TAMPA, Fla. -- Matt Bilak netted a career-high five goals, while Andrew Failla made 12 saves as Tampa defeated Mercyhurst 11-9 in the NCAA tournament Saturday afternoon at the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex. The Spartans, who never trailed in the game, advance to the national semifinals next Saturday.
Both teams started the game with strong defensive efforts with the game remaining scoreless until 10 minutes into the opening period. Tampa struck first as Bilak netted an unassisted goal to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter. Mitch McAvoy won the ensuing face-off, picked up the ground ball, and netted the equalizer 6 seconds later. A minute later Conor Whipple put a bounce shot past the goalie to give Tampa a 2-1 advantage after the opening period.
A little more than a minute into the second quarter Kyle Hemrick scored an unassisted goal to extend the Spartans lead to 3-1. Nick Ferreiro won the ensuing face-off and on Tampa’s possession Bilak scored his second goal of the contest to give the Spartans a 4-1 lead. Mercyhurst responded, scoring three unanswered goals to even the score 4-4 with 5:27 remaining in the first half. The two teams traded goals, before Bobby Calhoun connected with Bilak in front of the cage for a goal to give the Spartans a 5-4 lead at the break.
Tampa took advantage of a Lakers penalty as Hemrick found Bilak for a man-up goal 5 minutes into the third quarter. The Lakers responded, scoring back-to-back goals to even the score at 6 with 6:05 remaining. The score remained tied until 39 seconds, when Mike Morris found Bilak for a man-up goal to give Tampa the 8-7 edge after three quarters of play.
The Spartans won the opening face-off of the final period and on their possession Ferriero connected with Whipple for a goal to extend the lead to 9-7. Two minutes later Cory Becker netted an unassisted goal for Mercyhurst to cut the lead to 9-8. The score remained 9-8 until the 2:37 mark when Whipple found Morris for a goal to give Tampa a 10-8 lead. Both teams scored one more time for the 11-9 final.
Bilak’s five goals topped his previous best performance in the win against Wingate on March 5, 2013, when he netted four goals. Whipple finished the game with two goals and an assist, while Morris, Calhoun, and Hemrick each tallied two points apiece. Ferreiro went 15 of 19 on face-offs and picked up five ground balls.
The Spartans' back line of Larry Gress, Marty Heyn and Nate Tembi combined for seven ground balls, while limiting the Lakers attackers to five goals. Failla improved to 12-2 in the cage this season and made seven of his 12 saves in the second half. Riley Piper tied for the team high with five ground balls.