WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Sophomore Steve Engel (South Windsor, Conn.) scored his only goal of the match with 5:18 gone in sudden-death overtime Thursday afternoon, vaulting the fifth-seeded Plymouth State University men's lacrosse team to a thrilling 11-10 victory over top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in the semifinals of the 2008 Little East Conference playoffs at Thomas Nevers Field.
With its second one-goal playoff decision in three days, Plymouth State (12-5) moves into its first LEC playoff final in the eight-year history of the championship. Winners of five in a row and seven of its last eight, PSU will play Saturday against No. 3 seeded Western Connecticut State University at Danbury, Conn., as the Colonials upset second-seeded and defending conference champion Keene State College Thursday, 14-13, in overtime at Keene, N.H.
The loss is the first at home in eight years of conference play for Eastern (10-7), which downed Plymouth State by a score of 14-10 when the teams met here April 6 on the way to a perfect 6-0 regular-season conference mark. It is the first time that the Warriors will not compete in the finals.
Neither team was able to score in the first four-minute sudden-death overtime, although Eastern's DJ Simmons (Mystic, Conn.) hit the pipe with midway through the period. In the second overtime period, Eastern commited an unforced turnover in its end of the field. Senior Adam Krinsky (Concord, N.H.) picked up the dropped ball and fed it to Engel. Engel, who had put all three of his previous shots on net without a goal, was unmarked and fired a point-blank shot past Eastern goalie Kyle Savage (Southington, Conn.) to end the match. The assist was the first of the game for Krinsky, the LEC leader in that category.
The win is Plymouth's first in four conference playoffs matches against the Warriors and allows the Panthers to tie the season record for wins in a season, set in 1970.
Plymouth fell behind early in the match but scored three straight goals to pull into a 4-4 tie in the first minute of the third period. In all, the Panthers outscored Eastern 6-3 in the third period and carried a 10-8 lead into the final eight minutes of the match. The Warriors forced overtime when Simmons scored with seven minutes left in the regulation, and tied it when Simmons found Zach Malouf (Norwich, Conn.) for the game-tying goal with 3:03 left in regulation.
PSU senior Tony Aguiar (Northborough, Mass.), who had scored 10 goals in 10 previous matches this season, contributed to eight of the Panther goals with four goals and four assists. Aguiar scored the final two goals of the third period that put Plymouth in front, 9-7, and he assisted on a goal which re-established Plymouth's two-goal lead, 10-8, with eight minutes left in regulation. Krinsky and sophomore Brian Giroux (Wolfeboro, Mass.) finished with two goals apiece, and Engel, senior John Cogswell (Jefferson, Mass.) and sophomore Matt Johansmeyer (Shelburne Falls, Mass.) contributed one each.
PSU freshman goalkeeper Billy Morgan (Winchester, Mass.) was strong in the Panther goal, and finished with 16 saves as Eastern finished with a 45-38 advantage in shots.
(Courtesy of Eastern Connecticut Sports Information)
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