Warriors kill late penalty on way to LEC decision over Panthers
At right: Trevor Morrissette works against Plymouth defenseman Pete Gottlieb in the second half Saturday.
PLYMOUTH, NH - Freshman midfielder Marcel Abonyi (Norwalk) won his only ground ball of the game, but it cost Plymouth State University an opportunity to tie the match with a minute left as defending Little East Conference champion Eastern Connecticut State University held on for a 9-8 victory Saturday afternoon at D&M Park.
With its seventh straight win over Plymouth (6-2, 2-1 LEC), Eastern (4-7, 2-1 LEC) ends Plymouth's four-game winning streak and hands the Panthers their first conference loss.
Eastern had only led by as many as two goals in the match once until the Warriors scored three consecutive goals in a span of less than one minute in the fourth quarter in a match which featured five ties and four lead changes.
Eastern junior attack Mike Jordan (Cheshire) tied the match on a strike off a feed from sophomore midfielder Zach Thresher (Somers), then assisted when junior attack Trevor Morrissette (Bedford, NH) gave the Warriors the lead for good eight seconds later. That go-ahead goal was set up after senior Josh Dubinsky (Woodstock) won the ensuing faceoff thanks to a ground ball pickup by senior long-stick midfielder Merrick Smith (Stonington). The goal by Morrissette was his only one of the match, but gave the Warriors their first lead in since the opening minutes of the half, and junior All-America Mike Devine's (Cheshire) only goal of the contest made it 9-7 less than a minute later.
After the Panthers sliced a goal off the lead with seven minutes left, Eastern had an opportunity to preserve the victory by maintaining position, but instead turned the ball over with 1:40 left. Following a timeout, Plymouth's Stephen Patch lost possession on the perimeter, and Aboyni scooped it up with a minute left. Eastern commited its 27th and final turnover in the final seconds, however, but freshman goalie Blake Smaldone (Hamilton, MA) made his 13th save on a shot by defenseman Justin Vercruysse to preserve the win.
Eastern commited three penalties in the final quarter, killing off the first one before the Panthers scored their second extra-man goal that pulled them to within 9-8 with 7:13 left. Nineteen seconds later, however, Eastern was able to kill off a three-minute unreleasable penalty when it was cited for illegal equipment.
Jordan scored six of Eastern's goal (on seven shots) - a career high which gave him a team-high 28 points and gives him 13 goals in three conference matches this year. Making his fourth straight start, Smaldone recorded double-digit saves for the third time in that stretch, evening his personal record at 2-2.
Zach Frank, the Little East leader in assists per match, recorded five for Plymouth, giving him 26 on the season.
Eastern visits Massachusetts Dartmouth in a conference match Wednesday at 7 p.m.