WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University scored the only four goals of the fourth quarter Thursday afternoon and pulled away from fourth-seeded Plymouth State University to a 10-5 victory in semifinal game of the Little East Conference men's lacrosse tournament at Thomas Nevers Field.
The Panthers, who managed only four shots in the first two quarters, battled back from a 5-2 halftime deficit to pull to within a goal, 6-5, at the end of the third quarter. Eastern scored in the first minute of the fourth period to stop the PSU momentum, added a pair less than a minute apart midway through the frame, and tacked on one more before it was over.
The Warriors, winners of five LEC tournament championships this decade but looking for its first since 2006,will hosted second-seeded Keene State College in the championship game on Saturday. The Owls earned a spot in the final with a 16-4 win Thursday over third-seeded Southern Maine. It will be Eastern's eighth title game in nine years.
Eastern Conn., now 13-3, was led by sophomore middie Eric Vasil (Southington, Conn.), who picked up a game-high 14 ground balls and won 17 of 19 face-offs. He is ranked first nationally in ground balls and third in face-off winning percentage, including winning all 16 attempts in Eastern's 19-3 regular season win over PSU.
Senior Matt Savage (Southington, Conn.) topped the Eastern offense with four goals, senior DJ Simmons (Mystic, Conn.) and junior Zach Malouf (Norwich, Conn.) tallied two goals apiece, and sophomore Brian Fechtmann (Levittown, N.Y.) and junior Maxim Fantl (West Hartford, Conn.) chipped in with one each.
Sophomore Andrew Eriksen (Beverly, Mass.) was the top scorer for PSU with two goals against a tough Eastern defense. Senior Dan Maiorana (Walpole, Mass.) and juniors Brian Giroux (Wolfeboro Falls, N.H.) and Steve Engel (South Windsor, Conn.) contributed one goal each. Senior defender Tim Nicholson (Franklin, Mass.) picked up a team-high five ground balls.
The statistics favored the Warriors, who had a 47-18 advantage in shots, a 38-25 margin in ground balls, and won 17 of 19 face-offs. The Eastern defense caused 16 Panther failed-clears.
Sophomore Kevin Hayes (Beverly, Mass.) had a busy day in the Panther goal and finished with 23 saves. Senior Kyle Savage (Southington, Conn.) needed to make just five saves to earn the win at the other end.
PSU, 7-8 overall, now hopes for an ECAC Tournament berth, which will be announced on Monday, May 4.
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