MANSFIELD, Conn. – What it lacked in decisiveness, it made up for in timeliness as the Eastern Connecticut State University men's lacrosse team won for the first time in its last three home games with an important 9-4 Little East Conference verdict over Salem State University Saturday afternoon at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
Jeopardizing a first-round LEC playoff bye – to say nothing of a first-round home game -- after back-to-back conference home losses this past week, Eastern (6-8, 3-2 LEC) improved its playoff outlook by limiting Salem State (2-10, 0-5 LEC) to two or less goals in every period in defeating the Vikings for the16th consecutive time in the final regular-season home game for the Warriors' eight seniors.
With two LEC regular-season games remaining, Eastern is locked in a four-way tie for second place (the second bye spot in the standings) with Plymouth State, Southern Maine and UMass Boston. The Warriors hold the tie-breaker over Southern Maine and UMass Boston by virtue of victories this year.
By opening the game with the first four goals and a moving out to a 4-0 lead after one quarter, Eastern appeared on its way to a traditional round of Salem before the Vikings allowed only one goal over the next 21 minutes, and after answering with the final goal of the first half and first of the second, Salem trailed by only two, 5-3, early in the second half.
At left: The program's eight outgoing seniors and their families were recognized during a pre-game ceremony.
Holding to that slim two-goal lead, Eastern got crucial scoring strikes from freshman Samuel Watson (Trumbull) and junior team scoring leader Matthew Rougeot (Cheshire) to open up a four-goal lead with 12 minutes left and held on the rest of the way.
In key aspects of the win, senior Jesse Schulze (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) was 9-of-12 from the faceoff X, Eastern's man-down unit killed off ten of Salem's 12 extra-man opportunities, and Eastern turned the ball over only once on 18 clear tries which accounted for only 15 total turnovers.
Junior goalie Chris Gorman (Shrewsbury, MA) made six stops in the first half for his sixth win of the year, with three freshmen preserving the victory in the second half. Taylor Huta (Waterford) made nine stops in just 22 minutes when Gorman was lifted at halftime, with Jack Farrell (Stratford) and Cullen Baker (Avon) each making a save in their first career appearances in net.
Rougeot led Eastern with four goals, junior Harrison Urda (Milford, NH) chipping in two goals and an assist and Watson adding two goals. Senior defenseman Nick Terry (Southington) was credited with his first career point with an assist on freshman Jaxon Wright's (Las Vega, NV) first career goal in the final two minutes.
Freshman Michael Trifone netted two of Salem's goals, while junior Kevin Lally made 14 saves in net, ten in the second half, for Salem, which has lost seven straight and fell to 0-6 on the road.
Eastern closes out the regular season in conference play Tuesday at UMass Dartmouth and Friday at Keene State College, both 7 p.m. starts.