NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior midfielder Ryan Poirier (Warwick, R.I.) went off for a career-high five-goal performance, helping the fourth-ranked Merrimack College men’s lacrosse team erase a third-period deficit and storm back for a 12-10 victory against No. 3 LIU Post in the 2016 season opener on Saturday afternoon at Martone-Mejail Field.
The win was also the 100th career coaching victory for head coach Mike Morgan, who entered the year ranked eighth all-time in career coaching winning percentage (all Divisions) and fourth in total victories in Division II.
Score: Merrimack 12, LIU Post 10
Records: #4 Merrimack (1-0) | #3 LIU Post (0-1)
Location: Martone-Mejail Field | North Andover, Mass.
How It Happened
Considering that both of the previous two meetings were decided by a single goal – including last year’s dramatic come-from-behind victory for the Warriors on the road – Saturday’s top-five matchup promised to be hotly contested throughout.
Merrimack raced out to a two-goal lead on strikes from junior John Bassett (Clifton Park, N.Y.) and Poirier within the first three minutes of the game, but the Pioneers would answer with three goals in a similar span to go ahead by one after 15 minutes of play.
Momentum would eventually sway back in favor of the hosts; on its first man-up opportunity of the afternoon, sophomore Kyle Stenberg (Annandale, N.J.) buried one to draw the Warriors even. Five minutes later, sophomore midfielder Joey Diaco (West Deptford, N.J.) pushed Merrimack ahead on a nice transition strike, but LIU made the most of its only man-up opportunity of the first half to tie the game at 4-4 with 4:12 to go in the second frame.
Junior Max Allen (West Caldwell, N.J.) sent the Warriors into the intermission with the lead, unloading a missile that found the back of the twine and made it a 5-4 game at the end of the half.
That lead was short-lived to start the second half, as three uncontested Pioneer strikes turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead (7-5) for the visitors.
The Warriors would answer with a game-changing five-goal run, starting with Poirier’s second with less than a minute to go in the third quarter made it a one-goal game. He would then tie the game less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, setting the stage for a wild finish that saw both teams combined for nine goals in the final frame.
Seconds into another extra-man opportunity, junior Jack Trask (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who was playing in his first game since the 2014 Northeast-10 Conference Championship, made his first goal in nearly two years a memorable one, as his man-up marker regained the lead for the hosts. Shortly after, senior Corey Davidson(Marshfield, Mass.) scooped up a rebound and buried it to move the lead to two, and Bassett would add one more to push the Warriors in front by three (10-7) to account for the largest lead of the afternoon by either side.
But the Pioneers didn’t go quietly, scoring twice in less than a minute to siphon some of that momentum back in their favor. But Merrimack would win the ensuing faceoff, maintain possession for nearly two minutes before Poirier restored the multi-goal advantage with 3:07 left.
LIU would win the faceoff that followed, but both sides committed consecutive turnovers, allowing more time to run off the clock before the Pioneers eventually failed on a clearing attempt to give possession back to the home side. Merrimack would capitalize, as Poirier tucked in his fifth marker of the day with 1:30 to go to match his team’s previous game-high, three-goal edge.
The Pioneers would quickly get one goal back 15 seconds after winning the ensuing draw, but that would be the closest they would get, as the Warriors would force another turnover and run out the clock from there on out to clinch the important regional victory.
Notes and Numbers
- Poirier’s five goals were a new career-high, while the Pioneers were led by ECC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Matty Beccaris, who finished with four points (3g, 1a)
- Seven different Warriors finished with at least one goal, while the Pioneers were a little less balanced, as five LIU players combined for 10 goals
- Senior Scott Corcoran (Haverhill, Mass.) led the way with two caused turnovers and a game-high six ground balls
- Goaltenders: W – Sam Ventresca (5 saves, 1-0) // X – Matthew Liantonio (13 saves, 0-1)
- EMO: Merrimack (2-4) // LIU Post (2-2)
- SOG: Merrimack – 25 // LIU – 15
- Faceoffs: MC – Blake Boudreau 9-of-21 (42.8%) | LIU – Anthony Galeotafiore 15-of-25 (60.0%)
- Ground Balls: Merrimack – 26 // LIU – 20
- Clears: Merrimack 12-for-12) // LIU (10-for-15)
Merrimack will enjoy an eight-day layoff before opening Northeast-10 Conference play at home against AIC next Sunday (Feb. 28) at 4 p.m. at Martone-Mejail Field.