Colonials Edge out Bulldogs, 13-12, for NEC Title and Hosting RightsApril 28, 2012
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. – The #20 Bryant University men's lacrosse team took an 8-6 lead into the halftime break after dominating the second quarter, but host Robert Morris responded in the second half to edge out the Bulldogs, 13-12, and win the 2012 Northeast Conference regular-season title at Joe Walton Stadium Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Colonials (11-3, 5-0 NEC) win the right to host the NEC Tournament May 4-6 and will serve as the top seed. The Bulldogs (12-4, 4-1) secure the second seed and will play three-seed Quinnipiac Friday at RMU.
The game featured four ties, the final one coming with 7:55 to play in the fourth quarter, when Bryant sophomore Colin Dunster (Cos Cob, Conn.) knotted the score at 11-11 with a shot from 15 yards out off a pass from linemate Alex Zomerfeld (Port Jefferson, N.Y.).
Dave Morton would respond 21 seconds later for the Colonials, though, netting the go-ahead goal off a Bulldog turnover to regain a 12-11 advantage. Kiel Matisz would follow with his second of the day at the 5:10 mark for a 13-11 lead that would prove to be enough for the win, though just barely.
Because after senior goalie Jameson Love (Darien, Conn.) forced a huge turnover on defense, the Bulldogs found themselves with possession with 31 seconds to play. It was all senior Travis Harrington (Vestal, N.Y.) would need to complete his hat trick and cut the home side's lead to one, 13-12, taking a Cody Isdaner (Gladwyne, Pa.) pass with 19 ticks left on the clock and depositing it behind RMU rookie netminder Matt Bukovac.
Rookie Kevin Massa (Huntington, N.Y.) would come away with the ensuing faceoff with eight seconds left in the game, giving the Bulldogs one last try to force overtime, but Bryant couldn't get a shot off on net before time expired.
"We aren't surprised we were able to cut it to one when we were down by two goals," said head coach Mike Pressler. "We battle back all the time. Our guys are resilient. We fought back, and we had a chance to tie it up, but Robert Morris outplayed us, especially in the second half."
Robert Morris, who outshot the Bulldogs, 46-38, in the contest, jumped out to a fast start to kick off the game, scoring twice in the opening two minutes as part of a five-goal first quarter. And while the visitors cut the deficit to 2-1 with 10:05 to play on a man-up Dunster goal and answered two more Colonial scores with a Harrington tally at 3:17, the hosts would take a 5-2 advantage into the second quarter.
"I was very disappointed with our start today, going down 5-2," said Pressler. "And Robert Morris has a lot to do with that. They are as explosive a team as we have seen all year."
But in the second, the Bulldogs took over, scoring five uninterrupted goals including four in the opening 3:30 to make up the difference and then some, gaining a 7-5 advantage through the eight-minute mark.
Zomerfeld got it all started 31 seconds into the stanza with a goal off a Dan Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) feed, and Max Weisenberg (Long Beach, N.Y.) followed with his first point of the day at the 13:01 mark to draw the Black and Gold within one.
Sophomore defenseman Matt MacGrotty (New Westminster, B.C.) made a great play and brought the ball up field just minutes later, dishing it off to junior attackman Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.) with 11:40 showing on the clock to knot the score at 5-5.
Seven seconds later, junior Tewaaraton Award nominee Mason Poli (Downingtown, Pa.) took a pass from Massa off the faceoff to net his 18th goal of the season. He would follow up with his 19th tally three minutes later for a 7-5 advantage.
Five minutes later, Zomerfeld was the beneficiary of a heads-up pass across the crease from Weisenberg that paid off, allowing the sophomore an open look at the goal to give Bryant a three-score, 8-5 advantage with 2:33 to play before the break.
"I was very pleased with our response in the second to take the game over," said Pressler. "That was the story of the entire game – it was a game of runs."
Robert Morris would finally break through 11 seconds later, but the Bulldogs would head into the intermission with an 8-6 lead.
But in the third, the Colonials wasted no time closing their gap, getting a Mike Grosz unassisted goal off the opening faceoff just six seconds into the frame. Teddy Finnegan evened the score at 8-8 with 9:19 remaining, and Robert Morris would regain the lead less than 90 seconds later off a Kevin Brownell tally, 9-8.
Isdaner retied the scoreboard at 9-9 with 4:34 to play on a man-up tally, Bryant's second of the afternoon, but Brownell and Morton would give Robert Morris the final say with the last two tallies of the third session.
"We knew this was a game that, for us, very well could come down to winning one or two faceoffs down the stretch when it matter most," said Pressler, "and for Kevin Massa, it was a battle today. These past couple games he has faced the best competition all year."
Entering the fourth down, 11-9, the Bulldogs received an unassisted goal from Harrington off a sharp-angle shot from the right side to bring the visitors back within one just 60 seconds into the final quarter. Dunster tied the game for the final time at 11-11 as the clock ticked under eight minutes to go to set up the final push, but the Colonials would use that stretch to win the contest and home-field advantage for the NEC Tournament.
Massa went 14-of-29 on the day from the faceoff X with five ground balls, while junior defenseman Glenn Maiorano (Easton, Conn.) led the team with seven ground balls and Love picked up another six. Grosz gobbled up 12 ground balls for the home side, putting the Colonials out in front in the category, 39-35. Love made 14 saves for the Black and Gold, including five in the second frame.