MANSFIELD, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's lacrosse team tuned up for the Little East Conference semifinals with a difficult 12-7 victory over Plymouth State University in the final regular-season contest of the season for both teams Saturday at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
In winning at least ten games for the 17th time in the program's 19-year history, Eastern (10-5, 6-1 LEC) never trailed after the sixth minute of play against Plymouth State (8-5, 3-4 Little East) but needed to score the final four goals of the match and keep the Panthers scoreless over the final 10-plus minutes to extend its winning streak against Plymouth to eight and knock the Panthers into the No. 5 playoff seed.
Eastern was assured of the playoff's second seed and a first-round tournament bye entering the match, but a Plymouth win and a loss by Western Connecticut would have provided the Panthers with a first-round playoff home game. Instead, fifth-seeded Plymouth will visit fourth-seed Western in one of two first-round playoff matches Tuesday. Eastern will host the winner of Tuesday's other first-round match between No. 3 UMass Dartmouth and No. 6 UMass Boston. The Warriors defeated both possible semifinal-round opponents by seven goals during the regular season.
(Photo by Haley Heslin)
Seniors Mike Devine (Cheshire) and Mike Jordan (Cheshire) and sophomore Tim Reilly (Hanover, MA) – ranked 1-2-3 this year in team scoring – combined for nine goals and five assists and freshman Quincy Pecora (North Haven) won 12 of 17 faceoffs as the Warriors conclude the regular season with four straight wins and eight triumphs in their final ten matches.
Eastern moved out to a three-goal lead two minutes into the second half on Devine's team-leading 35th goal of the year, but Plymouth countered with two goals less than a minute apart soon after to cut the Eastern lead to one, 8-7 with 10:33 left. An Eastern turnover gave the ball to Plymouth with a chance to tie with eight minutes left in the third quarter, but the visitors shot wide on successive game-tying tries. Eastern sophomore Tyler Vallie (Orange) then forced a turnover, and set up Reilly's third goal of the match which sparked a decisive 4-0 run. Plymouth missed a shot on its next possession, and sophomore Michael Dellanno (Wakefield, MA) fed sophomore Cody Carbone (North Reading, MA) for his only goal of the match to push the Eastern advantage to 10-7 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
On its final 22 possessions after pulling to within a goal with 10:33 left, Plymouth turned the ball over seven times, came up empty on all 15 of its shots and also commited two penalties which required the Panthers to play shorthanded. On those 15 shots, Eastern sophomore goalie Blake Smaldone (Hamilton, MA) made seven (of his ten) saves and sophomore Brendan Gillotti (Danbury) made all three of his over the final two minutes.
Senior Chris Annunciata, junior Mike Trocchi and freshman Nick Pino each had two goals for Plymouth, senior Scott Giusti won ten of 21 faceoffs and matched freshman Adam Haversat with four ground balls. Senior Jess Kutz made 15 saves.
Eastern's seven seniors -- plus senior manager Sarah Bent -- were honored before the match on Seniors' Day. Seniors who were recognized and who had led the Warriors to 23-4 LEC regular-season record and two straight LEC playoff titles were defenseman Chris Brown (Cohasset, MA), Devine, long-stick midfielder Mike Fanning (Norwell, MA), midfielder Tyler Fresen (Newington), attackman Mike Gillotti (Danbury), Jordan and injured faceoff midfielder Keith Sardo (Ellington).