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April 24, 2009

 

Cold weather can’t cool off Dragons

Cortland trounces Saints for fifth straight victory

Dragons

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Brian Krol, right, of SUNY Cortland works around St. Lawrence defenders, includingTrevor Scoon (26). Krol scored four coals to lead the Red Dragons to a 13-4 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

All indications are SUNY Cortland men are ready to make another post-season lacrosse run.
The Red Dragons reeled off a fifth straight victory in a chilly Thursday afternoon, shrugging off a rash of penalties to dominate visiting St. Lawrence 13-4 at the Stadium Complex in a non-conference clash of nationally-ranked foes.
While senior goalie Matt Hipenbecker had an inspirational 11-save performance, Cortland scored the game’s opening five goals and the contest’s final five goals while improving to 12-2 on the season in impressive fashion. Leading the way offensively were junior attackman Brian Krol with four goals and senior midfielder Joey Morgan with a three-goal hat trick.
And unlike four previous romps against lesser SUNY Athletic Conference opposition, this display came against a respected Saints squad. St. Lawrence arrived from the north country town of Canton ranked 16th nationally in Division III,, winners of eight straight games and residents of first place in the Liberty Conference.
That’s why this intense, physical game was much more than just a late season get-together.
“Kids come here to play in this kind of game. They expect to be in this kind of game,” said Cortland head coach Steve Beville, who will be trying to guide the Red Dragons into the NCAA Division III title game for a fourth consecutive season. “You’ve got to play big in the big games, and we did that today.”
The Red Dragons came up very big despite being whistled for 14 penalties, despite having unaccustomed struggles in the faceoff department working against St. Lawrence senior P.J. Santora — won won 16 of the 20 faceoffs taken.
With all the possession the Saints had throughout the day, leading to a 39-33 shot advantage, Hipenbecker needed to be on his game. The kid from New Jersey was certainly up to the task in what Coach Beville called “the best game of his career.”
“As their goalie made saves, he grew in confidence and our shooters started trying to be too fine with their shots and started to lose confidence,” is how coach Mike Mahoney saw things go for his 9-3 St. Lawrence squad.
THE VISITORS DID not get on the scoreboard until senior attackman Peter Carroll scored with 2:54 left in the opening half. Hipenbecker was hugging the near post when the shot taken by Carroll from the right side glanced off his shoulder and into the Red Dragons net.
St. Lawrence never got closer than four goals, however, and went scoreless over the final 14-plus minutes. The Saints experienced 0-for-11 futility in man-up scoring opportunities.
“I’m seeing the ball really well right now and am getting to know my defense better,” said Hipenbecker of his improved play. He became the full-time starter this season after beating out classmate Michael Robinson for the starting job.
“It was like a playoff atmosphere out there and right now we need to play games like this if we want to play our way back to Boston,” he added, the Division III finals returning to Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium on Memorial Day weekend.
With Cortland ranked No. 9 in the country, no wonder this game had a playoff feel to it even though post-season play will not arrive until next week.
After traveling to face last place Morrisville State on Sunday to conclude the regular season, the Red Dragons will be seeded second behind regular season champion Geneseo and will host a SUNYAC semifinal game this coming Wednesday. The conference playoff champion gets an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament, with Cortland looking to wind up in the title game for a fourth consecutive Memorial Day weekend.
Should the Red Dragons fall short of earning an automatic bid into the NCAAs by winning the conference tournament, this victory went a long ways towards building credentials as at at-large tournament selection.
WHEN NOT BUSY killing off five St. Lawrence extra-man chances in the first half — including a 4-on-6 advantage when two flags in succession were tossed agains the Red Dragons — Cortland found the time to build a 5-0 lead. That started with attackman Krol circling from behind the goal and scoring on a low bouncer a mere 2:37 into the game.
Cortland scored in a variety of ways, too.
There was the man-down goal six minutes into the first quarter when long-stick midfielder Cody Hoyt forced a turnover after St. Lawrence mishandled a pass, leading to defensive specialist Eric Parah from circling the cage to score the second Cortland goal.
After the lead grew to 3-0 midway through the third period on a goal by middie Brandon Misiaszek, close defenseman Matt Noble took advantage of another Saints miscue. The senior out of LaFayette scooped up a loose ball off the turf on the run, went the length of the field and scored for the first time this season for a 4-0 edge.
An extra-man goal rifled home by Krol followed, and Cortland was up 5-0 and went into halftime with a 5-1 advantage.
In a penalty-marred third period St. Lawrence never got closer than four goals, the Saints final goal coming gift-wrapped courtesy of misguided clearing pass that allowed Collin Moon to walk in on goal all by his lonesome. But the Saints returned the favor with a mistake of their own just 12 seconds later, Cortland freshman Mike Tota able to fling a shot into an vacated goal that pretty much spoiled any comeback hopes.
Before the third quarter was over, Cortland added goals from attackmen Jay DiStefano and Krol for an 11-4 lead. Cortland also got goals from Greg Wright and Chris DeLuca in that six-goal third period, with Morgan tossing in two unanswered fourth quarter goals to complete the scoring.
BUT THE WORK of Cortland’s man-down unit and Hipenbecker’s saves were the difference, Robinson coming off the bench to add two more late saves, too.
“Their man-down unit did a really nice job against us,” said St. Lawrence’s Mahoney. “You have to convert in those situations against a good team like Cortland.”
“Our man-down has been good all year but they upped their level today,” said Beville.
Having key players like Morgan, senior defenseman Luke Lemon, midfielder Tom Burke and defensman Kevin Mitchell returning from nagging injuries has been part of the reason Cortland has picked up its play of late. The Red Dragons have won eight of their last nine contests, and they hope to have the chance to avenge a two-goal loss at Geneseo in the conference title game.
“Having those guys out slowed us down a little bit, but now we’re getting back in form and playing our best lacrosse of at the time of year you want to be playing your best,” said Beville.

Cortland 13, St. Lawrence 4
———
By periods:
St. Lawrence 0 1 3 0 — 4
SUNY Cortland 2 3 6 2 — 13
Goals-Assists: St. Lawrence- Peter Carroll 2-0, John Allen 1-0, Collin Moon 1-0. Cortland- Brian Krol 4-0, Joey Morgan 3-0, Greg Wright 1-1, Matt Noble 1-0, Mike Tota 1-0, Brandon Misiaszek 1-0, Chris DeLuca 1-0, Eric Parah 1-0
Shots: St. Lawrence 39, Cortland 33
Ground Balls: St. Lawrence 41, Cortland 31
Clears: Cortland 18-of-23, St. Lawrence 17-of-17
Faceoffs: St. Lawrence 16, Cortland 4
Penalties: Cortland 14-for-12:30, St. Lawrence 9-for-7:00
Extra-Man: St. Lawrence 0-for-11, Cortland 1-for-6
Saves: Thomas Hollingsworth (SL) 10, Andrew Cochran (SL) 2, Matt Hipenbecker (C) 11, Mike Robinson (C) 2