Tufts holds off Cortland comeback
Jumbos end Red Dragons season for second consecutive year
MEDFORD - Tufts built a 10-4 lead early in the fourth quarter and then withstood a furious Cortland comeback for a 10-9 victory in the NCAA Div. III Quarterfinals on a raw Wednesday afternoon at Bello Field.
The Jumbos (17-2), defending their 2010 national championship, advance to the NCAA semifinals and will play at RIT (19-0) on Sunday. . The winner will advance to the NCAA Final in Baltimore on May 29. Cortland, which had its season ended by a 10-9 loss to Tufts for the second straight year, finished at 16-3.
The visiting Red Dragons scored the first two goals and led 2-0 after one quarter. Junior Mike Tota and senior Jay DeStefano had the tallies. The Cortland defense did not allow a Tufts shot on goal in the first.
However, the Jumbos outscored Cortland 6-1 in the second quarter including three goals by senior Ryan Molloy. He tied the score at 3-3 with a behind-the-back goal on a man-up situation at the 8:07 mark. Junior Geordie Schafer gave Tufts the lead for good at 4-3 with 4:33 on the clock. The Jumbos led 6-3 heading into halftime.
Tufts continued to add to the margin, with back-to-back goals by junior Kevin McCormick putting the hosts up 10-4 at 14:36 of the fourth quarter. However, the momentum soon turned dramatically in Cortland's favor.
Senior Chris DeLuca scored three consecutive goals, including two off assists from senior Neal Hopps to make it a 10-7 game with 7:38 on the clock. DiStefano then netted two straight goals and all of a sudden the Red Dragons were down one, 10-9, with 1:23 to go.
Cortland's Justin Battino won the ensuing face-off, and the Red Dragons worked through a hard ride by the Jumbos to get the ball into the box and call time-out with 42 seconds remaining. Cortland worked the ball around trying to get a good shot, but couldn't come up with much and an attempt by Total was saved routinely by Jumbo freshman Patton Watkins will less than 10 seconds remaining. Watkins hurled the ball out of the Tufts end and the clock expired.
Watkins, seventh in the nation with a .635 save percentage entering the game, finished with 15 saves including six in the second quarter. Molloy led Tufts with three goals and added an assist, while McCormick posted two goals with two assists and senior D.J. Hessler had four assists. Senior Matt Witko and junior Sean Kirwan both scored twice. Senior Alec Bialosky led Tufts with five ground balls, and junior Nick Rhoads won 13 face-offs.
DeLuca and DiStefano led Cortland with three goals and an assist each. Tota added two tallies. DeLuca won nine face-offs, helping him accumulate a game-high seven ground balls. DiStefano picked up four. Freshman goalie Scott Tota made seven saves before he was pulled after 45:24 of action. Sophomore Mike Kaminski did not allow a goal while stopping one shot in 14:36 of playing time.
Cortland finished with a 41-39 advantage in shots, and also won the ground ball battle 33-24.