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Men’s Lax Survive Last Minute Thriller

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The first words out of head coach Scott Marr’s mouth: “Well that was fun.”

It surely was, Coach.

The University at Albany men’s lacrosse team stormed back from a 9-7 deficit with four straight goals in the final 3:18 to knock off the Cornell Big Red at Casey Stadium 11-9 Sunday afternoon.

UAlbany, playing their first game since earning the No. 1 ranking in the most recent polls released Monday, saw their first real test of the season after two blowout wins over Syracuse and Drexel to start the 2018 campaign. They won those first two contests by a combined 33-8 margin.

“First time really all year that we’ve hit a little adversity,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said. “Thought we handled it great. Give Cornell a ton of credit for being prepared. We had no preconception this was going to be a blowout. We knew this was going to be a tough game.”

With the game tied in the final moments, after a series of passes from behind the net around the Cornell defenders, junior midfielder Sean Eccles gave a pass to teammate Justin Reh, who ripped a shot straight on past Big Red goalkeeper Christian Knight to give UAlbany a 10-9 lead with 1:17 remaining. For Reh, it was his fifth goal of the season.

With the Great Danes up 10-9 and under a minute remaining, the Nanticoke-Fields connection sealed the deal for Albany. Nanticoke held the ball towards the near sideline while toying with a Cornell defender, cut inside and ripped a pass to Fields who scored the deciding goal to give UAlbany a two-goal advantage with 00:38 seconds remaining.

“When we were down by two, we get in the huddle there with the offense and coach Thompson drew something up there,” Marr said. “Just listen, we need two good shots to tie the game up and we’ll go from there. Knowing we had TD and how well he was doing at the X [faceoff], we felt really confident if we put one in, we would get the ball back and take it from there. He was unbelievable.”

Casey Stadium erupted and the Danes had their third straight victory to open up the 2018 season. Their No. 1 ranking still intact.

Senior attack Connor Fields led the way with three goals and two assists in the win. Junior midfielder Sean Eccles and Senior midfielder Kyle McClancy also had two goals a piece on the day.

Sophomore faceoff specialist TD Ierlan pulled his own version of Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series Game 5 performance, finishing the day a perfect 24-of-24 on faceoffs.

Ierlan was originally awarded 23-of-24 but a video review after the game showed the Second Team All-American one season ago had possession of the ball, followed by a turnover which was then recovered by the Big Red.

On the season, Ierlan has now won 91 percent of his faceoffs taken, which ranks first in the country.

https://twitter.com/NCAALAX/status/970426910634332160

Cornell gave the Great Danes everything they could handle, going into the locker room with a 6-4 advantage at halftime and scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to give them a 9-7 lead.

“You know as the No. 1 team you’re going to get every team’s best shot,” Fields said. “Everyone loves to be up a lot and feel comfortable, but at the same time, if you want to go deep in the tournament, you’re going to have close games.”

Cornell goalkeeper Christian Knight, who came into the game averaging 14.5 saves per game, the third best per game average in the country, finished the afternoon with nineteen saves in the loss.

“I’m a big fan of Christian Knight,” Cornell head coach Peter Milliman said. “He’s been our guy for a while. I thought it was a pretty good day for him. He bailed us out in some situations and thought our defense did a great job of giving him what he was looking for. When you have a consistent goalie, you can build a defense around that. We’re making strides towards doing that.”

Senior midfielder Jordan Dowiak scored four goals for the Big Red. Sophomore Jeff Teat, who came into Sunday’s game tied with Nanticoke for first in the nation averaging four goals per game, finished with a goal and an assist.

In the victory, Fields moves into second place in points in UAlbany program history and 12th in NCAA Division I history, with 296 in his career. He is also tied for 20th in NCAA DI history in goals with 172.

Tehoka Nanticoke, the No. 1 recruit in the nation coming into the season as well as the top goal scorer averaging 4 goals per game coming in, found the back of the net once to go along with two assists in the victory.

A busy week lies ahead for UAlbany as they’ve played the first of three straight games in a seven-day span. They’ll travel to Massachusetts to take on UMass Amherst before heading to Maryland to take on the No. 2 ranked Terrapins Saturday, March 10 at 12 p.m.

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lep works as Vice President of ATV and sports director for WCDB. During the summer of 2017, he interned at WABC-TV in New York City.

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