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Men’s Lacrosse holds on to beat UMass in home opener

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By Troy Farkas

Contributing Writer

sports.asp@gmail.com

March 10, 2015

Photo from UAlbany Athletics. Blaze Riorden (10) made a career-high 21 saves for UAlbany.
Photo from UAlbany Athletics. Blaze Riorden (10) made a career-high 21 saves for UAlbany on Saturday.

 

   It was 44 degrees at game time and dropped to 34 degrees by the end, but the University of Massachusetts Amherst Minutemen and the Great Danes of the University at Albany provided plenty of heat on the lacrosse field Saturday afternoon.

   Led by reigning Tewaaraton Trophy co-winner Lyle Thompson, the Danes opened their home season in an exciting and physical contest, beating UMass of the Colonial Athletic Conference 10-9 in a non-league game at John Fallon Field.

   The Great Danes were led by Thompson, UAlbany’s all-time assists leader, who immediately made his presence felt as a distributor in the first five minutes with assists to Seth Oakes and Connor Fields. Thompson finished the game with six assists, putting him at 166 for his career.

   The Minutemen often used two defenders to hound Thompson and succeeded in that regard, forcing Thompson to commit six turnovers and limiting his scoring to one goal on just two shot attempts. That was key to the UMass game plan. In addition to his prolific passing abilities, Thompson is no stranger to scoring. He is UAlbany’s fifth-highest all-time scorer with 127 goals, behind his brother, Miles, and his cousin, Ty, who were members of the team from 2011-14.

   “They threw something different at us defensively. It threw us off at the beginning of the game. You know, it wasn’t me doing the scoring, but I was finding

everybody open,” Thompson said.

   Although they contained Thompson’s scoring abilities, the Minutemen couldn’t find a way to stop Thompson, named the nation’s preseason Player of the Year, from making an impact on this game. Three of his six assists were to Fields, a freshman, and the other three to Oakes, a redshirt sophomore who spent last season at Onondaga Community College. Oakes and Fields each finished with a hat trick on the afternoon, while John Maloney added two goals for UAlbany.

   Saturday’s game showed the Danes created a strong rapport and camaraderie in the offseason. Even this early in the season, the players seemed to know where their teammates would be at all times.

   “I’m excited for this season. We are just starting to get more and more used to each other,” said Fields, the highly touted first-year player from East Amherst. “We’re starting to mesh more and get better chemistry. We are starting to become even more of a family than we were at the beginning of the season. Hopefully we can keep it going,”

   The first quarter provided back-and-forth scoring between teams with two opposing styles of play. The Minutemen (0-5) preferred a physical, up-tempo battle, while the Danes (2-1) tried to slow down the game whenever they could and get the ball in the hands of Thompson, their patient and trustworthy leader.

   UMass won the ground ball battle 38-28 and converted on 70 percent of face-offs (16 of 23), but were unable to make shots at times when they were needed most.

   The score was tied at three  at the end of the first period, but because the Minutemen were unable to take advantage of opportunities due to the strong play of the UAlbany defense, UMass fell behind 7-4 at the end of the first half. The Danes limited the Minutemen to just four shots in the second period.

   In the third quarter, UMass scored just once despite doubling UAlbany’s amount number of shots on goal (12-6). The Minutemen couldn’t gain any momentum because of the consistent defensive plays made by the Danes and goalkeeper Blaze Riorden, who made a career-high 21 saves.

   “I thought our defense did an outstanding job,” said UAlbany head coach Scott Marr. “Blaze was great in the goal. It was the defense’s turn to win the game, and I thought we did that today.”

   As the temperature dropped, UMass picked up the intensity immediately in the fourth period to make one final push to upset the Great Danes, who entered the game ranked 16th in the USILA Coaches Poll and 12th in the Inside Lacrosse media poll. The Minutemen rattled off 14 shots in the final quarter, scoring on four of them. Brendan Hegarty, a physical sophomore who roughed up Danes all afternoon, scored his second goal of the game with eight seconds left to bring UMass within one goal. Time ultimately ran out on UMass and the Danes escaped with the win.

   “Overall, I thought we played pretty good. UMass is a really tough team. Even though their record doesn’t show it, they’re still a really good team. And I thought we played as well as we could,” Fields said.

   UAlbany will travel to Stony Brook on March 14 to take on the Seawolves (4-1) at 1 p.m. to begin America East conference play.

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