May 19, 2013

Men's Division II Semifinal Impressions

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Brian Scheetz dished out a career-high six assists (along with a goal) in Mercyhurst's 18-17 overtime victory against Limestone. It wasn't your typical Laker performance, but the best teams find a way to win at this time of year.
© Mercyhurst Athletics

It's easy to fall into the trap of pigeonholing teams during the course of a season or during the reign of a particular coach. They're a bunch of grinders. They play a wide-open style. They take the air out of the ball. They just want to run.

For the most part, these reputations are hard-earned and pretty reliable. However, when teams are able to perform out of their perceived comfort zones and still come out victorious on the biggest stages, it's breathtaking. This is the case with Mercyhurst and Le Moyne advancing to the NCAA Division II national champion game in Philadelphia next weekend despite winning games that appeared very much out of their typical blueprint.

Entering the game against Adelphi, Le Moyne had played 101 games since the 2008 season, and they had held all but eight of their opponents to single digits. In those eight games, the Dolphins were 2-6. They're 3-6 now after winning a shootout with the Panthers, 16-13.

That final score would normally say all Adelphi. Twenty-nine combined goals is right up the Panthers' alley with their desire to keep the game moving back-and-forth. Le Moyne has traditionally been more comfortable with the nine combined goals range, not 29. But there were the Dolphins at the end, using their offense to dominate instead of their vaunted defense.

Mercyhurst has been in high-scoring affairs – its win over LIU Post, 14-13, being one example – but it didn't seem like the Lakers wanted any part of a shootout with a team like Limestone, which has set the standard for this high-octane approach. 'Hurst is typically a methodical, efficient team when it comes to offense, and conventional wisdom said they'd try to keep the scoring as low as possible in this one. When the chips were down, however, and 'Hurst trailed by two goals with a minute left in the contest, they did their best Saints' impersonation, drilling two goals to send it into overtime. Merchurst won in the first extra session, 18-17.

As we prepare for Le Moyne and Mercyhurst in the national championship game on Sunday, it would be natural to think that these two outfits will grind it out in Philly, not unlike the 6-5 final that we saw in '07 when they squared off in the national championship tilt. After Saturday, that's all changed. It'll be impossible to predict what these two teams will be capable of.

Saints Go Marching Out

Saturday's outcome will stick with Limestone for quite some time. Leading 17-15 with one minute left on the clock, the Saints watched Mercyhurst to draw within one on a man-up goal by Zac Reid at 0:58 before James Chayka tied the affair with four seconds left, setting up Deven Alves to play hero for the Lakers.

Jake Ternosky (28-for-39) gave Limestone a huge advantage on faceoffs and, helped by Ternosky's 17, the Saints also controlled ground balls (45-33), but there were just too many turnovers. The Saints committed 16 for the game while Mercyhurst had just seven. Limestone also took five penalties on the day, and the Lakers cashed in four of them for goals – another critical outcome.

All the credit in the world goes to Mercyhurst for winning the game, but that will be a tough game film to breakdown for J.B. Clarke and his staff.

Thoughts...

The precision of the Le Moyne offense was spectacular. They scored on 16 of their 21 shots on the Adelphi cage, and did it against Eric Janssen, one of the top big-game goalies over the past three seasons...Kevin Kelly didn't have a point against Adelphi in the previous two games (he didn't play in the first matchup), but had five goals on Saturday...Zac Reid has seven goals in the previous six games leading up to the Limestone game before burying seven against the Saints...Reid also had three man-up goals the entire season before potting a trifecta versus Limestone...the Saints had to replace a prolific senior class last year, and it won't get any easier this offseason. They'll be some big names off the roster...Kam Bumpus split faceoff duties with Cameron Fedish against Adelphi's Greg Puskuldjian. The Panthers' FOGO won the overall battle (17-for-30), but Fedish did a nice job (8-for-15)...in the '07 meeting between Le Moyne and Mercyhurst for the national championship, the Dolphins scored with one second left to win, 6-5. Lakers head coach Chris Ryan claims he's still never watched that game film.

NCAA Division II National Championship Game

Le Moyne vs. Mercyhurst, Sunday, 1 p.m. – at Philadelphia, Pa.


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