MEDFORD, Mass. – A four-goal run spanning from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth opened up a 13-9 lead for Tufts and the Jumbos held off visiting RIT to earn a 15-13 victory in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Championship on Wednesday afternoon.
The win sets up a showdown in the NCAA north bracket between No. 2 seed Tufts and No. 1 seed Cortland State, which defeated Union 9-4 in a quarterfinal match-up this afternoon. The Jumbos will travel to Cortland for the NCAA semifinals on Sunday.
Ten different players scored goals for Tufts on Wednesday, including five with two goals each. The Jumbos improved to 18-2 overall, won their 34th consecutive at Bello and have a 13-game winning streak overall. Coach Mike Daly’s team is now 10-3 in NCAA championship play.
RIT, which finishes its season at 16-3, was led by senior Tyler Russell’s game-high five goals.
The teams went back and forth in the first half. Russell scored consecutive goals in the first quarter to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage with 6:23 on the clock. Tufts, who scored in the final minute of a period three times today, led 4-3 at the end of one after senior Jordan Korinins’ tally with 38 seconds remaining.
RIT netted the first two goals of the second quarter and led 5-4 on Russell’s third of the game at 10:56. However, the Jumbos would finish the second with three unanswered goals to lead 7-5 at halftime. Senior Sean Kirwan had the seventh goal with 45 seconds left until intermission.
The Tigers were down 8-5 early in the third quarter, but rallied to tie the game at 9-9. They put together a 4-1 stretch with four different scorers. Freshman Kyle Aquin tied it with 2:14 remaining in the third. The Jumbos finished another period strong though, scoring twice in the final 1:12 of the third including long-stick Mark Findaro’s goal at 0:34 for an 11-9 Jumbo advantage.
A man-up goal by McCormick and another goal by sophomore Peter Bowers extended Tufts’ run to 4-0 and gave them a 13-9 lead with 9:21 to go in regulation. RIT fought back, scoring three of the next four to make it a two-goal game (14-12) with 2:53 remaining. Sophomore James Cunningham assisted on two goals during that stretch.
Jumbo freshman Cole Bailey answered RIT’s 12th goal with a score 19 seconds later for a 15-12 Tufts lead. The Tigers responded with Aquin’s tally 33 seconds after that at 2:01 and it was a two-goal margin (15-13) again.
The Tigers won the ensuing face-off, but turned the ball over. Tufts cleared it and RIT sophomore goalie Anthony DeLeo saved a shot by McCormick. However, the Tigers turned it over again after a clear and Tufts ran out the clock for the victory.
The statistics reflect the tightly-contested game. Tufts had a 49 shots to 43 by RIT, which was the most the Jumbos have allowed this season. The visitors compiled a 34-27 advantage in groundballs, while Tufts edged RIT in face-offs 17-15. Turnovers were 15 for the Tigers and 12 for the Jumbos.
Bailey, Bowers and junior Andrew Fiamengo led Tufts with three points each. Sophomore goalie Patton Watkins finished with 12 saves, including five in the third quarter. Sophomore Kane Delaney continued his fine play for Tufts with eight groundballs. Senior Nick Rhoads was 17 for 31 on face-offs.
Senior A.J. Tingle finished with four goals, an assist and five groundballs for RIT. Junior Elliott Cowburn was a stand-out defensively with three caused turnovers and five groundballs. DeLeo stopped 13 shots in the game, four in the fourth.
Tufts is in the semifinals for the third year in a row. Sunday’s Tufts-Cortland winner will advance to the 2012 NCAA Championship final at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., May 27.