PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University captured its first Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III New England Men's Lacrosse championship Sunday afternoon, rallying from three goals down late in the third quarter with a furious eight-goal explosion, taking the championship away from Roger Williams University, 10-7, before a rowdy crowd at Panther Field.
The second-seeded Hawks kept PSU scoreless for more than 26 minutes in the middle two quarters, had a 5-2 lead over the top-seeded Panthers late in the third frame, and had a man-advantage as a PSU defender was serving a penalty. Plymouth State came alive, however, scoring two short-handed goals in the final minute of the third period and taking the momentum into the fourth quarter. After the teams traded goals to open the final stanza, PSU rattled off five unanswered goals over the next eight minutes, the last one giving the home team an insurmountable 10-6 lead with 3:05 remaining.
Freshman Wes Downing (Glastonbury, Conn.) and junior Adam Krinsky (Concord, N.H.) led the Panther comeback, Downing scoring three goals and setting up another in the rally and Krinsky adding two goals and an assist. Downing, who also scored two goals in Saturday's semifinal win over MIT, including the double-overtime game-winner, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player (pictured at right, with ECAC Rep Katie Fulton).
Also key to PSU's win was the play of senior goalie Steve Valeri (Chelmsford, Mass.). He finished with 18 saves and five ground balls, and several of his six stops in the fourth quarter were from point blank range.
The Plymouth State rally spoiled an outstanding offensive performance by Roger Williams sophomore Joe Healy (Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.), who nearly single-handedly defeated the Panthers. He scored the Hawks' first four goals of the game and was mostly responsible for the visitors holding a 5-2 lead late in the third quarter.
The first half was a defensive affair, with neither team able to generate much offense. Freshman Tim Hadley (New London, N.H.) scored the only goal of the first quarter to give the home team the lead. Healy put the Hawks on the board early in the second frame, but sophomore Conor McCullough (Durham, N.H.) answered for PSU 15 seconds later. Healy added two more goals before the end of the half to allow RWU to come back for a 3-2 advantage at the intermission.
Healy's fourth goal of the game and the first by junior Slade Patterson (Needham, Mass.) in the first three minutes of the third quarter staked the visitors to a 5-2 lead. Patterson would add his second goal in the final minute of the game.
The Panthers started their comeback with short-handed goals by Downing and Krinsky to end the third quarter, and Krinsky's second goal early in the fourth period tied the game at 5-5. Sophomore Joe Paratore (Deer Park, N.Y.) briefly gave the Hawks the lead back, with an assist from Healy, but over the next eight minutes PSU had all the momentum as Downing and junior Tony Aguiar (Northborough, Mass.) each scored twice and senior Kyle McKay (Longmeadow, Mass.) added one. The Panthers went up by four with three minutes left and Valeri thwarted any possible Hawk comeback.
The championship is Plymouth State's first in five visits to the ECAC New England Tournament. The Panthers, who finish the season with an 11-6 record, lost in the title game at Western New England College in 2005. RWU completes its season at 8-7.
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