MANSFIELD, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's lacrosse team ripped off six consecutive goals to start the second half and erased a one-goal halftime deficit, moving a step closer to securing the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Little East Conference playoffs with an 11-7 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Tuesday evening at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.
A winner of four of its last five, Eastern (8-6, 4-2 LEC) recovered from a scoreless second quarter and a scoreless streak of 25 consecutive minutes, finally shaking the strong defense of UMass Dartmouth (7-9, 2-4 LEC) with a run six straight goals – all four in the third quarter and two more in a span of 32 seconds in the fourth – to pull away for its ninth win in the last ten meetings with the Corsairs.
The Eastern win, coupled with the University of Southern Maine's 13-7 win Tuesday over visiting Plymouth State University leaves the Warriors and USM sharing second place in the conference. Holding the tie-breaker by defeating USM , 16-8, in this year's head-to-head meeting April 7, Eastern guarantees itself the No. 2 playoff seed with a win Friday at Salem State University (0-5 LEC).
With Friday's LEC final remaining against homestanding Western Connecticut, UMass Dartmouth is four games out of first place, sharing sixth place with Western. The top six teams qualify for the LEC playoff, which get underway Tuesday with first-round games.
Tuesday, Eastern and UMD traded three-goal runs – leaving the Corsairs with a 4-3 halftime edge. Tight defense characterized the first eight minutes of the third quarter before first-team All-LEC midfielder Harrison Urda (Milford, NH) beat UMass sophomore goalie Ted McCaffery with his second shot of the half to pull the Warriors even, 4-4, midway through the half. After coming up empty on four extra-man opportunities in the first half, the Warriors finally capitalized moments later when UMD was called for a push. Fourteen seconds into the 30-second advantage, Urda connected on a pass from freshman attack Jake Liebowitz (Trumbull) to vault Eastern into the lead for good, 5-4.
UMass won the ensuing faceoff on a violation and had three cracks over the next three minutes to tie the score, but hit the post on one, shot wide on another, and had a third saved by Eastern junior goalie Chris Gorman (Shrewsbury, MA). Urda then made the visitors pay with his third straight goal to make it 6-4 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Warriors all but sewed up the win when junior attack Samuel Watson (Trumbull) turned a man-down situation into a goal just as the penalty to Eastern was expiring, and sophomore attack Ed Moran (West Haven) opened the fourth quarter with another man-up strike just 18 seconds into the frame for the team's fifth straight unanswered goal that made it 8-4.
UMass sophomore season scoring leader Donovan Prozinski, who had tied the match with his 30th goal of the season three minutes into the second quarter, finally broke through again with a pair of extra-man goals in the final seven minutes after the Corsairs had fallen behind by six goals midway through the final period.
Gorman made all 12 of his saves through the first three quarters, while McCaffery stopped 16 of Eastern's 41 attempts.
Urda led both teams with four goals and had an assist, Watson scoring twice and senior attack Matthew Rougeot (Cheshire) chipping in a goal and two assists. All-LEC long-stick midfielder Trevor Ross (Stratford) caused four turnovers for Eastern and sophomore defenseman Ralpsh Criscuolo (Wallingford) picked up seven ground balls. Freshman faceoff midfielder Connor Hillemeir (Farmington) won five of eight faceoffs and corralled five ground balls.
Behind Prozinski, sophomore midfielder Mike Rizzo scored twice. Senior defender Matt Daly (Chelmsford, MA) won half of his 14 faceoff attempts, and Prozinski, freshman LSM Sawyer Gibbons and freshman defenseman Ty Collins all won four ground balls, Collins also forcing two turnovers.