By Rick Assad
In what will be remembered as a defensive masterpiece by the Burbank High boys’ water polo team on Thursday night also helped propel the Bulldogs past a valiant and stubborn Crescenta Valley squad 6-5 in the Pacific League championship match.
Next, it’s the CIF Southern Section playoffs for both squads and the action begin next week.
The difference was the third quarter as Burbank nailed a pair of goals at the Glendale High Aquatic Center that gave it a 5-4 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Each team scored once in the fourth period and the final shot for the Falcons (16-16) hit the left goal post with half a minute left in the match and the game-winning tally came from senior Hayk Atanasyan with 3:47 left in the game.
Senior goalie Alec Chalkdzhyan was stupendous for the Bulldogs (19-10), which outshot the Falcons, 24-21, as he turned away and outright blocked at least a dozen shots.
“The difference was our goalie. What a fantastic showing by him leading our defense to yet another league championship,” Burbank coach David Arakelyan said.
Arakelyan, who played for Burroughs and was a standout, liked the effort from all his players.
“It was a lot uglier than we would’ve liked but we got the job done. I couldn’t be prouder of this resilient group of boys,” he said. “They went through so much adversity since last year that they deserve this moment and everything that comes with it.”
Arakelyan continued: “We went through hell and back to get to this game and show everyone that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” he said.
Burbank’s offensive standout was junior Daniel Agazaryan who scored a match-best three goals which came in the first three periods.
Crescenta Valley goalie Mark Abdou nearly matched Chalkdzhyan’s brilliance but came up just short.
Crescenta Valley is coached by Jan Sakonju and he also praised the work of his team and complemented Burbank’s sturdy defense.
“They played a patient and intelligent game. They knew they would need to play their best to beat a team with that much experience, depth and talent,” he said of the Falcons. “They had their opportunities in the first and fourth quarter. But Burbank made several impressive defensive plays to prevent a score.”
The largest lead either team had was one goal including the third period when the Falcons led 4-3 after a tally by Daron Alexanians with 6:31 left on a four-yard rocket.
Sensing a slight momentum swing in favor of the Falcons, the Bulldogs struck for a goal on a five-meter penalty shot with 5:06 left by senior Andranik Bilbulyan that evened it at 4-4.
Agazaryan’s 10-yarder with 3:28 remaining broke the tie as the Bulldogs charged ahead 5-4.
The mark of a good team is the ability to bounce back and the Falcons did just that as Alex Movsesyan nailed a five-yarder with 4:09 on the clock in the fourth period that tied it at 5-5.
Sakonju was impressed by his leading goal scorer and his goalkeeper.
“Alex played the best game I have ever seen him play. He had a massive impact in his drives, counter attacks, goal scoring, shot blocking and disrupting the Burbank offense with his defense,” he pointed out. “Mark played out of his mind. For a sophomore who was thrust into the starting position this year, he has developed into a great goaltender.”
Both teams scored in the opening frame as Agazaryan drilled a seven-yard attempt with 27 seconds left for a 1-0 lead, but Movsesyan answered with a goal from five yards and five seconds remaining on the ticker that evened it at 1-1.
Falcon Sebastian Rivera had his five-meter penalty shot with 2:09 left blocked by Chalkdzhyan.
In the second period, Levon Babayan’s two-yarder with 5:00 left made it 2-1 in favor of the Falcons, but Bilbulyan’s 12-yard tally with 3:29 left squared it at 2-2.
When Agazaryan found the range from 11 yards and 1:44 left it handed the Bulldogs a 3-2 cushion only to see Movsesyan’s 12-yarder locate the back of the net as three seconds remained that evened it at 3-3.
Movsesyan also added a five-meter toss that missed the target with no time showing.
“That was what a championship game should be like,” Sakonju said. “I am proud of the boys and that they played hard, literally until the last second.”