No. 1 UAlbany men’s lacrosse pulls off epic comeback

Down two with minutes to go, Great Danes beat Cornell 11-9
Justin Reh congratulates Sean Eccles after one of Eccles' two goals in the final minutes against Cornell on Sunday.
Justin Reh congratulates Sean Eccles after one of Eccles' two goals in the final minutes against Cornell on Sunday.

ALBANY — With a late flurry, the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team made sure its first-ever game played as the No. 1 team in the country was a memorable one.

Down two goals with just minutes to go, UAlbany ended the game with one score after another to pull off an 11-9 comeback win against Cornell. The Great Danes scored four unanswered goals in the final 3:18 to leave Tom & Mary Casey Stadium with its undefeated mark still intact.

“Well,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said, “that was fun.”

He meant it, too. After UAlbany won its first two games of the season by a combined 33-8, Marr didn’t mind seeing his team tested — especially since it passed.

“First time, really, all year that we’ve hit a little adversity and I thought we handled it great,” said Marr, whose program ascended to the No. 1 spot in both the coaches and media polls last Monday.

“It’s fun when you’re in these types of games, right?” said UAlbany senior Connor Fields, who led UAlbany with three goals and two assists. “Everyone loves to be up a lot and feel comfortable, but at the same time, if you want to go deep in the [NCAA] tournament, you’re going to have close games.”

Cornell, bidding for its sixth-ever win against a team ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll, gave UAlbany one. Cornell led 6-4 at halftime, and scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to go ahead 9-7.

“We had no preconception that this was going to be a blowout,” Marr said.

So UAlbany stayed calm when it fell behind. In a timeout with 3:32 to go, that’s what Marr implored his players to do.

“We just need two good shots,” Marr told the Great Danes.

And the coach knew his offense would get its chances since sophomore TD Ierlan — again — was fantastic. The nation’s leader in faceoff winning percentage won all 24 faceoffs Sunday, his first-ever college game winning 100 percent of his faceoffs.

“Having a guy like him,” Fields said, “it’s kind of make it, take it.”

With 3:18 to go, junior Sean Eccles scored a man-up goal to bring UAlbany within 9-8. A little more than a minute later, Eccles scored again to tie the game with 2:02 to go.

“I knew when the ball came to me that we had to get something done,” Eccles said.

When Ierlan won the ensuing faceoff, UAlbany patiently worked the ball around to senior Justin Reh. His shot from 14 yards out beat Cornell senior goalie Christian Knight to give the Great Danes their first lead since late in the third quarter — and drew a raucous cheer from the crowd of 2,715.

“Our crowd was unbelievable,” Marr said. “It is so loud on that field when we score.”

Ierlan won the next faceoff and UAlbany got the ball to freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, who used his stick skills and 235-pound build to work the clock before flipping the ball to Fields for one final UAlbany goal.

Cornell interim head coach Peter Milliman said his team wasn’t satisfied with taking No. 1 UAlbany down to the wire.

He also wasn’t surprised the Great Danes found a way at the end.

“They don’t really hide a whole lot of who they are. I don’t think it’s hard to figure out who Albany is,” Milliman said. “They’ve got some superstar players, they play tough defense, they protect their goal, they’re great in the middle of the field, they ride and clear and pick up ground balls. There’s not a lot of surprises there. They really challenge you to beat them at what they do best and that’s a tough thing to do.”

UAlbany (3-0) and Cornell (1-2) were originally scheduled to play Saturday, but the game was moved to Sunday because of Friday’s winter storm. Marr said he thought that change affected his team.

“I think we did lose our focus a little bit,” Marr said.

UAlbany got it back, though, at the right time.

“We dug down there in the fourth quarter and made plays when we had to,” Marr said.

For Cornell, senior Jordan Dowiak scored four goals. Sophomore Jeff Teat, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring, finished with a goal and an assist.

Besides the starring performances from Fields and Ierlan, UAlbany received two goals and three assists from Eccles, plus two goals from senior Kyle McClancy. Nanticoke had a goal and two assists, while redshirt senior goalie JD Colarusso made nine saves.

“They’re really good. That’s a really good team,” Milliman said of the Great Danes. “They’re strong defensively. They got as good of an attack as there is. They win almost every single faceoff.”

UAlbany next plays Tuesday at UMass, likely in its second game as the nation’s top-ranked team.

“We’ll be ready,” Marr said.

Cornell 2 4 1 2 — 9

UAlbany 3 1 3 4 — 11

Cornell scoring: Piatelli 1-2, Teat 1-1, McCulloch 2-1, Dowiak 4-0, Duggan 1-0. UAlbany scoring: J. Reh 1-0, Nanticoke 1-2, Fields 3-2, Patterson 1-0, S. Eccles 2-3, McClancy 2-1, T. Reh 1-0.

Goalies: Cornell, Knight, 19 saves. UAlbany, Colarusso, 7 saves.

Attendance: 2,715.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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