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Brooklyn Knights kept out of playoffs by Cape Cod

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. — The convoluted playoff picture in the Premier Development League’s Northeast Division was about to become much clearer for the Brooklyn Knights following the team’s five-hour bus ride north for the regular season finale Saturday night.

A win over the Cape Cod Crusaders and the Knights were in the playoffs, plain and simple.

But Cape Cod, which also needed a win to qualify for the postseason, ended the Knights hopes of returning to the playoffs for the second time in three years. The defending national champions beat the Knights, 3-1, at Dennis-Yarmouth High School in South Yarmouth, Mass.

Cape Cod (12-4-2), which also needed to beat Jersey Shore Friday and did so convincingly, 9-1, finished the regular season one point ahead of Brooklyn and joins division champion and Eastern Conference host Vermont in the playoffs.

“To be honest we had a rough three games, but the guys rallied together and we deserved it, but we snuck in,” said Cape Cod coach Methembe Ndlovu. “If Brooklyn doesn’t drop a game against Rhode Island (5-2 on July 12) then we really would have really been behind the eight ball.”

The Knights arrived in Cape Cod a shadow of themselves as the team was without a bevy of its better players for a variety of reasons.

Head coach Dan Fisher, who did such a great job of juggling a talented group of players all season, had his hands tied with just two field players on the bench (assistant coach and midfielder Carlos Ledesma and Carlos Moncaleano) in the Knights biggest game in two years.

Cape Cod jumped ahead in the seventh minute when Damien Quinn followed Joseph Ngwenya’s shot, which was stopped by a diving Billy Gaudette, and scored on a half-volley from 16 yards out.

The Crusaders took advantage of the Knights’ makeshift defense and had the better of the scoring chances for the rest of the first half, but Gaudette was brilliant, tipping the ball over the bar in the 36th minute and making a lunging save on Luke Vercollone’s shot 10 minutes later.

Brooklyn (11-4-3) tied the game at 1 in the 47th minute when Richie Lesmes, who returned from a two-week hiatus, settled the ball at the top right of the 18-yard box and his shot deflected off a Crusaders defender and into the net for the St. Peter’s-bound midfielder’s first goal of the year.

“Billy (Gaudette) actually told us he didn’t have good hands,” Lesmes said of Crusaders keeper Keith Boudreau. “Before the game I just pictured myself taking a shot and it going in and going crazy, so I was pretty much lucky there.”

Both teams exchanged scoring chances for most of the second half, with the Knights best coming off the foot of Andre Borges, who sent a blast off a Crusaders defender for a corner kick in the 68th minute and was robbed by Boudreau from 16 yards out three minutes later.

The Crusaders scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 71st minute, but it was not without controversy.

After Gaudette made a save on David Bulow’s shot from the right side of the box, the speedy second-half substitute crossed the ball toward the far post, where referee Ian Glasgow ruled Adam Pfeiffer somehow pushed the ball over the line in a crowded goal mouth despite protests from Gaudette and the Knights.

Ngwenya added an insurance goal in the 80th minute, heading home Ian Pilarski’s corner kick for the Crusaders.

“I thought Adam Guren made a great defensive play. I thought his body was above the line and he had a good angle to jump in front of the shot,” Gaudette said. “But the referee made the decision and you have to stick with it.”

New York Freedoms 1, Northern Virginia Royals 1. Mario Gallo tied the game in the 54th minute on an assist from Rich Bradley for the Freedoms, who ran their unbeaten streak to six straight games Saturday night in Woodbridge, Va.

The Freedoms (7-5-5) are three points in front of the New Jersey Stallions for the final playoff berth in the Pro-Select League’s Atlantic Division but have a pair of difficult games ahead, playing at Western Mass Friday before heading to New Hampshire Saturday night.

New York Freedoms 3, Long Island Rough Riders 2. Rocky Bojovic scored twice and Julio Cesar Dos Santos added the game-winning golden goal in the 98th minute for the Freedoms July 16 at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale.

Brooklyn Knights 9, Jersey Falcons 0. Borges netted a hat trick, Duke standout Jordan Cila had two goals and five assists, Craig Smart had two goals and two assists, and Chris Lefferts and Joe Afful added a goal apiece July 16 as the Knights finished the season undefeated at the Metropolitan Oval (8-0-1) for the first time in franchise history.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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