UAlbany was seconds away from getting to halftime of the America East men’s lacrosse championship game with a one-goal lead over Vermont despite a massive disadvantage in possession.
Two blinks later, and the momentum had swung entirely in the other direction.
Thomas McConvey tied the game with 13.7 seconds left in the half, then Vermont’s Tommy Burke won the ensuing faceoff and ripped home a goal 5.3 seconds later to put the Catamounts up by a goal.
Vermont tacked on four more goals in a row to start the third quarter, and UAlbany never fully recovered as the Catamounts pulled away for a 15-10 win on the UMBC campus in Catonsville, Maryland, to earn the program’s first-ever America East title and NCAA tournament berth.
“It obviously gave them momentum going into the half,” UAlbany graduate student attack Jakob Patterson said in a post-game teleconference, “but that doesn’t give us an excuse to not come out in the third quarter and put one in the back of the net.”
UAlbany (No. 4 seed, 8-5 overall) was dominated in the faceoff category by Burke. The nation’s leading faceoff specialist won 16 of 17 in the first half and 23 of 29 for the game.
On one of the rare occasions the Great Danes did control the faceoff, when Regan Endres won the ball to start the second half, Alex Burgmaster’s shot was saved by Vermont (No. 2, 9-4) goalie Ryan Cornell and the Catamounts’ JJ Levandowski scored a minute later to make it 9-7 — the first time all game either team led by more than a goal.
“Another couple inches [on Burgmaster’s shot] and it’s in the goal and it’s a tie game,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said. “That’s just the way the ball bounces.”
Faceoff disparity is nothing new to UAlbany. The Great Danes were often on the other side of the coin in 2017 and 2018, when TD Ierlan’s dominance helped fuel the team to its greatest success on the national stage.
“Shoe’s on the other foot,” Marr said. “We know what it’s like to have the ball that many times, and we know how hard it is for teams to play defense that many times. We had to play a lot of defense.”
UAlbany’s season-ending loss came despite a pair of enormous individual performances. Junior attack Corey Yunker set career-highs with six goals and eight total points, while senior goalkeeper Will Ramos — making only his second career start, and first in more than two years — stopped 16 shots.
Ramos stepped in to replace graduate student Liam Donnelly, who started UAlbany’s first 12 games this season. Marr said he made the move to give Ramos the start after Donnelly had struggled with fundamentals in recent games, including Thursday’s 14-12 America East semifinal win over UMBC.
“As a goalie, you have to be fundamentally sharp, and Liam was struggling,” Marr said. “It’s a tough position to make a change in, but at the same time, you have to look out for what you think is the best for the team, and at times you have to treat it like it’s any other position.”
Ramos found out Friday he’d be making his first start since May 2, 2019 — which, strangely, also came against Vermont in the America East tournament. On that occasion, Ramos was a sophomore stepping in for an injured Nate Siekierski in a 13-9 conference semifinal loss that ended UAlbany’s season.
Saturday morning, Ramos — who made 10 saves in five regular-season appearances and hadn’t played since April 11 against UMBC — stood up to a Vermont offense that unloaded 50 shots in his direction.
“We’ve got 50-plus people on this team, everyone’s got to do their job,” Ramos said. “I went in knowing what I had to do — step in, save the ball.”
“Will’s always been a kid that we could put in at any point in the game,” Marr said, “and he’s always ready to play.”
McConvey had four goals and two assists for Vermont, which also got a hat trick from Liam Limoges.
Beyond Yunker’s six-goal, two-assist effort, Patterson had a goal and four assists in his final game as a Great Dane, but Camden Hay (1 G, 2 A) was the only other UAlbany player to record a multi-point game.
For Patterson, Saturday was a difficult final act in a memorable five-year career that ended in a roller coaster final season.
“I told ‘Hogger’ [sophomore attack Graydon Hogg] and I told Yunker to watch that [Vermont] celebration, because that’s what’s going to push you next fall, next spring,” Patterson said. “That’s going to push you to be better. I have the utmost confidence in our team coming up that they’re going to get redemption next year. I can’t wait to watch.”
UAlbany 3 4 2 1 — 10
Vermont 3 5 5 2 — 15
UAlbany scoring: Yunker 6-2, Patterson 1-4, Burgmaster 1-0, Casey 0-1, Sailt 0-1, McComber 1-0, Hay 1-2. Vermont scoring: McConvey 4-2, Limoges 3-1, Levandowski 2-1, McCormack 2-2, Closterman 1-3, Haley 2-0, Burke 1-0, Jacobs 0-2. Goalies: UAlbany, Ramos, 16 saves. Vermont, Cornell, 8 saves.