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May 14, 2016

Late third quarter surge leads UMass men’s lacrosse past Hartford

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

Tied at 5-5 with three minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team found itself in another game that was destined to go down to the wire.

But sometimes in lacrosse, one goal is all it takes to jumpstart an offense. And on Saturday, the No. 11 Minutemen’s late offensive explosion proved to be the key in their 12-6 win over Hartford.

Jeff George fired a shot at Hartford goalkeeper Frank Piechota that caught a piece of his stick and trickled out in front of the net. Then Ryan Curley – who hasn’t made a huge impact on the scoresheet this season – was in the right place at the right time to give UMass the 6-5 lead.

The Minutemen never looked back, scoring six consecutive goals to quickly put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter.

“It was a tie game at that point and we knew we needed to start transitioning the ball to the offensive end,” Connor Mooney said. “We were moving the ball, breaking their guys off the dodge, making one or two passes that we were able to finish it.”

Mooney led UMass (7-2, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) with two goals and four assists. Nick Mariano also contributed with three goals and an assist for his fourth hat trick of the season, his first since March 1 against Brown.

Eight different Minutemen recorded points in Saturday’s game, six of whom contributed with at least two points.

“It’s really rewarding for them,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “They work hard every day and they deserve to reward themselves. It’s expected of us, as coaches, for guys to put in guys that are going to produce for you.”

With six seconds left in the third, Mooney attacked the cage and dumped it off to Mariano, who converted the goal to give UMass a 9-5 lead after three quarters. Just 1:27 into the fourth, Mooney found Mariano again. The freshman converted the wide-open man advantage goal to double the Minutemen lead.

“We had struggled throughout the game in terms of connecting on offense,” Cannella said. “At that point we had good things going our way. That was the stretch of the game that made us play so relaxed in the fourth quarter.”

“It’s awesome,” Mariano said when asked about playing with Mooney. “Even when I’m not open he knows I’m open. He’s great with both hands and always finds a way to put the ball in my stick whenever I need it.”

The Hawks (4-4) made it difficult for UMass to run away with the game from the start. Trailing 5-3, attackman Kevin O’Shea juked out Kyle Karaska, fired and beat goalkeeper Zach Oliveri to gut the Minutemen lead to one. Less than a minute later, O’Shea found Andrew Cacchio for a goal that tied the game at five on a play that goalkeeper Oliveri had no chance to stopping.

O’Shea led all Hartford scorers with three goals and an assist. He became only the 17th member in its program history to eclipse the 100-point mark.

“It’s great when everyone is getting involved,” Mooney said. “It really shows how well our offense can click when everyone is playing together. It’s great to see certain players step up in different parts of the game.

“On offense we are moving the ball really well. We are pretty unselfish. It doesn’t matter who’s scoring the points or who’s getting the goals as long as we are scoring them.”

The Minutemen have a long two-week layover before resuming conference play on April 5 against Towson.

“It’s definitely going to be a mental break more than a physical one, that’s for sure,” Cannella said.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu and be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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