ALBANY — Camden Hay spotted two lonely fans behind the chain link fence in the end zone and raised his arms up a few times to get the “crowd” going.
The man and boy responded in kind.
On a gray, clammy day at Fallon Field, this is how the UAlbany Great Danes introduced themselves to the 2021 men’s lacrosse team season, with some new faces in front of almost no faces.
Playing for the first time in almost a year, UAlbany shrugged off Colgate 15-9 at Fallon Field, fueled by a familiar performance from post-graduate attack Jakob Patterson, who had four goals and four assists.
But while playing without 11 players because of COVID-19 protocols — and down thousands of homefield fans who would’ve been there if they were allowed inside the gates — the Great Danes enjoyed a season opener in which freshmen like Hay and Logan Tucker made immediate impacts, and another new player, graduate transfer Liam Donnelly, was sharp in goal.
Head coach Scott Marr said he expects the 11 players who missed the game for COVID reasons — including Tehoka Nanticoke, Graydon Hogg, Ron John, Wil Pepe, Danny Mastropaolo and Darien LaPietro — to be back for next Saturday’s game at Hartford.
On Saturday, the Great Danes didn’t need them.
“Camden played like a four-year vet out there,” Patterson said. “It’s fun to play with him. He makes a lot of great moves. That around-the-world was unreal. It’s just exciting to see the young talent coming up.
“And you’ve got Logan Tucker coming off the bench cold, getting a little face dodge and a rip, and it’s his first shot of the year, first shot for a goal.”
Hay, whose brother Tanner is a junior defenseman with the Great Danes, finished with two goals and four assists and had a point on each of UAlbany’s first five goals.
He gave the No. 20-ranked Great Danes a 4-2 lead with 2:53 left in the first quarter with an around-the-world shot over his shoulder after cutting toward the cage and getting a pass from Patterson.
UAlbany led 6-3 at halftime of the chippy game, and faced a one-minute unreleasable unsportsmanlike penalty on Kyle Casey to start the second.
Colgate took advantage with a goal by James Caddigan and got within 6-5 moments later when Marshall Terres scored.
UAlbany responded by outscoring Colgate 3-1 for the rest of the third quarter, as Tucker used a shot fake to get past a defender and fired it past goalie Sean Collins, then assisted on a Patterson goal to make it 9-6.
The Great Danes really got rolling to start the fourth quarter, scoring three goals, from Alex Burgmaster, Peter Schwab and Tucker, in the first 3:52 for a 12-6 lead. Burgmaster had shaken off a huge hit from 215-pound Aidan Toomey that led to a penalty near the end of the third quarter.
“That happens,” Patterson said of tight start to the second half. “Adversity is going to happen in a game. We just had to tell ourselves to pump the brakes, and it’s going to be OK. Just weather the storm, and that’s what we did, pumped in about three or four goals right away, and that spread the game apart.”
“Camden will start regardless when Tehoka comes back,” Marr said. “He’s just a big body and a smart, smart player. He’s got great vision and can finish the ball when he has to. So we’re certainly thrilled with how Camden got his career started.
“Logan didn’t even play in the first half, then came in and scored two goals and got that really nice assist. I think he took two shots and had two goals.
“I thought [freshman] Regan Endres did a good job at the [faceoff] X, too, we’ve just got to do a better job of getting those wings off of him so we can get those ground balls easier.”
Donnelly, who began his college career at Rutgers, then started two seasons at Utah before transferring to UAlbany, made 10 saves, getting his feet on several low shots from Colgate.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound goalie also delivered one of the harder hits in the game, when he was out of his net and trying to prevent an easy goal for the Raiders in the second quarter, for which he was penalized.
“I didn’t mean to hit him that high, but the guys loved it,” Donnelly said. “I really have never done a play like that before. I just saw an opportunity where I felt they’d have a clear one out of the net, so I thought that would be the right play there.
“Those guys [defense] were unbelievable. We only let up nine goals. Those were on me. Those are shots that we plan on giving up, and we plan on making those saves. There’s no excuse for those. The communication was unbelievable. You could tell it’s a veteran group. I didn’t have to do too much.”
“Outstanding,” Marr said of his new goalie. “I think they had a couple of weird goals, a couple of tough bounces. He stayed composed and made some great saves, but his clearing game was awesome.”
After the 2020 season was cut short to five games because of the pandemic, the Great Danes were eagerly anticipating the start of 2021, finally.
Now they get to look forward to how this team might perform when it actually has all its players available.
“We had to pick up some slack on offense, with some guys missing from the COVID regulations and protocols,” Marr said. “I was proud of how hard we played and how together we played and how into it we were.
“I’ve been saying to myself and to people in my close circle how much I like this team. We just seem to have some grit to us. We had a couple fights in practice this week, and it’s a tough group.”
“This is only the beginning,” Patterson said. “We have way more potential coming throughout the season.”
Colgate 2 1 3 3 — 9
UAlbany 4 2 3 6 — 15
Colgate scoring: Pistorius 1-0, Caddigan 1-1, Hawkins 2-1, Sposita 0-1, Minicus 3-0, Terres 1-0, Decker 1-1, Jordan 0-1. UAlbany scoring: Casey 2-1, Yunker 1-1, Patterson 4-4, C. Hay 2-4, Burgmaster 3-0, Schwab 1-0, Tucker 2-1, Palandjian 0-1.
Goalies: Colgate, Collins, 7 saves. UAlbany, Donnelly, 10, Ramos, 0.