April 21, 2009

Courtesy of UMass Athletics

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Behind a 7-0 second half run, the UMass men's lacrosse team turned a slim 5-4 lead into a convincing 12-4 advantage on its way to a 12-6 victory on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Five Minutemen (8-4, 5-1 ECAC) finished with multi-goal games, including a trio of midfielders, Evan Blum (3 goals), Bobby Hayes (2), and Rory Pedrick (2), who combined for seven of the 12 goals. Doc Schneider stood tall with 12 saves, including seven straight as part of the run that spanned 22:45. With a win at Rutgers during the regular season's final weekend, the Minutemen would clinch their first ECAC Conference Title since 2005. Sandwiched between that contest is Saturday's huge nonconference tilt vs. defending National Champion Syracuse at 1:30 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The hat trick for Blum marked a career-high while the two goals for Hayes and Pedrick each tied career-highs. Senior attackmen Tim Balise and Jim Connolly added two goals apiece.

The Minutemen were remarkably efficient, with their 12 goals coming on only 24 shots. The 22:45 scoring streak marked the second straight game the defense has kept its opponent scoreless for over 20 minutes of play.

After opening up a 4-2 halftime advantage, Balise rocketed a shot past Stags' goalie Charlie Cipriano for the man-up goal and three-goal advantage at 13:31 of the third quarter.

Fairfield faceoff man Steve Golmont, who won 14-of-22 draws on the day, won the ensuing faceoff and set up a fast break goal by Reed Mark only seven seconds later. The bounce shot ended a 3-0 UMass spurt that bridged the end of the second and third quarters. 

Chris Ajemian cut the score to 5-4 at 10:18, but Pedrick answered with his first goal since Apr. 4 for a two-goal cushion. Blum added a bounce shot for his second goal of the game at 6:28 to equal the Minutemen's largest lead of the game.

Just like he did in the third quarter, Balise scored another man-up goal low and inside the far post early in the fourth for an 8-4 advantage. Evan added his hat trick goal for UMass' fourth straight tally at 13:00. Pedrick and Connolly each added their second goals and Art Kell added his 10th of the season on a wraparound to cap off the seven straight goals at the 2:46 mark of the fourth.

Defense was the story in the first half as Blum scored the only goal of the first quarter at the 7:32 mark for a 1-0 UMass lead after 15 minutes.

Fairfield's Nick Baglio scored 37 seconds into the second quarter to make it 1-1, but Connolly answered with his team-leading 29th goal at the 12:45 mark. After Chris Trombino made it 2-2, Hayes beat Cipriano top shelf for the 3-2 lead at 7:32.

Hayes scored his second straight goal at the 1:50 mark when he converted after an impressive roll dodge.

Shots were 40-24 in favor of the Minutemen while UMass had 14 saves to Fairfield's six. The ground ball battle was close (29-28 Fairfield) while final faceoffs were 14-8, Fairfield. UMass was 22-for-27 on clears and the Stags were 14-for-15. Final turnovers stood at 17 for Fairfield to UMass' 16.

The Minutemen, who stand 11th in the NCAA RPI released this week, look ahead to Saturday's home game vs. defending national champion and #3/2 Syracuse at 1:30 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. UMass is urging all fans to attend the game as it is looking to break the program's all-time attendance record of 12,143. For tickets call 1-866-UMASS-TIX.