Delaware Does It Again, Puts Pride in Peril
from staff reports
Jay Card and Hofstra must now hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after the top-seeded Pride's fourth-quarter rally fell short Wednesday against Delaware in the CAA semifinals. The Blue Hens handed the Pride its only two losses of the season.
© Joe Rogate
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The University of Delaware men's lacrosse team is headed back to the Colonial Athletic Association championship game.
The defending CAAâ€ˆchampion Blue Hens jumped out to a three-goal lead early in the final quarter and then held off No. 8 ranked and top-seeded Hofstra in a frantic final minute to walk away with a 10-9 victory in the CAA semifinals Wednesday night at Shuart Stadium.
The victory sends the No. 4 seed Blue Hens (10-6) into the CAA championship game Saturday night when they will travel to No. 3 seed and 19th-ranked Massachusetts to take on the Minutemen at 7 p.m. in Amherst, Mass. UMass (10-4) knocked off second-seeded and 20th ranked Penn State 10-9 in overtime Wednesday night. The winner of that game earns an automatic berth into the 16-team NCAA tournament.
The Blue Hens entered the postseason reeling after falling to Penn State 13-3 and Massachusetts 11-5 in the final two games of the regular season. They bounced back at just the right time.
"Our guys just decided to start with a clean slate," said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw, who picked up his 298th career victory and will now lead the Hens into the CAAtitle game for the fifth time since 2005. "We went into this game thinking we had nothing to lose and everything to gain and would just go hard and see what happens. We made some adjustments since our last game and we were successful tonight. It was a competitive and hard-fought game that came down to the final seconds. It was a fantastic win."
Delaware's leading scorer Eric Smith recorded three goals to notch his second hat trick of the season and extend his point-scoring streak to 16 games, junior Grant Kaleikau matched a career-high with five assists, and Kevinâ€ˆKaminski, playing in his school-record tying 69th career game, added two goals to lead the Blue Hens.
Noah Fossner recorded 11 saves, including a huge stop with 23 seconds left that preserved the victory.
"We came in here with a great gameplan," said Kaleikau, who leads the Blue Hens with 25 assists this season. "Our guys were really cutting hard and I was able to find them. We really played well tonight."
Kevin Ford led Hofstra with five goals while Jamie Lincoln scored twice and Stephen Bentz and Ian Braddish each dished out two assists. Hofstra had entered the game ranked second in the CAAâ€ˆin scoring offense, netting 10.3 goals per game.
"Hofstra has an unbelievable offense," said Shillinglaw. "To hold them to only nine goals is quite an accomplishment. Noah did a great job in the cage tonight."
Hofstra (13-2), which captured the CAAâ€ˆtitle in 2006 and 2008, lost for only the second time this season, both times to the Blue Hens, who knocked off the Pride 7-6 back onâ€ˆMarch 19 at Delaware Stadium. The Pride lost for the first in eight games and had its 15-game home winning streak, the longest in the nation at the NCAA DivisionI level, also come to an end.
The Pride (13-2), ranked eighth in the latest USILA Division I poll, will await its NCAA tournament fate when selections come out Sunday. According to LaxPower.com, Hofstra ranks 12th in RPI and 38th in strength of schedule, numbers that put it on the bubble of an at-large bid.
Hofstra jumped out to a 2-1 lead after goals by Jay Card and Ford 45 seconds apart early in the first stanza but the Hens answered with goals by Nick Diachenko, Taylor Burns, and Smith in the final four minutes to take the lead for good at 4-2. Kaminski scored the game's only second quarter goal to give the Hens a 5-2 advantage at the break.
Kaleikau fed Smith and John Mills on back-to-back goals in the third quarter to help push Delaware's lead to 7-3 before Hofstra netted the final two tallies of the stanza to pull to within 7-5.
Smith opened the final quarter with his third goal of the game just 22 seconds it to push the UD lead to three but Ford responded with consecutive goals for Hofstra to narrow the gap to 8-7 with 8:58 left to play. Kaleikau fed Sean Finegan for a goal with 6:20 left to break the Hofstra string and Kaminski added some insurance with an unassisted goal on an empty net with 2:35 left.
It turned out that Kaminski's goal would be much more than an insurance tally. Hofstra refused to let up as Ford scored for the fifth time with one minute left and Lincoln tallied at the 44 second mark to cut the lead to 10-9.
Hofstra, which won 14 of 22 faceoffs, won the ensuing draw and set up in hopes of sending the game into overtime. Fossner made a lunging save on a rifle shot by Braddish with 23 seconds left and Ford's shot with 13 seconds remaining went wide. Delaware regained possession but Fossner turned the ball over, giving Hofstra another chance. However, theâ€ˆPride could not get another shot off and Delaware's Matt Stefurak picked up a loose ball to clinch the victory.
"That last minute was just chaos," said Fossner of the frantic final moments. "I was nervous after I turned the ball over and gave them a second chance. I was just thinking that I needed to make a play and fortunately I got a piece of the ball. Then our defensive guys made a big play for us."
The Hens, who won CAAâ€ˆtitles in both 2007 and 2010 and also advanced to the CAAâ€ˆtitle game in 2005 and 2006, snapped a four-game losing streak to the Pride inâ€ˆHempstead, downing Hofstra for the first time since a 12-10 win in 2004. Delaware had also lost two straight post-season games to theâ€ˆPride on Long Island.
Delaware, which advanced to the CAA tournament for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, reached the 10-win mark for the 14th time in school history and for the eighth time since 1999.