New Jersey Climbs Within 2.5 Games of First Place
Hoffman Estates, Ill. (Sunday, February 15, 2009) - In what was an extremely hard-fought contest, the resilient New Jersey Ironmen (4-6) fought themselves back into contention today by defeating the Chicago Storm (3-7) at U.S. Cellular Centre Arena. Coupled with an 8-4 decision by the Milwaukee Wave (7-4) over the Detroit Ignition earlier this evening, the Ironmen now find themselves just 2.5 back of the XSL top spot.
Chicago forward Chris Cerroni opened up the scoring in this contest by scoring a Jeff Richey ball at 8:11 of the first quarter. New Jersey forward Randi Patterson equalized by scoring a pass from Adauto Neto at 10:26 while falling backwards, and Lucio made it 4-2 at 14:16 by finishing a rebound off a restart.
The hits came for the Ironmen in the second period as goals by Ian Bennett and Frederico Moojen put the Storm up, 6-4. The biggest hit came in the waning minutes after a blue card was issued to Neto for tripping, and the trigger-happy official was quick to give Lucio a red card for language with no warning. As a result, Chicago gained a 6v4 advantage as the first half expired.
After killing off the two-man disadvantage, midfielder Chile Farias finished a Neto feed at 5:15 of the third frame, knotting the game back up at six each. Tiguinho regained the lead for the Ironmen at 7:36 when he fought a ball into the back of the net with Farias recording the assist. Defender Will Kletzien responded for the Storm at 12:29 by scoring his first notch of the season, and the two clubs took an 8-8 tie into the final stanza.
New Jersey headed into the fourth quarter on the power play, and defender Evan McNeley took advantage just 51 seconds into the period by nailing a hard shot on the left wing from defender Rey Martinez, giving his team a 10-8 edge. Cerroni reacquired the lead for Chicago at 4:38 when he hit a three-point shot, but Farias bombed a triple from well behind the three-point arc at 5:54 to put the Ironmen up two points, 13-11. Forward Nebo Stamenkovic then knocked in his first tally of the season at 6:30 to give New Jersey a little breathing room, 15-11. Storm midfielder Andy Rosenband brought the hosts within a single score at 9:29, but the visiting Ironmen held on to secure the much-needed 15-13 victory.
The Ironmen now return to Prudential Center for a pair of pivotal midweek games this Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, New Jersey will host the Detroit Ignition at 11:00 a.m. in a special business outing game before hosting the Chicago Storm in a Thursday night showdown at 7:30 p.m. Joining the Ironmen as honorary captain that Thursday will be former IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Paulie "The Magic Man" Malignaggi.
Should the Ironmen win both matches this week at home, not only would they would even their record to 6-6, but the battle for the league crown would become extremely heated. Heading into the slate of XSL matches next weekend, two wins would mean New Jersey would trail the Ignition by a single game and the Wave by 1.5 games. Both Milwaukee and Detroit play the Storm next weekend.