AMHERST, Mass. — Drexel raced out to a 9-2 lead and held on for a 15-12 win at No. 13 UMass in the CAA Semifinals at Garber Field. Matt Varian scored three times and assisted on three others, while Marshal King and Collin Mailman each had hat tricks in the win. Ross Blumenthal made 11 saves, many of the spectacular variety, as the Dragons (7-7) advanced to the CAA title game for the first time since 2014.
UMass dropped to 10-5 with the loss.
Drexel got off to a great start early despite losing all seven faceoffs in the first quarter. Mailman set the tone with a rocket just 50 seconds into the game. After the Minutemen tied it on a controversial goal that appeared to just hit the post, the Dragons rattled off four straight goals to take the lead for good. Varian had a huge first quarter, scoring twice and assisting on two others. King also had a big impact in the early going. He scored the fourth goal and then assisted on Jack Mulcahy's score with 5:05 left in the second.
Devin Spencer ended a UMass drought of almost 17 minutes when he cut the deficit to 5-2 four minutes into the second. However, Drexel responded by four straight to push the lead to 9-2. Varian, Mailman and Nick Fox each scored 6-on-6 and the Dragons picked up their first man-up goal of the game when Varian found Chris McLallen. The Minutemen were able to score the final two goals of the half to trim the lead to 9-4.
UMass came out firing in the third and tried to get the momentum back after a Matt Soran man-up score put Drexel up by six. Charlie O'Brien and Spencer scored just 29 seconds apart. Reid Bowering put a damper on that momentarily when he scored the 99th goal of his career. That was short lived as Billy Philpott and Spencer beat Blumenthal in a span of 65 seconds and all of a sudden it was 11-8.
The King and Varian connection put an end to that run with an even strength goal with 3:32 to go in the third to extend the lead to four. Perhaps the biggest play of the game came a few minutes later. In the final seconds of the quarter, Drexel committed a turnover near midfield.
The Minutemen got the ball to Chris Connelly, one of the top offensive players in the league. He broke in alone but Blumenthal stuffed him as he tried to go high, and the Dragons were able to take that four-goal lead to the fourth.
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In the final quarter, Sean Quinn gave the Dragons an unexpected goal. The defender raced up the middle and scored for the first time this season. UMass answered to cut it to four, but they weren't able to get it down to a three-goal lead until late. Mailman and King sandwiched goals around two UMass man-up scores.
UMass got aggressive on Drexel face-off man Jimmeh Koita with just under six minutes to go and had a player sit in the box for 90 seconds. Drexel milked the clock and the Minutemen were unable to get the deficit down to three until Jeff Trainor scored his 24th of the year with 3:43 to play. The Minutemen took a key one-minute penalty for a slash on the ensuing draw and Drexel held UMass off the board the rest of the way to pick up the win and advance to Saturday.
Koita had a big second half after a tough first quarter. He won 14 of his final 23 draws and won eight of 15 in the second half as UMass was trying to mount a comeback. He also had eight ground balls.
Varian's six points tied a Drexel CAA Tournament record, set by Robert Church back in 2012. King, who missed the first UMass game, had two assists to go with his hat trick and finished with five points. All six starters on attack and in the midfield had at least one goal for Drexel. Blumenthal turned aside 11 shots, many from close range, to earn the win.