Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Fourth-quarter comeback grants UMass its sixth consecutive win

Minutemen 2-0 in CAA play

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(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

By Liam Flaherty, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team moved to 2-0 in Colonial Athletic Association play on Friday night thanks to a 9-8 come-from-behind, fourth-quarter win over Delaware on the road, helped by a Jeff Trainor hat trick and Noah Rak’s consistency in the faceoff circle.

 The Minutemen (7-4, 2-0 CAA) only scored two goals in the first half and trailed for the entirety of the contest at Raymond Field, until freshman attackman Chris Connolly rifled a shot over Matt DeLuca’s shoulder with 12:17 to go to grant UMass its first advantage of the night.

Once Connolly (18 goals in the year) put the Minutemen ahead, the Blue Hens (4-6, 1-1 CAA) were unable to reclaim the lead they had built with five goals in the first half, but certainly got close when they cut the deficit to one with just 40 seconds remaining.

Delaware appeared to have scored again with just four seconds left in the final frame and believed it had tied the game at nine, but a slashing call on Mark Bieda nullified the equalizer and cemented the UMass win.

“We’re very proud of the guys and their efforts to fight back down four goals,” coach Greg Cannella said. “We weren’t at our best and Delaware was playing with more intensity than us, so it’s good to see the guys continue to fight and believe in each other.”

 The fight that UMass showed over the course of the game could be summarized entirely by the play of senior faceoff specialist Rak, who went 14-18 in the faceoff circle and scored a pair of goals, his first tallies since the Feb. 13 game against Sacred Heart.

Cannella had high praise for the Connecticut native following the win, notably for his second goal of the night, which began the fourth-quarter comeback and set the Minutemen up to go on their four-goal scoring streak that put the team ahead.  

“It was a good night for [Rak],” Cannella said. “I think he expects that of himself each and every game, but scoring those two goals really helped propel us — the first of the game and that big one in the fourth — so it’s great to see.”

Trainor’s trio of goals push his season total to 19, which trails only Buddy Carr (25) for the team lead. The sophomore has recorded at least a point in each of the season’s 11 games and has only been held scoreless once.

With 1:13 left to go in the game, up by a goal and DeLuca out of the crease, Trainor broke through a double team deep in the Blue Hens’ zone and created enough space for himself to shoot the game-winner into the empty net, boosting the UMass lead to two with time ticking down.

 Things got tight in the final minute, however, when Charlie Kitchen pulled Delaware to within one on a shot past Minutemen netminder Sean Sconone (12 saves) with 40 seconds left to play.

Moments later, with only four seconds left on the clock, it appeared as though Delaware had done the improbable and tied the game at nine on a shot from just outside the crease after a strange sequence behind Sconone.

As junior defenseman Isaac Paparo held the ball and attempted to bleed the clock dry behind the UMass net, Paparo was pushed by Bieda, which caused the ball to drop out of his mesh and into the front of the crease, giving the Blue Hens an easy opportunity to net the momentary equalizer. 

But, just as the game was seemingly moving into overtime, a discussion between the referees unanimously determined that a penalty had occurred, allowing the Minutemen to escape with their sixth straight win.

“The defense played well,” Cannella said. “They made some saves and some great stops. It was a collective effort by that group. In the fourth quarter that was the difference in the game.”

In the aftermath of its comeback victory, UMass improves to 2-0 in CAA play and assures itself a crucial top-two spot in the playoff standings with only three games remaining.

However, Cannella would not express any jubilation for the team’s early achievements in conference play and noted the rigorous road that lies ahead to achieve the ultimate goal of a CAA championship.

“It feels like being 0-0,” he said. “Nothing changes. We’re going to have a great team next week who beat the snot out of Drexel tonight (17-9 win) with Towson coming up to us — they made it to the Final Four last year — so we have to get ourselves ready to play.”

The faceoff against the Tigers (4-6, 1-1 CAA) will be at 1 p.m. on April 14 in Amherst, the first home game the Minutemen have hosted since March 17.

Liam Flaherty can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty

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