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In battle of LEC elite, Owls knock off Warriors at Eastern for first time


MANSFIELD, Conn. - Keene State College   LEClogo-1WEB.jpgsnapped a three-game losing streak at the hands of Eastern Connecticut State University, winning the battle of early-season Little East Conference men's lacrosse unbeatens with a 17-11 victory Friday night at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex.

Stephen Goomrigian photo

Returning home for the first time in a month, Eastern (7-4, 2-1 little east) never led after the opening two minutes but scored three extra-man goals in a span of  eight minutes in the third quarter to make it interesting before the Owls sealed their first win ever after ten losses on Eastern's home field by scoring what amounted to three empty-net goals in the final two minutes of the match.

In a game which featured the conference's elite - but young - teams, Keene trailed only once, moving out to a 9-5 lead at halftime. The Warriors got as close as two goals twice in the second half, the final time when freshman midfielder Dan O'Reilly (Southington) scored his fifth goal of the year on an assist from senior attack Vinny Tornatore (Norwalk) three minutes into the final quarter.

The Owls all but clinched the win when freshman midfielder Ian Hart scored a critical goal with just under five minutes left to re-store Keene's three-goal lead, 14-11. Conference scoring leader Griffin Meehan, a sophomore, managed only two goals through the first  58 minutes against Eastern all-conference defenseman Tommy Flynn (Mineola, NY), but scored into a virtual open net three times in the final two minutes to provide the Owls with the final six-goal spread. Meehan added three assists - two coming when he set up sophomore teammate Matt Schairer for man-up goals two minutes apart in the third quarter that pushed the visitors into a four-goal lead five minutes into the third quarter. Meehan now has 36 goals and 20 assists in 11 games.

The teams, which feature 46 freshmen and sophomores, combined to score eight extra-man goals, the Warriors connecting on six of nine - three coming in an eight-minute span in the third quarter - and Keene three of five. In the game, the Warriors were never able to score more than two successive goals.

Eastern junior scoring leader Grant Albertson (New Canaan) improve his team-leading goal total to 29 with three markers but the first-year Division I transfer never scored more than one goal in any quarter and went the final 17 minutes without finding the back of the net. Senior midfielder Zach Malouf (Norwich) equaled his season high with three goals and tied his career high of five points on a career-high 14 shots. Malouf set up Tornatore to give the Warriors their only lead in the opening two minutes of play and Malouf's unassisted strike with 72 seconds left in the third quarter cut Keene's lead to two, 12-10, heading into the final frame.

Meehan's most damaging goal came after Malouf and sophomore midfielder Salieu Bolivar (Norwalk) scored 32 seconds apart late in the second quarter to slice the Keene lead to 8-5.  The goals looked as though they would give the Warriors momentum heading into the half, but Meehan hooked up with  freshman midfielder Jonathan Rodrick as time expired in the second quarter to give Keene a four-goal halftime lead.

Eastern junior midfielder Eric Vasil (Southington), ranked first nationally in ground balls and second in faceoff percentage, won  23 of 31 faceoffs (74.2 percent), his win total establishing a personal game high. He also scooped up 18 ground balls - two shy of his all-time best. He improved his season faceoff percentage to .733 and his ground ball average to 14 per game

Eastern turned the ball over 27 times in the game..

Keene's Jason Lesser made nine saves to win the matchup of freshman goalies, with Eastern's  Donald Berube (Tewksbury, MA) making seven stops.

Senior defenseman Kyle Barnett led Keene with six ground balls.

Eastern hosts Massachusetts Dartmouth Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a Little East Conference game.