Freshman goalie Smaldone backstops team's solid defensive effort
Above: Tyler Fresen
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Two years ago, Eastern Connecticut State University's one-goal, regular-season loss at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth necessitated a return trip two weeks later to play a first-round match in the Little East Conference men's lacrosse playoffs.
And even though the Warriors earned a measure of revenge for their only loss ever to the Corsairs with that first-round playoff victory, it was not an experience that Eastern cares to repeat.
At left: Blake Smaldone
Wednesday, in its first regular-season return to Cressy Field since that loss, Eastern never trailed, but needed junior Tyler Fresen's (Newington) fourth goal of the match to open up a two-goal lead with six minutes on the way to a 7-5 Little East Conference victory over the Corsairs which goes a long way in assuring that there will not be a return trip to North Dartmouth when the LEC playoffs commence in two weeks.
The win is the fourth in the last six matches for Eastern (5-7, 3-1 Little East) and 18th against one loss in the all-time series with UMass Dartmouth (8-3, 2-2 Little East), whose four LEC matches have been decided by a total of five goals.
Freshman goalie Blake Smaldone (Hamilton, MA) made double-digit saves for the fourth time in five starts, making five of his ten saves in the third quarter. Smaldone never gave up more than one goal in any of the first thee periods -- stopping eight shots -- before the Corsairs broke through with two to twice cut a two-goal Eastern lead to one. in the final seven minutes.
After Fresen scored his fourth goal to give the Warriors a two-goal edge for the fourth time, UMass pulled to within a single goal for the fifth time before senior Kevin Fechtmann (Levittown, NY) connected on his first goal since the first quarter on a pass from sophomore Zach Thresher (Somers) to deflate the Corsairs, and all but ice the win with just over three minutes left.
A winner of just under half of his faceoffs this year, senior Josh Dubinsky (Woodstock) captured 11 of 15 at the faceoff X for the Warriors.
Tight defense by both teams and strong goaltending dominated a match where each team's top three goal-scorers were held in check, managing just one goal apiece.
Eastern hosts the University of Southern Maine Saturday at 1 p.m. in a Little East Conference match.