ALBANY, N.Y. – Fourth-seeded Hartford ran through the 2016 America East Championship and captured the program's second tournament title in six seasons on Saturday after knocking-off third-seeded Vermont, 17-16, at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium Saturday. Improving to 11-6 overall, the Hawks earned the league's automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tournament with the victory.
Alec Brown, Griffin Feiner, Justin Huggins and Dylan Protesto were named to the America East All-Championship Team for the Hawks, who reached their third title game after upending No. 4 UAlbany, 11-10, in overtime on Thursday. Protesto was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after dominating the faceoff X with a 72.2 percent winning percentage (39-for-54).
Four players netted hat tricks to lead Hartford's balanced attack, which matched a season-high in scoring. Freshman Dylan Jinks and sophomore Trevor O'Brien joined Brown and Huggins with three goals apiece, while junior Jaedon Henderson handed out a career-best five assists in the win. The defense was also solid for Hartford, as sophomore Ryan Vanderford registered a season-high 15 saves, including a plethora of game-changing stops.
Early struggles in the game allowed Vermont to take a 7-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. That Catamounts' advantage quickly extended to four goals early in the second, with Cam Milligan making it an 8-4 game just 77 seconds in.
But things started to click for Hartford, though, as the squad erased its deficit and took its first lead of the game before the end of the half. The Hawks scored six-straight goals to take a 10-8 advantage into the halftime break.
Brown found his way to the net with 12:26 left in the second to ignite that huge half-ending run, before Huggins brought the deficit down to two at 8-6 with his second goal of the game four minutes later. The offense continued to roll, and with 6:16 left, the Hawks pulled within one after senior defender Torrey Martone came away with a pivotal ground ball that led to a transition goal from O'Brien.
A goal from Jinks with 4:51 to go drew the teams even at 8-8, before Doug Biondi put Hartford on top for the first time in the game with a man-up score 64 seconds later. Brown, who started the game-changing run, capped the offensive outburst and made it a 10-8 Hawks' lead 2:10 before the break.
Despite spotting the Catamounts a quick goal from Milligan 18 seconds into the third, the Hawks continued to rally. Jinks, Brown and Feiner went off for three more unanswered scores to give Hartford its largest lead of the game at 13-9 with 2:34 left in the third.
The Hawks would maintain their edge, but Vermont made it interesting in the final quarter. The Catamounts pulled within one at 13-12 in the opening minutes of the fourth behind a Dawes Milchling goal. Hartford quickly regained its four-goal cushion, though, as Protesto capped another three-goal run seven seconds after a Feiner goal to make it a 16-12 lead with 9:55 left on the clock.
The game got tight again down the final stretch. Four of the final five goals were scored by Vermont, as it was a one-goal game (17-16) with 51 seconds to go. But Hartford was awarded an man-up opportunity, and the Hawks milked the clock to hold on for the win.