ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. – Freshman Kevin Meakim poured in a career-high four goals and Elizabethtown established a new program record with its ninth straight win, holding off Merchant Marine, 12-8, Saturday afternoon at Wolf Field.
Meakim and the Blue Jays looked as if they may run away with the game in the first quarter. Landmark Conference leading scorer Joe Clark found an open seam from behind the net, feeding the Downingtown East product for a goal on E-town’s first shot of the game at 13:52.
Elizabethtown (10-2, 4-0 Landmark) came into play deadlocked with the 2010 team for the most consecutive wins. Steve Nutting helped the Jays take another stride toward history when he grabbed the rebound of his initial shot that richocheted off USMMA goalie Alex Peyreigne’s helmet and scored on the second chance for a 3-0 advantage.
LeClair rounded out the scoring with 1:26 left in the opening period, scoring his 23rd goal of the season off a pass from Mike Specht.
The Blue Jays outshot Merchant Marine 11-3 in the first quarter and 25-10 in the first half on their way to a season-high 57 shots.
Thirty-one seconds into the second, Matt Frey froze the Mariners’ (3-6, 1-3 Landmark) defense with a fake and found a wide open LeClair near the crease for the senior’s third goal of the game. It’s LeClair’s fifth hat trick of the season and seventh of his career.
While possession and offensive zone time favored the Blue Jays by a heavy margin, Merchant Marine was opportunistic. Senior attackman Geoff Harty came into the game second in the conference to E-town’s Clark in goals (23) and points (34).
Harty factored into all but two of his team’s goals Saturday, taking the conference lead with five markers. Goals from Harty at 12:43 and 5:35 of the second led a 3-0 run that Nick Treon finished with Harty’s help 1:18 before the half.
Luckily for Elizabethtown, Matt Rucci won the ensuing face-off, allowing coach Drew Delaney to take a late timeout to set up the offense. It paid off when Mike Specht hit Meakim for a goal with 26 seconds left to bump the Blue Jays’ lead back to 6-3.
Merchant Marine got as close as two when Troy Smith scored to make it 10-8 with 8:41 left in the game, but Mike Specht and Clark struck back 18 seconds apart to restore a four-goal lead and keep Elizabethtown atop the conference standings.
Clark and Mike Specht thrived as playmakers all afternoon, collecting a goal and three assists each.
Harty’s play up front allowed the Mariners to put a scare into the Blue Jays, but it was Peyreigne’s abilities in the cage that kept the visitors in the game. He turned away 19 shots, 14 of which came in the second half.
The Blue Jays also had their issues with USMMA face-off specialist Chris Whitenack, who went over 100 wins on the season, but when the game was on the line, Elizabethtown’s Rucci won 5-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
Luke Stephens led the defense with three caused turnovers and Jake Snyder had two, along with an assist. E-town got five ground balls apiece from LeClair and Connor Rowe, while Jimmy Waters and Stephens picked up four.
Chris Wenger, who sat out Wednesday’s win at Immaculata, stopped seven shots in his return to the goal.
Elizabethtown’s 10 wins are its most since 2010, when it went 12-4 and earned the top seed in the Middle Atlantic Conference Championships. The Blue Jays can take their winning streak to double-digits when they host Mount Saint Mary (N.Y.) Wednesday at 5 p.m.