Blaze Riorden got the last laugh.
During practice Friday, the 6-foot, 215-pound junior goalie, who likes to roam out of the net occasionally, was involved in a sprint with Lyle Thompson and several other attackers as they rehearsed a transition scoring attempt. Thompson, Seth Oakes and Connor Fields decided not to pass the ball back to Riorden after the Fairport native hustled all the way downfield just to get involved with the play.
See for yourself
ESPN chose Blaze Riorden’s goal as one of its Top 10 plays of the day. Watch as the UAlbany goalie goes the length of the field to score in the Danes’ opening round NCAA tournament win over Cornell.
Saturday, Riorden returned the favor, closing out the third period with a brilliant wire-to-wire goal to snuff out a Cornell surge and help University at Albany bounce the Big Red
19-10 in the opening round of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament before a crowd of 3,044 at Schollkopf Field.
It was the second career goal for Riorden, who also was senational in his regular job, stopping 19 shots.
The sixth-ranked Great Danes (16-2) are headed to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver to take on No. 1 seed Notre Dame Saturday at 3 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Great Danes lost to the Fighting Irish in overtime in last year’s quarters.
Riorden’s spectacular scoring play ended a three-goal run by the Big Red, who had drawn within 13-7. He stopped a Cornell scoring threat, looked for someone to clear the ball to, and then headed up the field. Usually, he stops at midfield and passes the ball to an attacker, but this time, he kept going.
“After I made the save, I scooped up the ball and took off,” said Riorden. “It was my natural instincts. Connor [Fields] cleared some space for me, and I was fresh. I threw a stick fake, closed my eyes and shot the ball as hard as I could. It was a good boost for my teammates.”
“As soon as he split the double team, I told him to shoot,” said Thompson with a laugh.
Despite losing 24 of 32 faceoffs, the Great Danes dominated the Big Red, for the most part. Thompson, already the NCAA’s all-time scorer with 395 points, also moved into a tie for the all-time assist mark with 221. He produced three goals and six assists Saturday. Fields scored four times, while Oakes, John Maloney and Derrick Eccles contributed two goals apiece.
“I’m always talking about it as a team game,” Thompson said. “Sometimes, my teammates pick me up; sometimes, I pick them up. Last year, I had Miles [Thompson] and Ty [Thompson] to pass to. I have a new cast this year with Seth and Connor. They have helped me become a better player, and I hope I helped them become better players, too. I’m an assist man. I need someone to feed.”
Cornell, which defeated the Great Danes 16-9 in the second game of the season in Febuary, had no answer for Thompson or Riorden.
The Big Red scored the first two goals of the game — just as Stony Brook did in last week’s America East Conference championship game — but the Great Danes scored the next 11 goals.
“He’s as good as it gets,” said Cornell senior defender Jordan Stevens of Thompson. “He’s very good at everything. You can’t stop one thing, because he has so many options.”
Cornell coach Matt Kerwick was also impressed with the Great Danes on both sides of the field.
“They showed what they can do when they handle the ball the way they do,” he said. “They ran their transition game very well, and we watched Lyle Thompson too much when we were on defense. He picked us apart. Defensively, they found their identity, and Blaze made a couple of nice saves and also started their transition game. They are playing at a very high level right now.”
UAlbany 5 6 3 5 — 19
Cornell 2 1 4 3 — 10
UAlbany scoring: Connor Fields 4-1, Lyle Thompson 3-6, Seth Oakes 2-1, John Maloney 2-0, Derrick Eccles 2-0, Tim Cox 1-1, Kyle McClancy 1-0, Matthew Bertrams 1-0, Jake Cullen 1-0, Blaze Riorden 1-0, Adam Osika 1-0, Riley Lasda 0-1. Cornell scoring: Connor Buczek 2-1, Matt Donovan 1-2, Chris Cook 1-1, John Edmonds 1-0, John Hogan 1-0, Dan Lintner 1-0, Ryan Matthews 1-0, Jordan Dowiak 1-0, Tony Britton 1-0.
Goalies: UAlbany, Blaze Riorden, 19 saves; JD Colarusso, 0 saves. Cornell, Christian Knight, 19 saves.
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