SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Trailing by a goal with less than 30 seconds to play, the No. 7 Merrimack College men’s lacrosse program turned to a pair of brothers – junior Dom Thomas and sophomore Christian Thomas – to extend the season.
First, it was the elder Thomas netting the equalizer thanks to an incredible feed by sophomore Sean Black with less than four seconds on the clock to send it to overtime. Then, after the biggest faceoff win of sophomore Davis Cronin’s career, younger brother Christian Thomas sent the Warriors to Philadelphia with the game-winner just 29 seconds into the extra session, as Merrimack closed its incredible rivalry with Le Moyne College in the most dramatic way possible – a 15-14 overtime victory in the semifinal round of the 2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse Championship – to punch its third consecutive trip to the national title game.
Alongside Christian Thomas atop the leader board was junior Charlie Bertrand, who became the program’s all-time single-season goals leader after five markers on the afternoon. Both he and Christian Thomas finished with six points to propel the sixth-seeded Warriors – who capped off a run through the north region with three straight road victories – to the NCAA Finals, where they will meet either Limestone – their foe in the 2017 championship bout – or Indianapolis next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Score: Merrimack 15, Le Moyne 14 (F/OT)
Records: #7 Merrimack (16-3, 10-1 NE10) | #2 Le Moyne (16-3, 10-1 NE10)
Location: Ted Grant Field | Syracuse, N.Y.
- A pair of four-goal runs kick-started the contest, with Merrimack doing all the damage out of the gate before Le Moyne answered with the next four. It was Bertrand scoring first 30 seconds into the game and then he staked the visitors a 2-0 lead about two minutes later. Rookies Max Morrill and Drew Hailey extended Merrimack’s edge to 4-0 with less than four minutes gone before the hosts got on the board at the 10:42 mark.
- Another Le Moyne goal followed nine seconds later to bring the Dolphins within two. After the Warriors failed to convert a man-up chance, Le Moyne scored on its next chance and then tied the game with about eight minutes gone in the opening frame.
- Senior Seamus Ford put the Warriors back on top with 5:32 left before Le Moyne had a two-man advantage for its first EMO of the afternoon. And while Merrimack came up with the kill, they would cede the equalizer with nine seconds left to send the game to the second quarter tied.
- The two schools went goal-for-goal over the course of the second. Two tallies by Christian Thomas and another from Bertrand answered the first three Le Moyne goals, but the Dolphins would get the last one with over a minute left in the stanza and took a 9-8 lead into the break.
- The Dolphins extended their lead to two goals for the first time of the game just past the five-minute mark of the third quarter. Junior Tyler Liantoniobrought the Warriors within a goal shortly after and Merrimack would get a man-up chance to draw even but came up empty. Le Moyne made that missed opportunity hurt, scoring on its next offensive possession to go back up by two, but a man-up blast by Bertrand – his fourth of the contest – made it a single-goal affair again, and the score went unchanged heading to the fourth with the Le Moyne leading by one.
- Merrimack would get an early man-up chance to start the fourth, and senior Michael O’Connell buried his only of the day to square things up at 11-all. Shortly after, it was Bertrand tickling the twine on another man-up opportunity to give the visitors their first lead since late in the first quarter, and Christian Thomas made it four straight tallies for the Warriors – again while a man up – to give the visitors their first multi-goal lead (13-11) since early in regulation.
- But the hosts came right back, getting their first marker of the final frame with 5:26 on the clock before tying things up at 13-13 with just over four minutes left. Merrimack would have two chances to take the lead but were first denied by Le Moyne goalkeeper Riley Smith and then turned it over on their second try.
- It looked as though Le Moyne would steal the win after potting the go-ahead goal with under 30 seconds left, but the Warriors had one last chance after Cronin won the final faceoff of the fourth. They also nearly turned it over twice, but Black corralled a loose ball that was beckoning for the end line and found a wide-open Dom Thomas at the weak side post, and his equalizer beat the buzzer to send the match to overtime.
- Cronin would win the only draw that overtime required, allowing the visitors to call a timeout to set up the winning play. Thomas would take a pass from Morrill, curl around a pick and went upper-left corner to end it and send the sixth-seeded Warriors to Philadelphia.
Notes and Numbers
- Bertrand became the program’s newest single-season leader for goals after reaching 74 for the season following his six-point (5g, 1a) outing. He passed four-time All-American Greg Rogowski’s single-season mark of 71 set back in 2006.
- Christian Thomas shared the scoring lead with Bertrand thanks to four goals and two assists; Black had a game-high five helpers, while Dom Thomas (1g, 1a) was the only other Warrior with multiple points. Eight different Merrimack players found the back of the net at least once Saturday.
- Cronin won 18-of-31 faceoffs (58.1%), coming up with several big wins down the stretch and had seven ground balls. Freshman Christian Gloverhad two of Merrimack’s five caused turnovers on the back end, as well.
- Junior Nick Ponte was huge between the pipes, stopping 15 of the 29 shots he saw (51.7%).
- The Warriors will reach their third straight national title game and extend their NCAA Championship winning streak to six games, both the longest active streaks in the country.
- Meeting for possibly the final time given Merrimack’s impending reclassification to Division I, Merrimack will wrap up its all-time record against Le Moyne at 12-29, with three wins in the last five outings and one in each of the last two NCAA Tournament matchups. The three games in 2019 alone were all decided by a single goal in each of the three games played.
- Shots: 30-44 (23-29 SOG)
- EMO: 4-6 // 0-2
- Faceoffs: 18-13 // Ground Balls: 30-37
- Turnovers (CT): 17-14 (5-11) // Clears: 10-15 // 10-11
Merrimack will head to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for its third straight appearance in the NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse Championship next Sunday (May 26). The Warriors will meet either Limestone – their 2017 opponent in the title game – or Indianapolis for all the marbles, with game time set for 1 p.m.