RMU Drops No. 20 Bryant, Gets NEC's Top Seed
from press release
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The Robert Morris University men's lacrosse team rallied from a three-goal deficit, pulled ahead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a nail-biting, 13-12, victory over nationally ranked Bryant to claim the 2012 Northeast Conference (NEC) regular-season title Saturday afternoon at a chilly and rainy Joe Walton Stadium. With the win, its first-ever over a nationally ranked conference opponent, RMU broke its program record for wins by tallying the 11th of the 2012 campaign. The regular-season NEC title is the first league championship of any kind for Robert Morris.
The victory also guaranteed the Colonials the No. 1 seed and the right to host the upcoming NEC Tournament. Robert Morris will host fourth-seeded Mount St. Mary's Friday, May 4, in a league semifinal while second-seeded Bryant will face third-seeded Quinnipiac in a neutral-site matchup. Friday's winners will meet Sunday, May 6, in the NEC Tournament championship.
The Colonials picked up their sixth-straight win, tying the program record for longest unbeaten streak, due to an unselfish offensive effort that saw them notch 11 assists on their 13 scores. It marked RMU's sixth-consecutive contest with double-digit assists as the national leaders in assists per game extended their school record in that category. Robert Morris also tied its single-season team record for assists by reaching 138 for the campaign.
Senior Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ontario / John McCrae) and junior Jake Hayes (Calgary, Alberta / Central Memorial) led the offensive effort for RMU by tying for game-high honors with six points.
Buchanan tied RMU's single-game school record by registering five assists, including one on the game-winning goal, and also added a goal. He tied his career high of six points, which he originally set in last season's victory at Bryant, and moved into a tie for second place in single-season helpers at Robert Morris with 22. Buchanan tallied his 34th career multi-point game and extended his point streak to 18 games.
Buchanan's five-assist game was the third such effort in the past five weeks for Robert Morris as three distinct Colonials have accomplished the feat. Prior to this season, only one Colonial had notched a five-assist game in program history.
Hayes posted three goals and a trio of assists to claim his fourth game with at least six points in the team's last 12 outings. He became just the third Colonial in history to score 40 goals in a season and also moved into a tie for third in single-season points at RMU with 58, three off the record. Hayes, who moved into eighth in career points (82), notched his 12th career hat trick and has now posted 15 points in his last two games. Hayes tallied his sixth straight multi-goal game and grabbed his 11th such effort this season.
RMU jumped on top early, scoring twice within the first 83 seconds, and tallied four of the first five goals in the opening 11:15. Each team scored once late in the first frame, and RMU led 5-2 after one quarter.
The Bulldogs owned the second quarter and scored six straight times to flip the momentum and take an 8-5 lead. Buchanan scored courtesy of Hayes late in the first half to break the Bryant run and set the halftime score at 8-6 in favor of the guests.
Robert Morris used its momentum from late in the first half and opened the third quarter strong by scoring three straight in 7:05 to retake the lead, 9-8. The Bulldogs would tie the game, 9-9, but RMU scored twice in the final five minutes of the frame to take an 11-9 lead into the fourth.
Bryant tied the game, 11-11, by scoring twice within the first half of the final period. However, RMU bounced right back and went back up by two again with five minutes to play as redshirt junior Dave Morton (Orangeville, Ontario / Hill School) and senior Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek, Ontario / Saltfleet) both found the twine.
Bryant was given a man-up chance with just over two minutes to play, but the Colonials killed it off by blocking a shot attempt and getting a big save from freshman netminder Matt Bukovac (Ashburn, Va. / Briar Woods). Bryant would pull within one, 13-12, with 19 seconds to play. The Bulldogs won the ensuing faceoff but were not able to get a shot on cage for the remainder of the contest.
Robert Morris tallied 13 goals against Bryant's top-10 defense as it notched approximately five scores more than Bryant usually concedes in a game.
Morton moved into the top 10 in single-season points at RMU by notching his seventh straight multi-goal game. He finished with a team-high 29 points in RMU's five conference games. Morton registered his seventh career hat trick, including his third consecutive, while extending his career-long point streak to 13 games.
Senior Mike Grosz (St. Louis, Mo. / Parkway West) won 15-of-29 faceoffs to hold the nation's second-best faceoff percentage team (.640) under 50 percent. He scored his third goal of the season, to open the second half, and recorded a game-high 12 ground balls. He notched his eighth career double-digit GB effort, claiming 12 against Bryant for the second straight year, to become the first Colonial to surpass 100 ground balls in a single season.
Junior Tyler Digby (Westminster, British Columbia / New Westminster) notched a trio of assists as he assisted on each of Morton's scores to post his fifth consecutive multi-point game. Digby's second three-assist game of the season doubled as his 12th career multi-point effort.
Matisz tallied two goals to move into a tie for fourth in single-season goals with 36. His 12th straight multi-point game was the 40th of his career and extended his overall point streak to 20 games. Matisz also moved into eighth in career ground balls (89) while sliding up into a tie for fourth in career games played at RMU (60).
Redshirt senior Kevin Brownell (Burlington, Ontario / Central) also put home a pair of scores to move into ninth place in career goals with 42. His 23rd multi-point game was also his 13th career multi-goal performance.
Junior Ben Lewis (Cazenovia, N.Y. / Cazenovia Central) tied for game-high honors with three caused turnovers to move into the single-season top five at RMU in that category. He also moved into fourth in career history for the Colonials with 38 as he surpassed his current assistant coach, Dan Mulford, with Saturday's effort.
Redshirt junior Mike Meagher (Chesterfield, Mo. / St. Louis University) matched Lewis' three caused turnovers to move his program-record total to 48.
Bukovac earned his fourth win of the season by tallying nine saves in 60 minutes of action and also helped the Colonials kill off two of the Bulldogs' four extra-man opportunities.
Robert Morris had advantages in shots, shots on goal, ground balls, faceoffs, clear percentage and also committed fewer turnovers. It is the sixth straight game in which RMU has had advantages in shots, shots on goal and ground balls. Bryant had entered the game as the national leader in ground balls per game, but RMU held them below their season average.
Robert Morris scored 200 goals for the third straight season as it notched its eighth-consecutive game with double-figure goals. The Colonials also recorded their first season with multiple wins over nationally ranked opponents.
With his five assists, Buchanan swapped places with Matisz and became RMU's current leader in career assists with 72.
Each of RMU's three matchups with Bryant have been one-goal affairs with the Colonials taking each of the past two.
RMU will now have almost a week off before it opens postseason play as the Colonials host Mount St. Mary's Friday, May 4.