Laffin’s Last-Second Heroics Push UAlbany Past Yale
Men's lacrosse team wins in thriller over No. 11 Yale in the annual Spring Stomp game.
Mitch Laffin stood in front of the goal, waiting for his chance. He wouldn’t make a mistake this time.
With just over 34 seconds left, Bennett Drake passed the ball to Laffin, who closed his eyes and let it go.
Laffin’s heroic goal put No. 5 University at Albany (11-2, 5-0) ahead of No. 11 Yale (8-4, 5-0) for the first time since the second quarter to give the Great Danes a momentous victory over the Bulldogs Saturday night at Casey Stadium in front of a crowd of 3,209 screaming fans at the annual Spring Stomp.
“It was a relief,” Laffin said. “I scored my first big goal. It was exhilarating.”
A relief, because with just over five minutes left and UAlbany down one after trailing for most of the game, Laffin scored to tie the game at 12.
Only he stepped in the crease. It didn’t count.
Laffin’s game-winning goal ended a run of five unanswered goals by UAlbany, who was down 12-8 with 12:07 left in the game. The Great Danes could have mailed it in and let Yale, whose faceoff man outperformed TD Ierlan, and whose defense smothered Connor Fields for most of the game, ride out of Albany with a win. But staying true to character, Scott Marr’s team clawed its way back, like it did against Maryland two weeks ago. Except this time, UAlbany came out on top.
“We’ve been preaching sticking together and playing 60 minutes,” Marr said. “All that positive energy, and riding the ‘energy bus’ and everybody rowing at the same time. They believe in each other. We talk about belief all year. And it came through tonight.”
Ierlan and Fields, the nation’s top players at their respective positions, were silenced during Yale’s six-goal stretch from the beginning of the second quarter until midway through the third. Ierlan struggled mightily against junior Conor Mackie, who won 16 of 29 faceoffs. UAlbany couldn’t get possession of the ball, meaning Fields, the leading point scorer in the country, couldn’t continue making the plays he was in the first quarter.
Despite their long lulls, Ierlan and Fields picked themselves back up in the fourth quarter to fuel the Danes’ furious comeback. Fields, who had been hounded by Yale’s Aidan Hynes all evening, took it upon himself to start the charge. Falling to his left, the junior attack launched the ball past the stick of Phil Huffard to cut the lead to 12-9. Despite the stellar defense against him, Fields still scored five points in the game (three goals, two assists).
Bennett Drake, who led the team with four goals, scored two of the next three. Kyle McClancy chipped in a goal before Laffin’s heroics sealed the deal.
Everyone pitched in to get UAlbany a win it badly needed. Troy Reh, the junior defenseman, also played an integral role in the comeback by scooping up ground balls and intercepting errant passes. From top to bottom, it was a team effort.
“The boys had a lot of fun tonight. It was fun to have the whole team going on all cylinders,” Drake said. “We were never down on each other, even when we were down a couple goals.”
The players rallied together to earn a win their team badly needed. NCAA Tournament seedings were on the line Saturday night. Both teams knew the winner would likely earn a first round home game with a victory. And Marr, who is in his 17th season as the head coach at UAlbany, knows how important this win will be when the selection committee sits down to form the bracket.
“This gives us a good quality win,” Marr said. “A loss tonight would have put us in a position where we would have to win our conference championship.”
Marr won’t need to worry about winning the conference championship, not just yet. UAlbany has one more date with Hartford on April 29. Then, UAlbany will play host to the America East Tournament, which starts on May 4. UAlbany has already locked up the overall No. 1 seed. Should UAlbany lose in its conference tournament, it is likely UAlbany will earn an at-large berth for the second straight year.
If all goes right for the Danes, they won’t need to worry about that.