Bryant Holds Off Stags in Season Opener
from press release
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – Rookie Matt Bletzer (Medfield, Mass.) scored twice and added two assists and sophomore Travis Harrington (Vestal, N.Y.) chipped in three points of his own, including the eventual game winner as the Bryant University men's lacrosse team topped Fairfield, 6-5, in the 2011 home opener Saturday, avenging a defeat at the hands of the Stags from a season ago.
With a 4-3 lead entering the final quarter in a game that see-sawed momentum through all four sessions, the Bulldogs (2-0) saw Fairfield's Max Trunz connect with Sam Snow for the second time in the contest to create the third tie score of the game, 4-4, with 9:40 left to play.
Bryant would take over the lead again less than five minutes later on a Gary Crowley (Scituate, Mass.) goal that was assisted by Bletzer, and the Bulldogs would equal their largest advantage of the game less than a minute after, when Harrington charged the net from the end line and snuck around the right of the Fairfield (1-1) crease for a diving wraparound goal that got past netminder Charlie Cipriano. The unassisted tally, Harrington's first of the year, gave the home team a 6-4 edge with 4:04 to play in the fourth frame and would prove to be the game winner, but the Stags kept that fact in question straight through the final whistle.
Trunz would close Fairfield's gap to 6-5 at the 3:46 mark, and the Stags would stay on the offensive. With just a one-score deficit, the Stags would set up camp in the home side's defensive zone with under a minute to play after forcing a key offensive turnover just seconds before. But junior netminder Jameson Love (Darien, Conn.) stood strong in goal for the Black and Gold, making a pair of impressive saves off strong shots in the final 25 seconds to hold out for the victory.
"We are certainly pleased to get the win," said head coach Mike Pressler. "For the second year in a row, this game was a defensive battle, and we knew going in that we could play a better offensive game than we did a year ago. Fortunately at the end of the day, on defense with a one-goal lead, our [preseason] All-American captain Jameson Love made some big time saves to preserve a big time win for the Bulldogs."
On the day, the home side would get goals from its usual offensive suspects in the win, with sophomore Peter McMahon (Wilton, Conn.) and junior Max Weisenberg (Long Beach, N.Y.) adding to the scores of Bletzer, Harrington and Crowley. But the men between the pipes were the ones making the biggest plays all afternoon long, as the goalies combined for 23 saves and saw 61 combined shots in the affair. Love made 12 stops to get the W, half of them coming in a scoreless first quarter.
"No. 35 has been a constant for us for the last three years," said Pressler. "He has started every game of his career, and we expect him to play well. Without question, Jameson rose to the challenge, and that's something we've grown accustomed to."
After playing more than 19 scoreless minutes of lacrosse, the Bulldogs got on the board first at the 10:45 mark of the second stanza, when a quick pass from Harrington to Bletzer led to the rookie's first point of the day and second goal of the young season. The home side doubled its lead soon after, when Harrington assisted on another tally, this one a pass to McMahon for a doorstep goal to make it 2-0 in favor of the Bulldogs.
But Fairfield would respond with three-straight scores leading up to halftime, with Ryan Mulford getting his first score of the season to kick off the run. Trunz and Snow hooked up for their first of two identical goals to knot the score at 2-2, and Shawn Honovich gave the Stags their first and only lead of the day with 1:23 to go before the break, running straight down the middle of the field for the quick shot and unassisted score to take a 3-2 edge into the locker room.
Weisenberg scored his second tally of the season less than 90 seconds out of the intermission, assisted by Bletzer, and Bletzer would record his second goal of the contest in the final 1:30 of the frame to put the Bulldogs back on top, 4-3, and account for all the scoring in the third period.
"We know we're better overall on the attacking end this season," said Pressler. "On that end of the field, we have players and we have depth, but we definitely count on Matt [Bletzer] being that lefty and being on that corner to make those plays.
"Bletz was terrific today, two goals and two assists," he continued. "That was a big-time performance for a freshman in only the second Division I game of his career."
Bryant was outshot by the Stags, 32-29, on the afternoon while both sides put 17 shots on net, challenging the focus, skill and stamina of both goalies. The Bulldogs won the ground ball battle, 32-19, led by a game-best six apiece from Love and sophomore defenseman Mason Poli (Downingtown, Pa.). Neither side was perfect on the clear, with Bryant successfully completing 20-of-23 attempts and Fairfield going 19-of-21 in the category. Trever Sipperly (Greenwich, N.Y.) went 10-of-15 from the faceoff X, staying perfect in the first and third frames, while Steve Golmont and Marshall Johnson split faceoff duties for the Stags, going 2-for-8 and 3-for-7, respectively.
"We knew we were going to be tested, without question," said Pressler. "I think Fairfield is a better team than a year ago, as are we. Coming in, we felt that we could hold them off, win faceoffs and limit their possessions, and we did."
The Bulldogs put their undefeated record on the line again Saturday, March 5, when the team travels up to Burlington, Vt. to take on a talented University of Vermont side (1 p.m.) before taking on spring break action at home against Army (March 11, noon) and on the road against nationally ranked Drexel (March 13, noon).
"This is a very good UVM team we'll be facing on the road next weekend," said Pressler. "With two games under our belts, we're excited to be 2-0, but this spring break will define us, without question, in so many ways."