SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -- Down 1-0 at halftime, Millersville stormed into the second half and came back to defeat Slippery Rock 2-1 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The Marauders (13-5-2) were unable to muster much offense in the first half, but wasted little time scoring once the second half began. Austin Hoke and Clark Habecker each scored a goal within the first eight minutes of the second period and swung the momentum, and the game, in the Marauders favor. The victory vaults the Black and Gold into the NCAA Atlantic Regional championship game for the second time in the past three years.
Slippery Rock (13-4-3) had multiple opportunites to score in the second half, but a Millersville defense that refused to quit did not allow the Rock to score at all in the final frame. The Rock scored their only goal of the game on a 25-yard shot by Brandon Chiu that was aided by the wind. Marauder keeper Brad Benzing barely made an attempt for the shot as it appeared to be going over the crossbar, but at the last second dipped into the net, giving the home team a 1-0 lead at the 23:54 mark.
The first half ended with the Marauders down a goal, but with an 8-6 edge in shots.
Widdowson and the Marauders had become awfully familiar with the Rock, facing their PSAC foes three times in the span of just over three weeks. The Rock won the first match and advanced on penalty kicks in the second meeting. Widdowson was not going to allow his team to go down a third time with making some adjustments.
Millersville created a plethora of chances once the second period started thanks to a new look offensive group. Freshman Christopher Davidson joined Andrew Dukes and Jeramey Robbins up top, to put more pressure on the Rock defense. The strategy would prove to be genius as Millersville surged into the second half.
Slippery Rock's back line was able to clear a Ryan Rohrer corner kick out of the box at the 48:53 mark. The clear was batted down by the wind, though, and fell to the feet of Hoke who was playing right outside back. The junior defender sent a high cross into the box that floated dangerously towards the goal. Rock keeper Joe Agerskow went up to make the save, but the ball slipped through his gloves and into the back of the net, tying the game at one goal apiece early in the second period.
Moments later it was Rohrer again who was creating scoring opportunites for the visiting team, but this time his shot was saved by Agerskow. After neither team gained possession Rohrer, found Habecker in the middle of the field from about 30-yards out. After hearing some encouragment from his teammates, Habecker fired a shot on goal. His mark was true as the ball was blistered into the lower left 90 and in the span of three minutes the Marauders went from a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 lead with 38 minutes remaining in regulation.Both teams created scoring opportunites as the game continued, by Slippery Rock increased the pressure with its backs against the wall.
In the 84th minute, a Rock attacker chased down a cross and kicked the ball at the goal with Benzing charging. The ball went over Benzing and was then headed right towards the goal by Slippery Rock forward Dom Francis and was going to be what appeared a game-tying goal. However, out of nowhere Millersville defender Anthony Fratini chased down the shot and cleared the ball to the side just before it crossed the goal line. Fratini's save in the 84th minute was his third defensive save from the goal line on the day.
The Rock fired three shots and forced three corners in the final minutes, but Benzing and the defensive unit thwarted each attempt to preserve the 2-1 victory.
Millersville held a 17-14 edge in shots and 11-5 advantage in shots on goal. Christopher Davidson led the Marauders with three shots and Benzing made one save in the game.
The Marauders will travel to either Mercyhurst or Notre Dame (Ohio) next weekend in the NCAA Atlantic Regional championship game. The Lakers and the Falcons square off tomorrow in South Euclid, Ohio.