On Senior Night, Underclassmen Steal the Show
On Senior Night, UAlbany puts the finishing touches on another undefeated regular season in the America East.
After a February practice, the University at Albany seniors gathered their team together. They hadn’t practiced hard that day. They hadn’t played to their capabilities. They failed to live up to UAlbany’s standards.
Over two months later, the practice seems like a distant memory for the senior class, who played its final regular season game at UAlbany on Saturday night in a 16-10 win over Hartford.
On Senior Night, it was junior Kyle McClancy who stole the show. The red-headed midfielder scored a career-high five goals to lead the Danes to their 28th consecutive regular season America East win, the longest conference winning streak in the country.
“Five goals? Holy cow. That’s a great night for him,” head coach Scott Marr said after the game. “As a leader and a captain to step up in the second half, it was awesome.”
McClancy scored his fourth and fifth goals at the start of the fourth quarter as part of a UAlbany run that saw the Danes score six unanswered. The Hawks had tied the Great Danes at eight with 8:22 in the third quarter, but UAlbany’s relentless scoring attack extended the lead to 15-8 to put the finishing touches on Hartford.
Only trailing 8-5 at halftime, the Hawks hung with UAlbany longer than expected. UAlbany’s face-off specialist, TD Ierlan, had won 12 of 14 face-offs and UAlbany nearly doubled Hartford’s number of shots on goal. It was Hartford’s physicality and intense defense that inhibited UAlbany’s main scorers, Connor Fields and Bennett Drake, from getting clean looks at the goal.
On Saturday morning, Hartford still had a chance to qualify for the America East Tournament, needing a win over UAlbany and a UMBC loss to Vermont. Vermont won, so Hartford knew prior to the game it was eliminated before having the chance to face UAlbany.
“They definitely came to play,” senior midfielder Eli Lasda said. “I know they wanted that game.”
It was only a matter of time before the Great Danes capitalized on Ierlan’s dominance. The freshman finished 22-for-24 on the night, leading to UAlbany’s attempting of 58 shots. Ierlan even scored a goal of his own, which came four seconds after he won a face-off. McClancy led the team with five goals, while Justin Reh, Adam Osika, and Mitch Laffin scored two apiece. Connor Fields, the leading point scorer in the country, finished with five points, four of them coming on assists.
The win puts the exclamation point on another undefeated regular season in conference play. Last week, UAlbany locked up home field advantage in the America East Tournament. The semifinals are set for Thursday, where No. 1 UAlbany will face No. 4 Stony Brook. No. 2 UMBC will play No. 3 Binghamton on the other side. The winners will square off in the championship game on Saturday afternoon with an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
UAlbany failed to earn the automatic bid last season after a slip-up to Hartford in the semifinals. Despite a fairly easy time in conference play this year, Marr will make sure his team comes ready to play next week.
Despite their loss last year, the Great Danes managed to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Because of how the rest of the NCAA has played out in the past few weeks, it’s possible that, despite its No. 6 ranking, UAlbany could miss the postseason if it fails to win the America East. For Marr and his team, hoisting the trophy on Saturday will quell any fears of missing the tournament.
“I think we have a great resume,” Marr said. “It all comes down to RPI’s and numbers, but I certainly don’t want to take that chance.”
Marr is confident his team will pull through. His team has come a long way since that day in February. His seniors, who were honored Saturday afternoon at a luncheon, have come even further.
“Coming off the heels of playing with Lyle [Thompson] and Blaze [Riorden], it wasn’t a class that had that superstar,” Marr said of his seniors. “I think they collectively– as a group–did a great job of leading us every day in practice and being prepared.”
McClancy is a junior. Fields is a junior. Justin and Troy Reh are juniors. Ierlan is a freshman.
But they’ve got more time.
For the six seniors—Jake Cullen, Adam Osika, Connor Russell, John Glancy, Lasda, and Drake—it’s their last chance to make history for UAlbany, which has never made a Final Four.
Time is running out for them. And like that day in February, it’s up to them to bring together a team that has the potential to make a deep postseason run.