Ultimately, most lacrosse matches boil down to a one-on-one confrontation between an attackman and a goalie.
Denver junior goalie Peter Lowell got the best of senior attackman Corey Small with 17 seconds left Saturday, and that ended up being the difference as the Pioneers spoiled the Great Danes’ season opener with a 10-9 win at John Fallon Field.
Down 10-7 with 6:32 left, the Great Danes scored twice in the next three minutes. After Albany called a timeout with 1:37 left, the Great Danes had two outstanding chances to tie the game, but Lowell, who started the season as the fourth-string goalie, came up two big saves. First, Herkimer County Community College transfer Dave Brock tried to beat Lowell with a shot from behind his head at 1:03, but Lowell stoned him.
Then, following a Denver turnover with 47.3 seconds remaining, the Great Danes got possession of the ball once again and called a timeout with 35.7 seconds left to set up a final play.
Small, who already had three goals in the game, fired a point-blank shot from about six yards out, but Lowell made the stick save to preserve the win for the Pioneers.
“That was a huge win,” said Denver coach Jamie Munro. “We were coming off a tough game with North Carolina last week [a 20-7 loss], and we struggled in that game. But the guys had a lot of heart today. How about our goalie? I thought we might be going to overtime when I saw their guy getting ready to shoot that last shot, but he comes up with the big save. He was our fourth goalie on the depth chart to start the season.”
“We just couldn’t pull it off,” said Small, who led the Danes with 34 goals a year ago. “I thought I had him on that last shot. It was a good shot, but their goalie made a good save.”
Albany, 8-8 last year, had won 19 of its last 20 games at John Fallon Field, but the Great Danes started slowly against the Pioneers, who made their second NCAA Tournament appearance last year.
Small scored the first goal of the game with 6:54 left in the opening period on a shot just inside the right post, but Denver, an extremely deliberate team, knotted it up on a man-up goal by freshman attackman Alex Gajic.
“Our offense possessed the ball mosf of the game, and we got some key raceoffs at the end. You have to slow it down if you want to win in Division I,” said Munro. “You must be poised with the ball.”
Denver pulled out to a 4-1 lead in the second period before settling for a 4-2 halftime cushion.
The teams traded goals in the third period, and Denver pulled out to a 10-7 advantage late in the final quarter before Albany rallied back behind a pair of goals from Brock, a two-time NJCAA All-American.
The Danes, ranked No. 17 in the current USILA coaches’ poll, frantically tried to tie the score, but Denver played keep-away as much as possible before a couple of turnovers helped Albany get at least a chance to send the game into OT.
“You can’t ask for a better opportunity to tie the game. We had our best player with the ball six yards in front of their goalie,” said Albany head coach Scott Marr. “We started slowly. I thought their goalie was the difference in the game. It was a tough way to start the season. We’ve got to regroup. I thought when it was 5-5 that we had chance in this game, but then they scored three goals on us. At least we did some things to build on.”
Albany’s next game is against local rival Siena Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Loudonville.
“You can’t take anybody for granted,” said Marr. “The Siena game is a good rivalry. Both of Siena’s assistants played for me. Anytime you have a rivalry like that and all the interest it creates, it’s good for Division I lacrosse.”
“We can’t afford to start out 0-2,” added Small. “The Siena game should be a good game.”
“All we need to do is to execute,” said Brock. “We didn’t execute today. We’ve got to work on the little things.”
Denver 1 3 4 2 — 10
Albany 1 1 4 3 — 9
Denver scoring: Charlie Dickenson 3-2, Joey Murray 3-0, Alex Gajic 2-0, Cliff Smith 1-0, Todd Baxter 1-0, Jamie Lincoln 0-1. Albany scoring: Corey Small 3-1, Joe Pompo 2-1, Brian Caufield 2-1, Dave Brock 2-1, Joe Resitarits 0-1, Mark Cometti 0-1, John Alpizar 0-1.
Goalies: Denver, Peter Lowell, 13 saves; Albany, John Carroll. 11 saves.