GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – After trailing by as many as three goals early on, the seventh-ranked Merrimack College men’s lacrosse program weathered the storm, fought back and eventually pulled ahead for good in the third quarter before holding off third-ranked Adelphi late to send the Warriors back to the semifinal round of the NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse Championship for the fifth year in a row, the nation’s longest active streak.
Senior Michael O’Connell netted the decisive tally with 6:34 to play in the contest; the Panthers pulled to within two with 3:30 left, but sophomore Christian Thomas, who finished with a game-high five points on three goals and two assists, came up with a key response a minute later to go back up by three. Adelphi would only get one more the rest of the way, as the Warriors earned another road win – their second in four days – to advance in the national tournament.
Those dramatics followed a back-and-forth first half; the Panthers built a three-goal lead before Merrimack answered with three straight to draw even (4-4). The Warriors would go up by two, but the seesaw affair continued as Adelphi went back up by a goal before ultimately conceding the equalizer before the half. The slugfest ensued in the third until a goal by long stick midfielder Christian Glover gave them a 10-9 lead that they would never relinquish.
Awaiting Merrimack in the national semifinals is top-seeded Le Moyne, the 2019 Northeast-10 Conference champion, which dispatched fourth-seeded Mercy earlier today. The two rivals, which have already met twice this season (and split both meetings), will face off next Saturday (May 18) at noon in Syracuse.
Score: Merrimack 14, Adelphi 12
Records: #7 Merrimack (15-3, 10-1 NE10) | #3 Adelphi (16-3, 10-1 NE10)
Location: Motamed Field | Garden City, N.Y.
- It was all Adelphi out of the gate; the hosts would go up by two with less than 90 seconds gone before Christian Thomas got Merrimack on the board at 12:39. The Panthers would come up with a stop after the next faceoff and score in transition and then add another roughly a minute later, as the Panthers had a 4-1 lead after scoring on each of their first four shots on goal.
- Sophomore Charlie Bertrand would start tilting the momentum back the other way with his first at the 10:33 mark to cut the deficit to two, and things would slow down offensively after that opening onslaught that saw six combined goals in less than five minutes.
- Rookie Drew Hailey made it a one-goal game with 5:57 left in the first and sophomore Sean Black evened the score at 4-4 in the closing minute of the first.
- After alternating possessions to start the second, Bertrand’s second of the game gave the Warriors their first lead (5-4) just past the four-minute mark. Junior and Long Island native Tyler Liantonio pushed the lead to two on a highlight-reel, behind-the-back goal, but Adelphi took advantage of a turnover and got back to within one and drew even at 6-all six seconds after the following faceoff.
- The Panthers would retake the lead with 5:17 left in the half, but that was the last time they would lead through the rest of the contest. Liantonio converted a man-up chance before junior Nick Ponte made one last stop on Adelphi’s final possession of the half, as both teams still were level at 7-7 at the midpoint.
- O’Connell notched his first of the game to put Merrimack in front early in the third, but that would start the back-and-forth exchange that lasted most of the penultimate frame. Adelphi cashed in on its first man-up opportunity just past the five-minute mark, but junior Dom Thomas got on the scoresheet to restore the Merrimack lead at 7:19. The Panthers answered two minutes later, but Glover’s long stick goal in transition off a feed from Christian Thomas pushed Merrimack back ahead with less than five minutes in the third, as the rookie went in alone and elevated the shot over Adelphi goalkeeper Brendan McDougal.
- Merrimack would have a late extra-man chance but was stopped and then denied Adelphi a chance to tie it on the other end, as the visitors carried a one-goal advantage into the final stanza.
- Adelphi thought it had the equalizer 48 seconds into the fourth frame, but their would-be tying goal was waved off and instead led to a Merrimack EMO, which Bertrand quickly converted to match the Warriors’ largest lead of the game early in the fourth.
- Christian Thomas made it a three-goal lead a minute later (12-9), but Adelphi converted a man-up chance to pull within two at the 10:05 mark. After a scoreless four minutes, O’Connell came up with the game-winner with 6:34 left to restore the three-goal lead.
- The Panthers refused to go quietly, getting back to within two with over 3:00 to play, but Christian Thomas added insurance with under 2:30 left. Adelphi had another answer on the final faceoff but got no closer despite having an opportunity after getting the ball back with a minute left but instead turned it over. Merrimack would run out the clock to punch its nation-high fifth straight trip to the semifinal round of the NCAA Championship.
Notes and Numbers
- Along with Christian Thomas’ five points (3g, 2a), Black matched his game-high scoring output with five points on a goal and four helpers and finished with four ground balls. Bertrand was the only other Warrior with a hat trick, as well, while O’Connell chipped in three points (2g, 1a).
- Sophomore Davis Cronin went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best faceoff men, finishing with 14 wins on 30 tries along with six ground balls. Six different Warriors finished with a hat trick.
- Ponte would record eight saves in total on 20 attempts.
- Merrimack has also now won 23 straight games at home, the longest active home winning streak in the country.
- Meeting for possibly the final time given Merrimack’s impending reclassification to Division I, Merrimack improved to 13-9 all-time against Adelphi to wrap up an epic rivalry over the past decade. The Warriors also improved to 3-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament against Adelphi, all of which were on the road, where Merrimack has gone 4-7 all-time.
- Shots: 48-50 (26-20 SOG)
- EMO: 3-8 // 1-3
- Faceoffs: 14-16 // Ground Balls: 34-27
- Turnovers (CT): 14-22 (6-4) // Clears: 18-24 // 15-19
Merrimack will head back to the national semifinals for a fifth straight season and will look to avenge its one-goal NE10 Semifinal loss against top-seeded Le Moyne next Saturday (May 18). Game time from Ted Grant Field is set for 12 p.m.