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May 20, 2013

 

Tigers’ trickery stuns Dragons in OT

RIT moves on to NCAA title game

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

A little overtime lacrosse sleight of hand led to SUNY Cortland’s demise on Sunday afternoon, leaving the Red Dragons a win shy of returning to the NCAA Division III men’s title game.
The No. 1 nationally-ranked Red Dragons had their championship hopes dashed when RIT sophomore midfielder Allister Warren pulled off a successful hidden ball maneuver with 2:05 remaining in the extra four-minute session, giving the visiting Tigers a 10-9 victory in this semifinal match-up before plenty of folks gathered at the Stadium Complex.
Warren had the ball flipped into his stick while crossing behind teammate Taylor Wisman at the top of the box. With Cortland goalie Mike Kaminski — who was stellar throughout the day with 10 saves — focused in on the empty-handed decoy, Warren was able fire a long-range shot past the unsuspecting senior. That handed the Red Dragons their lone loss after 19 consecutive victories including three previous OT escapes.
“Mike obviously followed the wrong guy, what can you say,” said Cortland coach Steve Beville, whose gritty team had battled back from 5-1 halftime and 7-2 third quarter deficits to pull even twice in the final stanza. That set the stage for the decisive RIT trick that will provide the treat of playing Stevenson (21-2) this coming Sunday for the national title at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
“When I shot it, I was just praying it didn’t hit his legs,” said Canadian native Warren of the game-winner that improved third-ranked RIT to 19-2 and avenged a regular-season 12-11 overtime loss in Cortland back on March 27.
“I saw him (goalie Kaminski) going with Taylor. The thing was, before in the game I think we did it once and he kind of went with the guy and I hesitated. In that one, he just looked for a second so I tried to go with it quickly and it worked out,” he added.
That spoiled a 50-shot day for Cortland, as junior midfielder Joey Slavik scored a hat trick and junior attack Cody Consul picked up a trio of assists.
Slavik’s third goal of the game tied things up at 8-8 with 7:28 left in regulation. And it was a Consul pass at the tail end of a fast break triggered by goalie Kaminski that led to freshman attack Zach Hopps’ quick-stick goal at the end of a fast break that created the final 9-9 deadlock with 2:33 remaining in the fourth stanza.
CORTLAND COULD NOT take advantage of an extra-man scoring opportunity when RIT was whistled for being off-sides late in regulation. Two shots over the final 17 seconds of regulation were off target, as was an attempt early in OT before things evened up. That left Cortland 0-for-4 in extra-man scoring chances on this gray afternoon.
The hosts then lost possession when Consul let a deflected shot roll out of bounds on the sideline thinking he was closest the ball and Cortland would retain possession — only to be positioned out of bounds.
“We took a shot that hit the kid’s helmet,” is how Beville described the sideline scenario, the ‘kid’ being RIT goalie Pat Johnston making the last of his 10 saves. “Consul, for whatever reason, stepped out of bounds so that didn’t allow him to be the closest guy to the ball. That gave them the possession they needed and they ran the trick play and they got a goal off it.”
RIT coach Jake Coon — the former Homer Central goalie who won an NCAA Division III title patrolling the crease for Nazareth back in 1997 — called for a timeout with 2:43 left before the game ended moments later.
“Actually, more than you would think, more than you would think,” said Coon when asked how often the game-winning ploy has actually worked prior to this occasion. “We’ve had a few man-up goals off the hidden ball and we’ve had a few six-on-six goals. I wasn’t expecting it to work in that fashion, but any way we can get it we’ll take it.”
Those late heroics aside, Cortland’s Beville pointed to his team’s shaky early performance as more costly. RIT’s Tyler Brooks-Lambert won the game’s first 10 faceoffs as the Tigers came out roaring, starting with goals 41 seconds apart by Jack Krzyston and Kyle Aquin that provided a lead never lost.
“WE WERE REALLY poor in the first half, execution-wise,” said Beville. “We got some pretty poor performances from some of our top guys in the early part of the game and unfortunately that probably made a big difference.”
Even when Cortland showed some second half life, RIT seemed to have an answer.
Down 6-1 in the third quarter, Slavik swept to his right and scored for Cortland only to have RIT’s Brooks-Lambert win the ensuing faceoff leading to a goal by freshman long-stick midfielder Matt Hossack.
Slavik, Hopps and frosh James Stavrakis closed out the third quarter with unanswered goals to cut the deficit to 7-5, but four minutes into the final quarter goalie Johnston worked his way down the entire length of the field and behind the Cortland crease. From there, he assisted on a goal by Eddie Kiesa.
Still, the Red Dragons came back — just like they did in the previous meeting when a second half comeback stunned the Tigers in OT.
“It was kind of eerie. It was a lot like the last time we played them,” said game-hero Warren of the second half Cortland surge.
“We talked coming into this game about not letting that happen again, and they started plugging away and putting goals in the net,” said Warren. “I don’t think we had any doubt because we knew we could do it. (Assistant) Coach (Jeff) McKee has been talking about that, about being part of the human spirit that thinks you can do it. We thought we could do it as a team, and we did it. We pulled if off.”
“WE FOUGHT HARD to get that home field edge all year, had some overtime games and found ways to win them,” said Beville. “It was nice to have the home field advantage, so give RIT credit for out-playing us here.”
Hopps finished with two goals for Cortland, while Mike Cummings, long-stick middie Patrick Brown and middie Billy Davis also scored. Going scoreless in the man-up and losing 15 of 21 faceoffs helped keep Cortland from going to the finals.
“This is a brewing rivalry,” said RIT’s Coon, his side unfazed by having to make a return trip to Cortland. “We know what to expect coming down here. It’s been a one-game game I think the last six outings, so why would it be any different.”

 

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