Men’s lax wraps up brief home stand against Hartford

By Stephen Sellner

After a win on Tuesday, the No. 5 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team gets right back to work on Saturday afternoon as it welcomes Hartford to Garber Field.

Rehan Talat/Collegian

The Hawks (1-3) come in fresh off of their first win of the season, defeating Brown, 20-6.  UMass (5-0) handled Brown as well, winning 12-7 in Providence, R.I. last Saturday.

Prior to its rout over the Bears, Hartford was nursing three consecutive losses to start the 2012 campaign. But its record wasn’t indicative of how the squad was playing, especially considering the level of competition the Hawks were matched up against. A tough loss at No. 4 Maryland, followed by an overtime defeat to Holy Cross and comeback bid that fell just short at No. 11 Denver may hurt its record, but prepares them for another showdown with a red-hot Minutemen squad.

“This is an explosive team and very dangerous team,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella.

Despite its slow start record-wise, Cannella said he feels Hartford is just as good as it was last year when it won the America East championship and made the NCAA tournament.

The two sides met last year on Feb. 19, with the Minutemen prevailing, 14-10. UMass jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the affair before the Hawks strung together five unanswered goals. A 9-3 second-half performance by the Minutemen helped erase the early deficit.

This Hartford team has the same ability to score in bunches as last year’s squad showed. Trailing 11-5 to the Pioneers, the Hawks reeled off five consecutive goals in the fourth quarter, nearly pulling off a massive upset and miraculous comeback. Against the Crusaders, Hartford came back from three down with seven minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the contest to tie the score, with the final two goals coming in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Cannella said that the Minutemen need to keep its foot on the gas pedal, so-to-speak, and not lose focus because it could hurt them in the long run with the Hawks ability to embark on dominating runs.

“A tough chore for our guys is not to let up. It’s definitely a 60-minute game,” he said. “We found that out last year with these guys and hopefully we have a better knowledge of what they’re all about coming into this game.”

Hartford comes in with a balanced, yet effective attack that’s yielded 12.5 goals-per-game. Senior attackmen Aidan Genik and Carter Bender have nine and six goals, respectively, while fellow attackman Kevin O’Shea has burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign with nine goals of his own.

Senior goalkeeper Scott Bement enters the game fresh off his best performance of the season, tallying 19 saves while surrendering five goals to Brown. UMass did not face last year’s All-America East first teamer in the matchup a year ago.

The contest will conclude the Minutemen’s brief, two-game home stand. UMass is 2-0 so far at Garber Field, delivering punishing performances in both affairs against Bucknell and Albany.

The Minutemen take pride in their home turf, Cannella said, despite the criticism it’s heard from those outside of the program about the facility. While other programs play in large stadiums, such as Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium, Garber Field is a more condense and smaller venue.

“People call it rinky-dink,” said Cannella. “We take offense to that.”

UMass clearly has not let the talk affect its play, as Anthony Biscardi, Greg Rushing and company have flown around the field delivering one crushing blow after another as the players try to maintain the reputation that Garber Field is tough to place to come in and win at.

“We like the history [and] we like the tradition that goes with [Garber Field] and there’s a certain amount of pride that you have playing on it,” said Cannella.

The Minutemen will have another chance to build on that pride when they face off with the Hawks at 1 p.m.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.