Beasts of the East: Men’s Lacrosse wins America East Championship
By Aaron Cheris
May 3, 2015
The University at Albany men’s lacrosse team prides itself on being a family. When this season ends, the family will be broken up for good.
The family doesn’t plan on breaking up anytime soon.
UAlbany beat Stony Brook 22-9 in Saturday morning’s America East Championship game at Bob Ford Field. The win gives UAlbany a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
“I believe in this team. I believe in this family,” senior attacker Lyle Thompson said. “This is a championship team.”
“We’re not a team, we’re a family,” goalkeeper Blaze Riorden said. “If we lose this game, we’re putting our faith in the committee’s hands. We weren’t letting that happen. We want to stay together.”
Shortly after the 10 a.m. start, the visiting Seawolves (13-5) appeared to have the early momentum on UAlbany’s (15-2) turf. In the first three minutes of the game, Alex Corpolongo and Brody Eastwood each scored to give Stony Brook an early 2-0 lead.
That would prove to be the only lead the Seawolves had all day.
America East Player of the Year and 2015 Tewaaraton Trophy nominee Lyle Thompson took over the game soon after.
He scored his first goal off a great pass by Seth Oakes. Less than a minute later, he added his second on a long-range shot into the top right corner. He completed his hat trick a few minutes later after shaking free of a defender and beating the goalie one-on-one to give UAlbany a 3-2 lead which they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I don’t really know what was going through Lyle’s head,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said. “He just wanted to get us on the board and get us going. He scores three goals in a row and we never trailed after that.”
When it looked like Stony Brook grabbed momentum with a goal in the final minute of the quarter, Adam Osika answered for the Great Danes with five seconds left to give UAlbany a 5-3 lead through one quarter.
The second quarter started like the first ended. After an Oakes goal, Thompson ran through a maze of Stony Brook defenders and beat goalkeeper Hayden Johnstone. Less than a minute later, Thompson scored his fifth and final goal of the game on a low shovel shot from right in front of the net to make it 8-3 Danes.
“I wanted to test the defense,” Thompson said. “I got some open shot and I put them in.”
UAlbany closed out the first half on a blast from long distance by senior Tim Cox. However, due to penalties at the end of the first half, UAlbany began the second half down two men.
Stony Brook failed to score on the two-man advantage, and that proved to be a key turning point in the game.
“We didn’t want to let them back in the game,” Riorden said. “It was a huge momentum swing and that’s complimentary to the way the defense was playing all day.”
With a two-man advantage of their own a couple minutes later, the Great Danes cashed in. Jake Cullen received a pass from Oakes and scored into a nearly vacant net. Derrick Eccles went around the goal and scored shortly after to extend the UAlbany lead.
America East Rookie of the Year Connor Fields found the scoreboard shortly after, scoring twice in less than a minute to the delight of the UAlbany fans.
“I went into halftime and I didn’t have a goal,” Fields said. “[Lyle Thompson] really helped me a lot, I was really taking his advice.”
With about six minutes left in the third quarter, UAlbany’s defense stepped up.
Freshman AJ Kluck stripped a Stony Brook attacker of the ball, and led the offense in transition. At the other end, Fields found Oakes open at the side of the net. In one motion, Oakes jumped to receive the pass and shot the ball into the net before he fell back to the turf. The goal sent most of the 2,146 at Bob Ford Field to their feet.
In the fourth quarter, the Great Danes put the final nail in Stony Brook’s coffin. Oakes and Fields each scored highlight-reel goals with just one hand to get UAlbany’s lead to double digits. Fields finished with four goals for a team-high 56 on the season. Oakes finished with four goals of his own to increase his season total to 51.
As time ran down, Thompson, Riorden, and other UAlbany starters returned to the bench to standing ovations. The 22 goals UAlbany scored is an America East Championship game record.
In net for UAlbany, Riorden had nine saves. UAlbany freshman Cason Liles dominated the faceoffs, winning 20 of 33 on the game.
For Stony Brook, Challen Rogers led the way with three goals. Johnstone made 11 saves in net in the loss.
Up next, UAlbany will head to the NCAA Tournament.
After falling one goal short in the national quarterfinals against Notre Dame last season, the Great Danes have a deeper tournament run on their minds.
“To me, attitude, confidence, that’s a huge thing. I think we have that,” Thompson said. “We’ve just got to go in with the right attitude, with confidence and play how we did today.”
“We’ll play anybody anywhere anyplace anytime,” Marr said. “Now it’s about going out next weekend and playing a complete game and executing.”