UAlbany men’s lacrosse advances to conference championship game

Fields exits game in fourth quarter; status uncertain for championship
TD Ierlan won 28 of 29 faceoffs against UMass Lowell Thursday.
TD Ierlan won 28 of 29 faceoffs against UMass Lowell Thursday.

ALBANY — It looked like senior Connor Fields exited Thursday’s America East men’s lacrosse tournament semifinal as soon as University at Albany head coach Scott Marr felt the game was in hand.

Key word: looked.

Instead, after UAlbany’s 15-10 comeback win against UMass Lowell, Marr admitted Fields’ departure was related to the injured right knee that just won’t fully heal for the Great Danes’ top star.

“My heart goes out to him,” Marr said of Fields, who sprained his right MCL back in late March and has played sporadically since that point. “The kid just wants so badly to be 100 percent.”

Fields did play the vast majority of Thursday’s game, but didn’t look right five days after registering five points in the Great Danes’ final regular season game. He took only two shots, rarely dodged with the ball and appeared to drag his right leg at times. He did not score a point.

“He was struggling to move,” Marr said of Fields, who UAlbany did not make available to reporters after the game.

UMass Lowell head coach Ed Stephenson, whose team was making its first-ever appearance in the America East tournament, made a point of acknowledging after his team’s loss how Fields was clearly limited.

“I tip my hat to Connor Fields. What a warrior,” Stephenson said of the player who originally got hurt playing against UMass Lowell during the regular season. “What an absolute warrior.”

Stephenson added: “I’ve never seen a tougher player.”

Largely, though, top-seeded UAlbany needed to work around Fields to secure its spot in Saturday’s conference championship game against third-seeded Vermont. The Great Danes were often sloppy against UMass Lowell, but brilliant play from sophomore TD Ierlan and a trio of six-point scorers pushed UAlbany into Saturday’s championship game back at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.

“Well, it’s playoff time,” Marr said. “That’s what playoffs are all about.”

UAlbany trailed 7-5 at halftime, but took a 10-9 lead heading into the final period after junior Sean Eccles scored with 1.9 seconds left in the third quarter. UMass Lowell (No. 4, 8-8) scored the fourth quarter’s first goal, but UAlbany (No. 1, 13-2) started a 5-0 game-closing run with a spurt of three man-up goals in a span of 2:19.

“We knew we were going to have to play 60 minutes and give it our all to get past them tonight,” Eccles said.

Eccles, freshman Tehoka Nanticoke and sophomore Jakob Patterson each tallied six points for UAlbany. Eccles had four goals and two assists, Patterson has five goals and one assist, and Nanticoke had three goals and three assists.

Meanwhile, Ierlan won 28 of 29 faceoffs. Ierlan won his first 24 faceoffs, lost the 25th and won his final four.

The NCAA record for a perfect faceoff complete game is 25 of 25. Twice this season, Ierlan has gone 24 of 24.

“I wish I had that 29th one,” Ierlan said of his performance.

In Thursday’s first semifinal, Vermont eliminated second-seeded Stony Brook with an 8-4 win. Vermont redshirt senior Ian MacKay, a first-team all-conference selection, had five goals and an assist.

UAlbany and Vermont will play 12 p.m. Saturday in the conference championship game. During the regular season, UAlbany blasted Vermont 21-5 at Casey Stadium. While UAlbany is likely safe to make the NCAA tournament regardless of how its run in the America East tournament concludes, Vermont is widely projected as needing to secure the conference’s automatic bid to continue playing beyond this weekend.

Marr said he did not know if Fields will play Saturday, but it appears unlikely — especially since the only other time after his injury that he played two games in three days, he re-aggravated the injury minutes into the second game.

“I really feel for him,” Marr said. “I love him.”

UMass Lowell 5 2 2 1 — 10

UAlbany 4 1 5 5 — 15

UMass Lowell scoring: Balter 1-1, Tyrrell 1-2, Morrill 3-0, Cozzi 0-1, Phillips 5-0, Lane 0-1, LaForge 0-1.

UAlbany scoring: J. Reh 0-4, Nanticoke 3-3, Patterson 5-1, S. Eccles 4-2, McClancy 2-0, J. Burgmaster 0-1, A. Burgmaster 1-0, John 0-1.

Goalies: UMass Lowell, Braun, 15 saves. UAlbany, Colarusso, 5 saves.

Attendance: 1,516.

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

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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