March 28, 2013
Red Dragons shade RIT in second straight double-overtime escape
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Craig Sullivan (30) puts pressure on the RIT offense in the first quarter of Wednesday’s clash of nationally ranked foes. Cortland pulled out a 12-11 double-OT victory.
Amazingly, they did it once again.
Once more SUNY Cortland displayed a fondness for dramatic happy endings, and showed off the uncanny ability to stay composed despite the pressure of being the No. 1 ranked Division III men’s lacrosse team in the country.
Facing a nationally-ranked opponent for the fourth consecutive outing, the still-undefeated Red Dragons came up with the last two goals in regulation to pull even before sophomore midfielder Matt Rakoczy scored in the opening minute of double overtime to finish off a 12-11 victory over visiting RIT Wednesday afternoon.
The Tigers out of Rochester had arrived to town winners of six straight games, and twice held two-goal leads over their Stadium Complex hosts on this wintry afternoon.
Coach Jake Coon’s squad, ranked third in the latest Division III poll, departed a bit stunned and with a 6-2 record after becoming the latest frustrated Cortland victim.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a great feeling to win these close games,” said Cortland head coach Steve Beville of this recent four-game stretch that seems more suited to fiction than fact.
First there was junior midfielder Doug Meehan coming up with a turnover on a ride to score the go-ahead goal in a 12-11 overtime win over Stevens Tech just two weeks ago in Virginia Beach. Then there was a late pullaway to capture a 10-7 road win at Cabrini a few days later. And just last Friday night on a similar snowy Stadium Complex occasion, freshman attackman Zach Hopps scored in double overtime to nip previously unbeaten Ithaca College 9-8.
Now this second consecutive double OT escape becomes the latest chapter in a remarkable Cortland early season saga of success that has produced seven victories without a loss.
RAKOCZY WAS JUST one of the heroes, scoring the game-winner from the right flank off a pass from fellow middie Joe Slavik with Cortland working against RIT’s zone defense.
“Hopps set a great pick. I just slipped off it and I knew Joe would find me if I was open,” said Rakoczy of the hard shot zinged past RIT goalie Pat Johnston a mere 48 seconds into the second four-minute extra stanza. “I was just trying to get it on cage and hope for the best.”
Before that could happen, Cortland had to recover from a 11-9 deficit created when RIT sophomore midfielder Kyle Aquin scored his third goal of the game. The Canadian handled a pass in a crowd in front of the Cortland crease and fling a shot past goalie Mike Kaminski while falling to the turf.
And when RIT won the ensuing faceoff to retain possession, Cortland appeared to be in deep trouble.
That’s when senior defenseman C.J. Nye came up with the ball during a crucial groundball scramble to the left of goalie Kaminski with 3:25 left to play. That led to a Cortland clear and then an unlikely 20-yard shot fellow long-pole Brian Winterfeldt connected on with 3:04 remaining.
Cortland freshman Pat Baldwin then won the first of four consecutive crucial faceoffs to get the ball back. After a timeout followed by a near turnover, fellow frosh James Stravrakis ripped a shot from the left side to tie things up at 11-11 with 52 ticks left on the stadium scoreboard clock.
The Red Dragons had a final possession squandered on a late turnover, and both teams had scoreless possessions on the first overtime. Then Baldwin’s faceoff win and Rakoczy’s goal finished off this remarkable comeback as well as the Tigers — whose lone loss had been to perennial power Stevenson in a season-opener by the exact same 12-11 margin.
“CORTLAND’S A GOOD team,” said RIT’s Coon, the former goalie from nearby Homer Central who went on to win a national title patrolling the Nazareth College crease. “We’re know they are a patient group and they were going to get some shots.”
Cortland was very patient when the visitors turned to a zone defense to slow things down, even when trailing by two goals in the fourth quarter.
“We were hoping to make a couple of saves down the stretch, and we didn’t come up with them. Usually, Pat is all over those shots,” said Coon, feeling goalie Johnston was never the same after letting a shot by Cortland midfielder Billy Davis glance off his legs and into the goal late in the fourth quarter.
“Cortland has great shooters,” Coon added. “They’ve got guys who can really bring it, as you could see on the last shot. We didn’t get to their hands very well and they stuck some shots, so give them credit.”
Not that things were all that easy when RIT tried out its zone scheme, Cortland finishing with a 44-28 shot edge as Johnston collected a dozen saves for the Tigers.
“It’s kind of funny. They played the zone and none of our zone plays worked, so we started drawing stuff up on the sidelines,” said Cortland’s Beville. “I’ve got me and the assistant coaches drawing up stuff in the dirt, and that’s what eventually got us those three goals at the end of the game to win the thing when they went into that deep zone.”
“In the timeouts we drew something up, and each time we just talked about waiting for the right look,” noted Rakoczy. “It it’s not there, don’t force it. Just wait for a good shot.”
MIDDIE SLAVIK FINISHED with three goals and an assist, while Mike Cantelli, Cody Consul, Taylor Mendoza and Thomas Casey were other Red Dragon goal scorers. While Aquin had a hat trick for RIT, Taylor Wisman and Jack Kryston had two-goal outings to go along with four Eddie Kiesa assists.
This was a roller coast ride throughout, starting with Slavik, attackman Consul and middie Casey scoring three times in less than a minute to erase an early 1-0 deficit. Still, RIT led 7-5 at halftime before Cantelli, Slavik and Rakoczy found the RIT net as Cortland dominated the third period to regain an 8-7 advantage.
Drawing a non-releasable penalty on the opening fourth quarter faceoff halted that Cortland momentum, Aquin and Wisman scoring man-up goals 20 seconds apart after that miscue. And when Allister Warren made it three straight for RIT moments later, the Tigers were up 10-8 with 13:43 left — setting the stage for Cortland’s great escape.
Now Cortland will open up SUNY Athletic Conference play facing a fifth straight ranked foe, traveling to take on 18th ranked Plattsburgh (8-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. Then next Thursday, 16th ranked Western Connecticut State is in town.
“Two more talented teams coming up, boom, boom,” noted Coach Beville. “There’s not too much time to be happy with ourselves because we’ve got more opponents who are going to be coming right after us.”
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