Stifling defense leads Panthers to first-round victory
NEW HAMPTON, N.H. – Senior goalie Chris St. George (Marblehead, Mass.) matched his season-high with 20 saves and senior defenseman Scott Pelligrinelli (Glastonbury, Conn.) forced six turnovers Tuesday evening to lead third-seeded Plymouth State University to an 11-4 victory over sixth-seeded Salem State University in the first round of the Little East Conference Men's Lacrosse Tournament at the New Hampton School field.
The Panthers held Salem State to just one goal in the first three quarters before the Vikings scored three straight in the final frame, including two on man-up situations. Senior Nick Morello (North Billerica, Mass.) paced the Panther offense with three goals, while junior Phil Pichel (Hopkinton, Mass.) and sophomore Colin Claflin (Pembroke, Mass.) contributed two goals apiece and sophomore Nicco Sorrentino (Chelmsford, Mass.) added a goal and three assists.
PSU improves to 12-3 overall, matching the program record for wins in a season (the 1970 Panthers finished 12-2 and the 2008 team was 12-7). The Panthers will travel to second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University on Thursday for a 7:00 p.m. semifinal matchup. Salem State wraps up its season at 7-9.
Neither team put one in the net for the first 12 minutes of the game, and Plymouth State scored the only two goals of the first quarter. Senior C.J. Frates (Merrimack, N.H.) broke the scoreless duel with three minutes to go in the period, and Claflin doubled the Panther lead with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
The Panthers extended the margin to 5-0 with three scores in the first four minutes of the second quarter, as Sorrentino set up Morello and Pichel for goals and Claflin tallied un unassisted marker. Morello added his second of the period with 4:33 remaining in the half before junior Zach Brown (Peabody, Mass.) finally put Salem State on the board a minute later. Senior Mike Trocchi (Danvers, Mass.) closed out the first-half scoring with 17 seconds left to give the Panthers a 7-1 halftime cushion.
The home team continued its smothering defense in the third quarter, keeping the Vikings off the scoreboard while Morello, senior Aaron Boss (Keene, N.H.) and Sorrentino scored to push PSU's lead to 10-1.
Junior Alex Pearsons (Burlington, Vt.) scored a natural hat trick for Salem in the fourth quarter, scoring two man-up goals and his third goal with 3:16 to play, but Pichel notched his second of the game 50 seconds later to round out the scoring.
St. George, who ranks 20th in the NCAA Division III in save percentage, matched his season-high of 20 saves accomplished in the season-opening win over Emmanuel. Senior goalie Dylan Svenson (Billerica, Mass.) made 12 saves for the Vikings.
PSU's semifinal matchup against Eastern Connecticut is a rematch from last Friday, when the Warriors defeated the Panthers 12-6 in the regular season finale at the New Hampton School. Plymouth State has dropped nine straight to Eastern since upsetting the Warriors in double overtime in the semifinals of the 2008 LEC Tournament.
(Photo Courtesy of Jayson McAree, Laconia Citizen)
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