met by Ricardinho for a 6-2 lead 1:10 in. Feenstra then made a big save to deny Shaun David to keep the Blast’s lead at four at the halftime break.
The overriding physicality was the theme for the first half, though, with DeRoux picking up his second penalty late in the second. The Wave weren’t able to capitalize on the advantage, which carried over into the third quarter, but they were able to strike soon after the penalty ended as Josh Rife scored from close range from Oliviero’s second assist 1:13 into the third. Oliviero then almost tied the game with just under seven minutes to play, his low shot coming back off the left post, but shortly after Leite made it 6-6 on a volley from close range off Terminesi’s restart.
For Leite, who missed substantial portions of the 2008-09 season and 2009-10 season through injury before returning last season to finish with 31 points in 15 games, taking MVP honors was the culmination of a long road of recovery.
“Missing two seasons due to my injuries makes this all the more special,” Leite said. “Having the opportunity to play for such a great organization with a fantastic group of guys that support each other is great.”
The Wave then took their first lead of the game with 31 seconds to play in the third through Ian Bennett, whose tight-angle shot into the roof of the net caught out Baltimore goalkeeper Sagu and put Milwaukee 15 minutes from the championship.
But the Blast would rally quickly to regain the lead early in the fourth quarter, Ricardinho scoring his second goal of the night and third goal of the series to tie the game. The Brazilian was then brought down by Milwaukee’s JP Rodrigues in the penalty area, allowing Millwood to score his second from the penalty spot to make it 10-8 with 12:15 to play.
Ricardinho then went from potential hero to villain, taking a penalty that allowed the Wave to tie the game on the ensuing power play with Leite’s fifth goal of the series. Baltimore had the best chance to win the game in regulation, but Adauto Neto’s shot was cleared off the Wave’s goal line with less than two minutes to play, sending the game to overtime, and Hammes’ heroics.