Bangor, ME - The Husson University men's lacrosse team lost a North Atlantic Conference (NAC) contest to the league's top team, as the New England College Pilgrims took the victory 18-4, under the lights at Boucher Field on Saturday night. With the loss, the Eagles fall to 9-7 on the season, and all but solidify themselves in the #3 spot in the NAC as they slide to 5-2. New England College improves to 8-6 in 2012, and remain perfect at 7-0 in their first season as members NAC.
Husson recognized the six seniors on the team prior to the start of the game, and Nick Brown (Fort Worth, TX) shone brightest on the day, having a hand in three of the teams four scores, putting two in the net himself while assisting another. The two other Eagle goals came on shots from fellow senior Ben Landry (Lewiston, ME), and his junior attackman counterpart Mitch Heaps (York, PA). Defensively, a third senior had a solid game despite the result as long-stick midfielder Mike Craig (Kennebunk, ME) led the team with four caused turnovers while sophomore close defender Mark Nardelli (Norwood, MA) caused three, and scooped a team-high eight ground balls. Sophomore goalie Eric Lund (Mansfield, MA) was tagged with the loss in front of the cage, his first defeat of the season as he and John Hooper III (Wakefield, RI) combined to make eight saves on the day.
The Eagles had a tough day on the scoresheet as the visiting Pilgrims led in nearly every statistical category. NEC peppered the cage with 38 shots sent goalward, compared to 22 by Husson. The Eagles also lost the battle on the ground by a narrow margin, picking up 31 ground balls compared to 36 by the 'grims. Both teams saw limited success by their respective faceoff specialists as Dillon Shaw (Augusta, ME) was 10-19 at the faceoff dot for Husson with five gb's, and was matched by NEC's Jake Flynn (Merrimack, NH) who won 10-19 draws as well with four ground balls. Both teams went 20-23 on clears for 87%, while the Pilgrims held a decided advantage in specialty situations, converting on 2-3 extra man opportunities while holding Husson to no goals on seven chances on the man-up.
For New England College, junior attackman Brian Gillis (North Vancouver, BC, CAN) had a day to remember, recording nine points on four goals and five assists for the Pilgrims. His senior teammates each added five points apiece as Matt Goyette (Lowell, MA) netted four to go along with an assist, while Sam Freihofner (Scarsdale, NY) scored a hat-trick and recorded helpers on two more scores. Senior goalkeeper Nick Acquaviva (Syracuse, NY) made seven saves to earn the win, and even took advantage of a short-handed clear situation and scored a goal of his own on the night. Freihoffer was one of a trio of Pilgrims to cause three turnovers in the game, joined by defensemen Matt Hebert (Burlington, CT) and long-stick midfielder Pat Miles (Brampton, ON, CAN).
NEC got off to a quick start as Goyette put in the first tally on an assist by Freihofner almost two minutes into the game. In what seemed like deja vu for the Eagle defense, the Goyette-Freihofner battery did it again just six seconds later. Less than five minutes into the game, Friehofner took it himself, and the Pilgrims led 3-0 with 10:26 to play in the first quarter. Husson would not go quietly as the Eagles scored with just five seconds on the clock when Brown found Heaps on the doorstep. That tally marked the fifth straight period where Husson had scored in the final minute of a quarter. When the horn eventually sounded, the Eagles trailed 3-1 after 15 minutes of play.
With Husson rallying, the Pilgrims went on a run of four straight, kicked off by a James Putney (Mountain Lakes, NJ) goal in transition on an assist by Miles. Then after a New England College penalty, Acquaviva recorded the man-down tally which sparked a stretch of three goals in 48 seconds to give NEC a 7-1 edge with just 6:01 left in the half. Brown put in an unassisted tally just 10 seconds later after a faceoff win as the Eagles continued to fight. Gillis netted a pair, including one on the extra man to close out the half for the Pilgrims.
After the break, Gillis picked up where he left off at the end of the second quarter, netting his third of the day three and a half minutes into the second half. With tensions rising on both sides of the box, Husson scored two in-a-row; the first from Brown and the second from Landry, both unassisted. That made the score 10-4, but that was as close as the Eagles would get as the rally was cut short and NEC put in eight straight to close out the game and earn the 18-4 victory.
Husson will return to action at Boucher Field on Wednesday for the regular season finale against Thomas College at 7:00 pm. New England College will close out their schedule on Wednesday as well, when they travel to Poultney, VT to take on Green Mountain College at 4:00 pm. Both teams will then await the release of the NAC playoff schedule to discover their post-season fates.