ALBANY — Hours before Saturday’s game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, Hartford’s fate was sealed. The Hawks, after winning last season’s America East tournament championship, found out they were not going to be a part of this year’s four-team tournament field.
From UAlbany head coach Scott Marr’s perspective, that just made Saturday’s matchup mean that much more for Hartford.
“The most dangerous teams,” Marr said, “are the ones that have nothing to lose.”
UAlbany, though, is the opposite of that. The Great Danes, who finished off their conference regular season with a 16-10 win, seemingly have everything to lose if they don’t take care of business this upcoming week in the America East tournament on their home field. While UAlbany’s resume is a strong one for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, its coach knows this year’s national landscape is too littered to slip up in its conference tournament — like it did last year, against Hartford — and be guaranteed their season continues.
“I certainly don’t want to take any chances,” Marr said.
That’s why the coach was so effusive in his praise Saturday night after his team’s victory, one that capped a fifth consecutive undefeated America East regular season for UAlbany. Knotted at 8 early in the second half after Hartford started the third period with three consecutive scores, UAlbany answered with a dominant 7-0 run.
“We knew they were gonna come out swinging,” Marr said, “and we had to respond.”
“Our response was great,” said UAlbany junior midfielder Kyle McClancy, whose team has won 28 consecutive regular-season games against league opponents, the top active streak in the country.
McClancy starred Saturday for UAlbany (6-0, 12-2) against Hartford (2-4, 6-8), as the junior scored a career-high five goals. Three of his scores came during the Great Danes’ 7-0 run.
“I had the easy job,” McClancy said. “Guys were just finding me in good spots.”
Junior attackman Justin Reh, freshman attackman Mitch Laffin and senior midfielder Adam Osika each had two goals for UAlbany. Junior attackman Connor Fields, who was named Friday as one of the final 25 nominees for the 2017 Tewaaraton Award, contributed one goal and four assists.
UAlbany, which is ranked sixth in the media poll and seventh in the coaches poll, had plenty of scoring chances because of freshman faceoff specialist TD Ierlan’s work. Going against a Hartford squad without its usual faceoff specialist, Ierlan capitalized with a 22-for-24 showing before sitting out the game’s last few minutes.
“They were getting really physical,” said Ierlan, who scored off one of his faceoff wins during the 7-0 run. “I knew they were just trying to make it a dogfight and beat up on me.”
UAlbany rested freshman attackman Jakob Patterson Saturday night. Marr said Patterson has been dealing with a “lower-body injury” and should be back for the conference tournament.
That starts next Thursday with the semifinals at Casey Stadium, in which top-seeded UAlbany will play No. 4 Stony Brook at 7 p.m. That matchup follows a 4:30 p.m. game between No. 2 UMBC and No. 3 Binghamton. Winners from those games will play next Saturday at Casey Stadium in a noon start.
During the regular season, UAlbany won 19-11 against Stony Brook, 10-5 against UMBC and 10-4 against Binghamton.
Last year, Hartford upset UAlbany in the semifinals, but the Great Danes still made the 2016 NCAA tournament as an at-large entry. Winning this year’s conference tournament would guarantee UAlbany a spot in this year’s national field and keep it in the running for a first-round home game.
“I think we have a great resume,” Marr said. “We’ve only lost two games to two of the top teams in the country.”
The immediate goal, though, for the Great Danes is to add two more wins to their resume — and Marr said his players know the rest of the America East tournament’s field won’t make anything easy on them.
“It’s another day,” Marr said, “and you still have to execute. We can’t just step on the field.”
Hartford 3 2 3 2 — 10
UAlbany 4 4 4 4 — 16
Hartford scoring: Jaedon Henderson 3-0, Griffin Feiner 3-0, Justin Huggins 1-0, Alec Brown 2-0, Dylan White 0-1, Doug Biondi 1-0. UAlbany scoring: Justin Reh 2-2, Connor Fields 1-4, Mitch Laffin 2-1, Adam Osika 2-1, Kyle McClancy 5-0, Bennett Drake 1-2, JD Colarusso 0-1, TD Ierlan 1-0, Jake Cullen 1-0, Troy Reh 0-1, Eli Lasda 1-1.
Goalies: Hartford, Ryan Vanderford, 17 saves. UAlbany, JD Colarusso, 8 saves.
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