Panthers fall one goal short of title game appearance
MANSFIELD, Conn. – Second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University scored four consecutive goals late in the first half to take the lead for good and then held off a second-half comeback by third-seeded Plymouth State University Thursday evening to record a 15-14 victory in the Little East Conference men's lacrosse tournament semifinal at the Mansfield Complex.
The Warriors, 10-6 overall, advance to the LEC Championship game Saturday at top-seeded Keene State College for the 15th time in 16 years. Eastern avenged an overtime loss to the Panthers in the regular season meeting two weeks ago. PSU completes its season with a 6-10 record.
Nick Fernandes and Tim Reilly led the home team with five points apiece, Fernandes with four goals and one assist and Reilly with two goals and three assistsi. Dan Vasquez and Shawn Tierney recorded three goals and one helper each, and Liam Murphy chipped in with two goals and one assist.
Blake Smaldone had an outstanding day in the Eastern goal, making 20 saves as PSU had a 50-36 advantage in shots.
Junior Colin Claflin (Pembroke, Mass.) led the Panthers with a game-high five goals and one assist, while senior Phil Pichel (Hopkinton, Mass.) tallied four goals and junior Mac Tetreault (New Durham, N.H.) contributed two goals and two assists. Junior Adam Haversat (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) led the defense with two caused turnovers and four ground balls.
The game was close the whole way. Eastern took a 5-2 lead through the first quarter, but PSU scored five of the first six goals of the second quarter to pull ahead, 7-6. Pichel and Claflin had two goals each for the Panther in that stretch. The Warriors answered with four straight goals to regain the lead, 10-7, and held a 10-8 margin at the half.
Eastern took its largest lead of the evening with the first two goals of the third quarter, but PSU hung tough, and answered with three straight goals, two by Claflin and one by sophomore Cam Cormier (Auburn, Maine), to pull to within a goal, 12-11, midway through the third. Vasquez scored twice for Eastern and Claflin answered for PSU as Eastern led 14-12 heading into the fourth quarter.
ECSU scored its last goal with 11:27 remaining, and junior Pete Allen (Newbury, N.H.) and Pichel scored for PSU to pull back to within one, 15-14, with 6:30 left on the clock. That ended up as the final score as all four remaining PSU shots were stopped by Eastern goalie Blake Smaldone before the Warriors ran out the clock.
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