Tap Room outlasts Elder Statesmen
VAIL – The Tap Room’s Super Masters championship trophy from two years ago isn’t even on display at the Bridge Street bar that bears the team’s name.Clark Mercer, the team’s sponsor and captain, plans on changing that after his squad won some more championship hardware Tuesday with an 11-6 victory over the Elder Statesmen at the Vail Lacrosse Shootout.”This one is much sweeter,” said Mercer, an Eagle County local of 13 years who played his college lacrosse at Syracuse. “To go 7-0, with the way this tournament was structured, is awesome.”The win for Tap Room, a team made up primarily of New Englanders or New England transplants who now live in Colorado, didn’t come easy. Mark Moore of the Elder Statesmen – another team made up of East Coast natives – scored an unassisted goal with 10:35 remaining in the third quarter to cut Tap Room’s lead to 6-5.Tap Room’s Jay Bloom answered with an unassisted goal of his own only 14 seconds later, only to watch the Elder Statemen’s Kaiser Hans knife in for a goal off an assist from midfielder Chris Rossi two minutes after.
Hans’ goal at the time, which cut Tap Room’s lead to 7-6, appeared to be just another strike in what was turning into a back-and-forth shootout. It was actually the final offensive output by a team that ran out of juice from there on – a victim of its own small bench and a deep Tap Room roster.”A lot of us are banged up and we just ran out of gas,” Rossi said. “A few of us are from down in Denver, so we’re pretty acquainted to the altitude. Our legs just went out on us. A lot of injuries and not a lot of guys on the sideline is what it adds up to.”Despite Tap Room’s growing momentum, Rossi and Hans did everything possible to keep their team in the game. Of his team’s four first-half goals, Rossi scored two unassisted and added the assist on the final goal. Hans also had an unassisted goal of his own with 1:56 remaining in the second quarter.Goalie Rudy Schaffer also stepped up huge, making a number of big second-half saves before things fell apart midway through the fourth quarter.”Our goalie was probably the best of the tournament,” Rossi said. “He won most of our games this whole tournament for us. Our defense kind of let him down here because there were a lot of 1-on-1s with him.”That, or Tap Room’s offense was just too good. Dave Melhover scored an unassisted goal in the first quarter, then went unheard from until 5:20 to go in the third when he took an assist from Bruce Chanechuck and blasted it past Schaffer. Then, at the four-minute mark, Melhover took over again with an unassisted scoring run that put his team up by four. Melhover said once his team realized to use its numbers advantage, it wore down the opposition and created easy scoring opportunities.
“For a while, we didn’t make smart decisions in terms of where we were going to pass it for a good portion of the game,” he said. “They had probably three midfielders on the bench. We knew that if we spread it out and we continued to keep running them over this long of a game, we thought down the stretch that it would be a good thing. I think that’s what ended up happening. They hung with us for the first half, but it was a game of attrition really.”Tuesday’s final was the first time that Super Masters teams used four 12-minute quarters, as opposed to games of two 20-minute halves.The added minutes, as Rossi mentioned, took its toll both mentally and physically.Both teams finished with six penalties – some of which were more hotly contested than others.The bickering between players and refs reached a boiling point right before the half when the game was still anyone’s to win. There was a fair amount of quibbling in the final 24 minutes, though Mercer said it was all in good competitive spirit.”When they were tired, that was a good opportunity late to get a few more goals,” he said. “It’s just after three days and that many games, you’re just exhausted. You try and make up for it a little bit with the stick sometimes. You try to make up for it when you can’t quite run as fast as you want. It does get a little chippy.”The age requirement for Super Masters is 40 and above, meaning Mercer and his peers are two decades removed from their college-lacrosse careers. That doesn’t mean, however, that the games themselves mean any less, Mercer said.
“Our blood still boils when we step on the field,” he said. “It’s a lot easier when we step off the field to let go, but when you step on that field you have that go, go, go.”Added Rossi, “It was pretty physical. The tempers flared a little bit. But, I think the refs kept everything in play.”Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com. Vail, Colorado