ROCHESTER, N.Y. - There is a reason Philadelphia's Brian Dougherty, the former Episcopal Academy star, has been voted Major League Lacrosse's goalkeeper of the year the last two seasons.
And it was on display yesterday at Paetec Park. Dougherty overcame a head injury that knocked him out of action for a quarter to lead the Barrage to a come-from-behind 13-12 overtime win over the Denver Outlaws in an MLL semifinal.
"He's my hero - it's that simple," said midfielder Roy Colsey, whose fourth goal of the day was the game-winner 51 seconds into overtime. "Nobody loves the game or his team more than Doc."
With Dougherty in goal at 1 p.m. today, the Barrage will try to become the first team in the seven-year history of MLL to successfully defend its championship. They will face the Los Angeles Riptide, who beat the Rochester Rattlers, 15-14, in last night's semifinal.
Dougherty was struck by a shot with three minutes remaining in the first quarter that broke his facemask and raised a nasty welt on his forehead. He stayed in the game until halftime, but clearly was not himself.
The Barrage had taken a 5-2 lead early in the second quarter, but Denver beat Dougherty six consecutive times to open an 8-5 lead at intermission.
"I just couldn't focus," Dougherty said. "I got hit and didn't get a concussion as far as my memory, but I had this welt that kept getting bigger and bigger and was throbbing, and I couldn't focus on the ball."
The Barrage turned to backup goalie Kevin Keenan, a 30-year-old Springfield (Delco) and Penn State graduate.
Keenan held his own, but the Outlaws took a 12-9 lead into the fourth quarter, only to see Dougherty back between the pipes.
"We were huddled up and he came charging out like the cavalry coming over the hill," Tony Resch, the Barrage coach, said. "I asked him if he was comfortable going back in, and he said he was. But I told him when he got out there if he didn't feel right, to tell me. I didn't hear another word from him."
Colsey said Dougherty's return was an obvious shot in the arm for the Barrage.
"It was a tremendous amount of heart on his part," Colsey said. "It was such a tremendous boost for us to see him come back out in the fourth quarter."
Dougherty stopped all six shots he faced in the fourth, while Seth Goldberg, Ryan Boyle and Kevin Cassese beat Denver goalie Trevor Tierney. Cassese's behind-the-back goal with 59 seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime.
Denver's Geoff Snider cleanly won the face-off to start overtime and sprinted downfield for a shot to win, but Dougherty stopped him. The Barrage gained possession, called a time-out, then set up the winning play as Colsey dodged at the top of the two-point line and bounced a shot into the upper right corner of the net.
"There's just something about this squad," Dougherty said. "We have roles on this squad, and my role is shut the door and I did."