ALBANY — Lyle Thompson and Stephen Rehfuss gave Capital Region lacrosse fans their money’s worth Saturday night.
With their Cannons team playing to try and secure the seventh and final berth in the Premier Lacrosse League playoffs Saturday night at UAlbany’s Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, both Thompson — who became the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader during a career at UAlbany that finished in 2015 — and Rehfuss — a Latham native and Shaker High School product who wrapped up his collegiate career at Syracuse this past spring — played integral roles in a 13-10 win, with each player providing two goals and an assist.
Rehfuss played at UAlbany’s John Fallon Field in 2015 when he led Shaker in the Section II Class A championship game against Niskayuna, but his scheduled game at Casey Stadium with Syracuse in 2020 was canceled when that season was halted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The PLL’s three-day Albany weekend was on his calendar from the moment his professional career began.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I was drafted,” Rehfuss said. “It was awesome.”
Rehfuss didn’t wait long to make an impact, scoring the Cannons’ first goal of the night.
Thompson, who was not made available to reporters during the PLL’s postgame teleconference, didn’t put up the kind of eye-popping numbers Saturday that he regularly produced during his storied UAlbany career, but he still provided a few crowd-pleasing moments.
He didn’t see the ball much early on, and was stonewalled by Chrome goalie John Galloway several times in the first two quarters, but got himself onto the scoresheet later in the half with a couple plays showcasing his unique brand of playmaking.
He started with an assist, threading the needle to find a cutting Shayne Jackson for a goal, then found the back of the net in the final 30 seconds of the half when he came off a screen and ripped his shot home just before a second Chrome defender could slide in.
It was Thompson’s first goal at Casey Stadium since May 2, 2015, when he scored five times in UAlbany’s America East tournament championship game win over Stony Brook.
Thompson and Rehfuss both had plenty of support from a large, energetic crowd at Casey Stadium — including a group of seven fans who each painted one letter of Rehfuss’ last name on their chests. Cannons midfielder and PLL co-founder Paul Rabil said he was just as impressed by the passion and knowledge of the Albany crowd as he was when the touring league made its first stop in Albany two years ago.
“It was a lot how I remembered it from 2019. It’s one of the best crowds in lacrosse,” said Rabil, who had four goals — including a two-pointer — to help the Cannons keep their season going. “They know their lacrosse. . . . There’s certain pockets of fans that know lacrosse, and you can feel that by the way that you go through the ebbs and flows. You get that here in Albany. It’s special.”
The PLL’s weekend of games in Albany — the final weekend of regular season play — culminates with two more games Sunday.
STILL BLEEDING PURPLE
JD Colarusso stepped off the Atlas team bus for Saturday’s first game already wearing his jersey.
Not his No. 11 Atlas jersey, but the No. 9 UAlbany uniform he’d donned so many times for the Great Danes between 2014 and 2018.
It was a nod to a special time for Colarusso, who was a first-team All-America goalkeeper in 2018 when he helped the Great Danes to the program’s first national semifinal appearance.
“I had a great five years here, met some great people, great coaches,” Colarusso said. “It was definitely the best five years of my life. Whenever I get the chance to come back here, especially in the pro game, it’s just special.”
Colarusso and Atlas ended up on the short end of a 10-9 decision to the Waterdogs, which took the top seed for the PLL playoffs and a first-round bye away from Atlas. Colarusso finished the game with 10 saves.
It was just the fourth start — and first loss as the starter — for Colarusso, who took over in the cage for Atlas when starter Jack Concannon was injured on July 4 against Chrome.
While Atlas coach Ben Rubeor said he hoped Concannon might progress enough to return for the playoffs, Colarusso has proven himself enough to be the man between the pipes if needed.
“I think JD’s done a fantastic job for us, and I’ve been really proud of him,” Rubeor said. “There is a chance we get Jack back. I can’t put a percentage on it. . . . Luckily, we have a guy that’s done a really nice job there.”
Colarusso’s day of UAlbany nostalgia wasn’t limited to his pregame attire. After the game, he got a chance to talk with his former head coach, Scott Marr, as well as UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson.
Three more former UAlbany players — goalie Blaze Riorden, long stick midfielder Troy Reh and attackman Connor Fields — are set to be in action Sunday. Redwoods faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, who played two years at UAlbany before transferring following the 2018 season, left Friday’s game with an injury and indicated in a social media post Saturday that he would not be playing Sunday.
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