No. 9 is No. 1: Manasquan’s Canyon Birch breaks Shore Conference goals record
OCEAN TOWNSHIP – Canyon Birch is coming for all the offensive records, and on Saturday he surpassed another milestone to further his legacy as one of the greatest lacrosse players in Shore Conference history.
Birch is now the most prolific goal-scorer in the history of Shore Conference boys lacrosse after scoring eight goals to lead Manasquan, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to an 18-3 Class B North win over No. 7 Ocean in its season-opener on Saturday morning at Carelli Field.
Birch entered the season with 274 career goals, which was tied with 2015 Southern Regional graduate Dylan Jinks for the most all-time. The record-breaking goal came with 1:43 left in the first quarter when Birch dodged to his left, switched from a left-handed carry to a right-handed shot and beat Ocean goalie Garrett Schwab with a shot inside the right post.
“It definitely means a lot to me and my family,” Birch said. “Surpassing Dylan Jinks with that, who was a phenomenal player, it’s awesome to be up there with those kinds of guys.”
Birch had the entire offseason to think about breaking the record, which stood as one of his major individual goals. He admitted he was pressing early in the game.
“To start the game, I was a little antsy, took some wild shots and missed the cage on a few, so it definitely feels good to get it out of the way now,” Birch said.
Birch’s goal put Manasquan up 4-1 and senior long-stick midfielder Mike Page would add a goal less than a minute later to give the Warriors (1-0, 1-0) a 5-1 lead on their way to a thorough victory. The floodgates opened for both Birch and his teammates following his record-breaking goal as Birch scored six times in the second quarter and the Warriors took a 15-3 lead into halftime.
“It’s been four years of it so you kind of forget sometimes while you’re in the middle of it how many points he does score and then you look at the numbers and you’re like, yeah, that seems about right given all that he does,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “But it goes beyond that in terms of him being a playmaker for us. Regardless of what the stat sheet says, he’s always making plays for us. As a senior now he’s even taken it to another level and you can see it every day.”
Birch scored once more in the third quarter before exiting the game. He also had three assists to total 11 points, which also helped him reach 400 points for his career. He now has 282 goals and 400 points with an entire season in front of him. The Shore Conference record for career points is 431 held by Christian Brothers Academy’s Tommy Duerr. Next on the points list is Jinks with 420.
The state records for goals and points are held by New Jersey legend Matt Poskay, an A.L. Johnson graduate, who went on to star at the University of Virginia and is currently the head coach at Montclair State University. Poskay finished his career with 362 goals and 468 points. Birch needs 69 points and 80 goals to break both marks.
“I’m very proud of him to hit that milestone,” Cunningham said. “He has a lot more to accomplish, and as long as he keeps doing what he does there’s no reason to think he won’t.”
Senior attackman Ryan Anderson added three goals and three assists for Manasquan while senior midfielder James Pendergist scored twice and Mike Cielecki tallied two goals and one assist. Page, Casey Campbell and Shane Ownes each scored once. Senior goalie Mike LaPoint made four saves in the first half before freshman Carter Grozinger entered and made three saves in the second half.
Ocean was led by senior midfielder Mike Nies, who scored twice. Senior attackman Holden Lowe scored once and Schwab, a sophomore, made 16 saves.
“Overall I thought we had a pretty good showing for the first game,” Cunningham said. “There were a couple first-game mistakes that you usually run into and I thought we came out a little too fired up, which is fine. It’s better than the flip-side where you come out lethargic. Ocean is a good team; well-coached. They have some players. Kevin (Preston) is a very good coach, obviously, so to come out and get a run early, we kind of built from there.”
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