The nationally-ranked St. Lawrence University men's lacrosse team saw a five-goal lead slip away on Friday in the 2012 Liberty League Tournament semifinals, as No. 11 Union College blanked the Saints in the second half and stormed back with a six-goal unanswered run for a 10-9 win in Schenectady, NY.
The win moves the Dutchmen (11-3) into the Liberty League title game with RIT, which defeated Clarkson 12-4 on Friday. Meanwhile, the loss drops St. Lawrence to 12-3.
"As tough as the second half was, and I give a ton of credit for Union for battling for 60:00 minutes, it won't take away from our feeling of overall satisfaction on a great year," said St. Lawrence head coach Mike Mahoney. "We had great senior leadership all season and guys that bought into things right from the start."
Seniors Drake Paul and Matt Pope and junior Tucker Garfield each had a pair of goals for St. Lawrence, while Ethan Meyer and Ted McKenna led Union with three goals apiece. Union closed with a 36-31 edge in shots and a 34-33 lead in ground balls. St. Lawrence was a perfect 14-of-14 on clears and won 12-of-22 face-offs, but was 0-for-3 on man-up tries to Union's 1-for-6 mark.
Defensively, Jake Wynn led the Scarlet and Brown with three caused turnovers and eight ground balls, while senior co-captain Craig Leach added two of each.
St. Lawrence came out of the gate rolling, building a 5-2 lead after one quarter. Garfield, Paul and Pope each scored in a span of 3:30 to make it 3-0, while co-captain Peter Carpenter and sophomore Pierson Fowler both answered Union goals to keep the three-goal lead intact.
Nolan Connors struck first in the second quarter for the Dutchmen to make it 5-3, but the Saints rattled off three straight tallies for an 8-3 advantage. The same trio of Garfield, Paul and Pope did the damage again, while junior Cody Danforth made it 9-4 with 5:15 remaining before halftime.
However, Danforth's third goal of the season would be all of the offense for the Saints, as Union began to turn the tide with two goals before intermission to keep the game manageable at 9-6. A 2-0 third quarter behind tallies from Meyer and Adam Rosenthal made it 9-8 St. Lawrence and set up a dramatic fourth.
St. Lawrence had three possessions in the fourth quarter but was done in by a pair of turnovers and a penalty, which allowed Union to knot the score at 9-9. Meyer's 15th goal of the season came with a mere 4:37 on junior goaltender Jack Nuland.
Both teams had a possession at 9-9, but Matt Livingston caused a turnover for Union in the defensive end. His ground ball then allowed the Dutchmen to clear the field and score with 2:15 remaining in regulation, as Rob Santangelo netted his 22nd of the year for a 10-9 Union lead, its first of the game.
Though Union won the ensuing face-off, Wynn gave the Saints a chance by causing a turnover and getting the ball up the field. Though St. Lawrence got a pair of shots off in the final seconds, including one on goal by senior co-captain Kyle Jacobsen, Union goalie Sean Aaron made the key save as the clock ran out giving the home team a dramatic, come-from-behind 10-9 win.
Nuland finished with three saves in the second half, while fellow junior Jeff Goeke made three stops in the first half. Aaron, the Liberty League's Defensive Player of the Year, closed with seven saves despite a tough first half while back-up Stefan Basile made two stops in relief.