UMass has its win streak snapped by Albany on Tuesday

Minutemen fought back to tie the game late, but couldn’t come away with a win

Lynus+Erickson%2FDaily+Collegian

Lynus Erickson/Daily Collegian

By Colin McCarthy, Collegian Staff

Despite its best efforts to mount a fourth quarter comeback, the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team could not remain undefeated in its first top-20 matchup of the season, falling to Albany 13-12 on the road on Tuesday.

No. 13 UMass (2-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) rode into upstate New York with a rocket strapped to its back, having won its first two games of the season against CAA foes Fairfield and Drexel. The No. 19 Great Danes (4-1, 2-1 America East) snapped a win streak of six game in a row for the Minutemen spanning back to last year.

Albany came into the afternoon missing star player Tehoka Nanticoke, which head coach Greg Cannella thought caused a misplaced sigh of relief from the Gorillas.

“I think going into the game we had different expectations for ourselves,” Cannella said after the game. “I think our guys just thought they were going to come out and beat them up. And that didn’t happen.”

Instead, UMass and the Great Danes battled tightly contested from start to finish. For much of the game it was Albany throwing a punch, followed by a counterattack by the Minutemen. That back-and-forth pace led to a 4-4 tie at the end of the first quarter.

Then, Great Danes goaltender Liam Donnelly took over. He remained solid between the pipes all afternoon, and didn’t let up a single goal in the second quarter. More troublesome for UMass was the graduate student’s ability to push the ball downfield quickly in transition.

“They do a really good job of getting the ball up and out and getting below our guys into their offensive end,” Cannella said. “And that led to transition, and really with the type of skills those guys have, that’s easy goals for them.”

Donnelly’s performance allowed Albany to jump ahead on the scoreboard, and by the midway point of the third the Minutemen found themselves trailing three goals.

Entering the fourth with that same steady deficit, UMass began to push the pace offensively, scoring two goals just seven seconds apart to pull back within one.

That battle continued for the entire fourth quarter, but eventually Mike Tobin showcased what the Minutemen midfielders do best: dominate both ends of the field.

Tobin, who was mainly used as an offensive midfielder in his short freshman season, has stepped up into a two-way role, similar to the likes of Jeff Trainor and Billy Philpott. With less than four minutes to play, Tobin collected a ground ball in the defensive zone and raced past Albany players on his way to a good look in front of the net and a game tying goal.

Unfortunately for UMass, there was enough time left on the clock for Albany to jump back ahead and win the ensuing faceoff to wind down the rest of the clock and squeak out the victory.

One bright spot for the Minutemen continues to be their faceoff production. Even on an off day, the tandem of Zach Hochman and Caleb Hammett won nearly 50 percent of their draws combined, with Hammett taking on a more increased role in the circle than in his previous two games.

And for the third game in a row, Hochman found his way to the scoresheet, this time with an assist on Gabe Procyk’s goal. His increased offensive production off the faceoff adds another wrinkle to UMass’ game.

“If Hochman can continue to contribute that way, that’s a real positive for us,” Cannella said.

After suffering their first loss since February of last year, the Minutemen will have a week to prepare and bounce back before another conference game against Hofstra. The main focus: never again underestimating the opponent.

“If you expect something’s going to happen… You’re preparing the wrong way,” Cannella said. “Lesson learned by our guys, well played by [Albany]. You have to go out and play for the entirety.”

UMass is set to take on the Pride at 1 p.m. on Tuesday in New York.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.