May 3, 2012

Loyola LSM Ratliff Scores OT Winner to Down Denver in ECAC Semi

Greyhounds face Fairfield in championship Friday

by Alex Proietti | LaxMagazine.com

DENVER -- Despite a magical fourth-quarter seven-goal comeback by fourth-seeded Denver, No. 1 Loyola prevailed for its second win over Pioneers this season, winning 14-13 in overtime in the semifinals of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament Wednesday night.

Greyhounds long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff scooped a ground ball in OT, raced downfield and sent high-to-low shot past Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante for the winner. The Pioneers had rallied from a 13-6 deficit to tie the game with 3:30 left in regulation.

Loyola (13-1) will play Fairfield (12-3) for the ECAC tournament championship and an NCAA automatic qualifying bid Friday at 4 p.m. local time at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver.

"What a game," said Loyola head coach Charley Toomey. "You've got to give Denver a lot of credit. The fight they had in the fourth quarter was tremendous and really put us back on our heels. We're very fortunate to advance, there's no doubt about it. But I give my guys a lot of credit, they dug in and they battled again and again. It was a team effort today. We did what it took. We weren't going to be denied today, not today. We felt like we learned how to win a game out here, so we had some confidence."

Coming off last week's loss to John's Hopkins and a quick turnaround and travel from Baltimore to Denver, the Greyhounds did not have much time to prepare for this game, but clearly it did not affect the outcome.

"I learned from my team this week," said Toomey. "I learned from Eric Lusby and I learned from Justin Ward that we just need to get back to the field [after a loss], and we felt like we left a lot of plays out there on Saturday and we wanted a second chance.

"It's probably good that we didn't have a week to prepare, that we did only have about two or three days to prepare for our next opponent. Again, I think that they came ready to play. We felt like we knew Denver, we felt like we knew how we needed to play, and that's fast between the lines. We needed to play fast on the offensive end, we needed to dig in and take away strengths on the defensive end, and for three quarters, we certainly did that."

Top scorers for Loyola were fifth-year senior attackman Eric Lusby with two goals and an assist and Ratliff and Phil Dobson with two goals each. Sophomore Justin Ward also added three assists for the Greyhounds.

Loyola had its 8-5 halftime lead trimmed off the thirdquarter's opening face-off when Chase Carraro grabbed the ground ball and scored himself three ticks in to the period.

The Greyhounds, however, scored the game's next five goals to lead 13-6 when Phil Dobson took a Pat Byrnes pass and scored his second goal of the game with 13:14 left in regulation.

Denver scored seven straight from that point, capping its run when Cameron Flint found himself unmarked on the low left side and scored with 3:30 left.

"First off, it's just tough to beat Denver in Denver because coming into this season, we hadn't been able to get a victory in Denver," said Lusby. "But being able to beat Denver twice on their home field, that was nice. You've got to give credit to them. Both games were hard-fought games. Denver's got a great offense, we both have great offenses, so it was just nice to come out and win again."

Standout point getters for Denver were sophomore midfielder Jeremy Noble with three goals and an assist, junior attackman Eric Law with three goals, senior attackman Alex Demopoulos with two goals and two assists and senior attackman Mark Matthews with two goals and an assist.

Denver's NCAA tournament hopes take a hit with the loss. It will wait anxiously until Selection Sunday.

"Obviously, we are very disappointed in the outcome of this game," said Denver head coach Bill Tierney. "Although we dug ourselves a hole with a lackluster effort in the first three quarters, credit has to be given to Loyola for taking advantage of our mistakes. I am equally as proud of our team however, for never quitting and staging a remarkable comeback in the fourth quarter. Losing five one-goal games, with four in overtime can take its toll, but I am confident that our young men will respond with great dignity and effort, should we be given the deserved opportunity to play the NCAA tournament."

The faceoff battle ended up with Denver junior Chase Carraro winning 17 of 31 on Loyola senior J.P. Dalton, and Carraro scoring a goal for the Pioneers.

On the opening faceoff of overtime, Carraro initially looked to have the ball in his stickduring the faceoff, but Dalton did not allow him to get the ball out cleanly and win it to himself. Carraro instead flipped the ball backwards, and Ratliff outraced Denver's Patrick Rogers to the ground ball.

Ratliff picked it up cleanly, got out in front of Rogers, and took a high-to-low shot when no Pioneers defender slid early to him.

"They had been on a huge run, so we definitely wanted to get the first face-off of the overtime," Ratliff said. "It is a testament to our shooters that they didn't want to slide off Mike Sawyer or Eric Lusby to me, and I was fortunate that [the shot] fell for me."

LaPlante, Devner's freshman goalie, followed up his performance from last week, making 12 crucial saves, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Greyhound offense. Loyola's 6-foot-3 and 215 pound sophomore goalie Jack Runkel recorded 10 saves in the win.

Fairfield Holds Off Ohio State

In the second game of the ECAC tournament on Wednesday night, third-seeded Fairfield beat second-seeded Ohio State, 8-7, just four days after the Buckeyes defeated the Stags, 8-3, in the final game of the regular season.

After a quick start to the game with Fairfield scoring five first period goals to Ohio State's one, the Stags were held scoreless as Ohio State began to close the gap going into the locker room 5-3 at halftime.

Despite a second half comeback similar to Denver's, the Buckeyes could not follow through to capture the win.

Fairfield's goalie Charlie Cipriano stopped 14 shots in the win and made several key second-half saves. Sam Snow and John Snellman each recorded hat tricks for the Stags.

Freshmen midfielders Jesse King and David Planning and sophomore attackman Adam Trombley scored two goals apiece for Ohio State.


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