Minutemen look to continue winning streak

By Jay Asser

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian
Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

In its final road game of the regular season, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team heads on the road to East Hartford, Conn. to face Colonial Athletic Association opponent Hofstra in a battle of ranked teams on Saturday.

The No. 15-ranked Minutemen (8-3, 3-1 CAA) will put their three-game winning streak on the line following consecutive overtime victories. UMass’ Kyle Smith once again provided the game-winner in an 11-10 victory over Drexel last Saturday in a triple overtime thriller.

Despite trailing 10-6 in the third quarter, UMass formed a late surge in the final frame to send the contest to extra time. The contest marked one of many games this season in which the Minutemen have had to rally out of a deficit to claw out a win, a situation UMass coach Greg Cannella would like to see less of.

“You try to go up-tempo in practice and not have any lulls in practice,” said Cannella. “We seem to have those in each game we’ve played this year. I don’t think we’ve played in a game where we didn’t have a lull. So it’s kind of continuing to keep the guys aware of that.”

Going against a stout team in Hofstra, the Minutemen likely won’t have the same leeway that they’ve had the past two weeks. The No. 8-ranked Pride (11-1, 3-1 CAA) hold the best overall record in the conference and dropped their only game this season at the hands of CAA foe Delaware, which sits atop the CAA with a perfect 4-0 record.

After attempting to contain Drexel’s Scott Perri, the leading goal scorer in the conference (30 goals), last week, UMass will have to deal with Hofstra’s trio of Jamie Lincoln, Jay Card and Stephen Bentz on Saturday. Lincoln and Card rank behind Perri in the CAA in scoring at No. 2 and No. 3 with 25 and 23 goals, respectively.

“We always talk about limiting guys and not letting guys get off in the game on you, score four or five goals,” said Cannella. “I think if you limit those guys, I think you’re doing a pretty good job because they’re very talented.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Pride have allowed the fewest goals this season of any team in the conference. Boasting a 6.17 goals against average, Hofstra holds nearly a two-goal difference between it and the next best defense in the CAA in Penn State (8.07). In fact, the Pride defense has yet to allow an opponent to reach double digits in scoring in a contest this season, a rare feat in Division I men’s lacrosse.

Cannella will look for his offense to change that but outside factors could play a role in UMass’ attack.

“We’re going to have to play as this game goes,” said Cannella. “The weather could be a factor in terms of footing, it’s a grass field so is the game fast or is the game slow? How does it turn out?”

In the all-time series between the Minutemen and the Pride, UMass leads 19-16. The Minutemen won the most recent matchup, upsetting then-No. 6 Hofstra, 11-9, at Garber Field on March 27, 2010. UMass was led by Art Kell, who recorded a hat trick, Will Manny, who had a goal and three assists, and Anthony Biscardi, who chipped in a pair of goals.

In 2006, the two teams met in the NCAA Quarterfinal, arguably the most significant game in UMass lacrosse history. The Minutemen dug themselves out of a five-goal hole in the fourth quarter to force overtime, which they claimed to advance to their first-ever NCAA Semifinal.

Saturday’s contest is scheduled for a 3 p.m. start at Rentschler Field.

Jay Asser can be reached at [email protected]