UAlbany Gets Revenge; Advances to America East Title Game
After losing in the conference semifinals a year ago, UAlbany handles Stony Brook to face Binghamton Saturday at 12:00.
ALBANY, N.Y.–Connor Fields watched the Hartford players—at Casey Stadium–gather around the goalie in celebration of winning the America East Championship.
That was last year.
This year, Fields and his University at Albany teammates made sure they would not slip up in the semifinals. Riding the face-off prowess of TD Ierlan, UAlbany, the top seed in the tournament, dominated Stony Brook, 19-6, on Thursday night to advance to the championship on Saturday afternoon against Binghamton.
“Last year we were sitting in the bleachers watching another team celebrate on our field,” Fields said. “It definitely left a bitter taste in our mouth and made me sick to my stomach.”
Ierlan, the face-off specialist who was finishing high school at this time last year, won 22 of 23 from the X on Thursday night, making it look easy against the Seawolves’ Jay Lindsay. An all-state wrestler from Victor, N.Y., Ierlan won possession for the Danes virtually every time he touched it, giving the high-powered UAlbany offense ample opportunities to score. Between Ierlan and reserve face-off man, Zach Ornstein, the Danes converted on 86.2 percent of their face-offs, a single-game record in America East Tournament history.
Justin Reh and Kyle McClancy led the scoring for UAlbany. Reh scored four goals and McClancy followed up a career-high (five) performance from the regular season finale by contributing four of his own. Fields spent less time behind the net than he normally does, but was still able to contribute two goals and five assists.
The Great Danes, who still earned an at-large berth despite the loss to Hartford in 2016, came out firing to ensure another upset wouldn’t happen. UAlbany opened with four unanswered goals, two of which came from the stick of McClancy. Stony Brook answered with a goal, and then the game fell silent. Senior midfielder John Glancy broke each team’s drought midway through the second quarter, sending UAlbany on a tear.
“Everything was clicking,” McClancy said. “Anything we were putting on the cage was going in. It felt great.”
UAlbany scored six goals in the final 6:46 of the first half. With the run spearheaded by two goals from McClancy and Reh apiece, the Danes offense looked as explosive as it has all season. Mitch Laffin, who has played a bigger role in the Danes’ offense since scoring the game-winning goal vs. Yale on April 22, launched a goal in the third quarter. Adam Osika’s third goal in the waning seconds of the third quarter gave UAlbany a 16-4 lead and prompted Marr to pull out most of his starters.
In a game full of positives for the Danes, spirits dropped on the UAlbany sideline in the second quarter when senior attackman Bennett Drake came up nursing his left shoulder. Head coach Scott Marr said Drake dislocated his shoulder and that team trainers were able to pop it back in to place. His status is day-to-day, but Marr believe he’ll play in Saturday’s final.
UAlbany beat Binghamton, 10-4, on April 19. Past success means nothing to Marr, who knows last year’s tournament loss is still in his players’ minds.
“Last year we took some things for granted and got complacent toward the end of the year,” Marr said. “We didn’t finish. Our motto all year has been to finish and also that respect is circular–if you give it, you get it.”
One game stands between UAlbany and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. If the Great Danes lose, UAlbany’s fate comes down to the selection committee. Despite its No. 5 ranking, UAlbany is still in danger of missing the tournament if it falters against Binghamton. The committee has no cemented criteria, which means UAlbany’s lack of a strong America East schedule could hurt it. Coach Marr hopes his team won’t be forced to await its fate between the end of the final and the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night.
“I don’t want an at-large bid,” Marr said. “I want to be the automatic qualifiers of the America East. I want that trophy on Saturday.”
If the Great Danes play like they did Thursday night, Marr’s wish will be granted.