The first 15 minutes couldn’t have gone much better for the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team. But things became nearly catastrophic from there for the Seawolves.
Stony Brook scored the game’s first eight goals — seven coming in the first quarter as Matt Philbin won 6-of-8 faceoffs — but UMass Lowell answered with the final seven goals to cut Seawolves’ once seemingly insurmountable advantage to only one goal entering halftime.
With the Seawolves trailing by one entering the fourth quarter, Ryland Rees — Stony Brook’s do-all longstick midfielder — won the faceoff, recorded the ground ball and stormed down the field to score the tying goal. Then, with 8:05 remaining in the quarter, Chris Pickel Jr. scored off an assist from Connor Grippe to break the tie at 10 and give Stony Brook a one-goal advantage in its 12-11 victory over UMass Lowell in America East men’s lacrosse action at LaValle Stadium Friday night and clinch a trip to the conference championships.
“It’s just facing adversity,” Rees said. “We’ve done it all year and teams are going to go on runs. Whether it’s us or the other team. We [went] up eight — we’ve never really been in that situation this year — so I think we started to play a little bit more conservative and that kind of hurt us a little bit.”
Tom Haun scored the eventual winning goal with 3:18 remaining in the game to give Stony Brook a 12-10 advantage. The Seawolves improved to 4-1 in conference and 6-7 on the season, advancing to the conference championships, which it has achieved every season since joining the league in 2002.
Haun finished with two goals and two assists and Jack Walsh finished with a goal and three assists in the victory. Mike McCannell added three goals and Pickel Jr. had two goals for Stony Brook, which had eight goal scorers in the win.
But for the second straight game, it was Pickel Jr. delivering a clutch goal, scoring to break the tie at 10 Friday night after delivering the winner in double-overtime against Vermont April 14.
“When the clock’s winding down,” Pickel Jr. said, “I take a lot of pride going out there and trying to do the best I can do to try to bring back another win for our team.”
After UMass Lowell (7-7, 3-3) scored with 1:02 remaining in the game and won the ensuing faceoff, Rees forced a turnover as the Seawolves held on for the final 52 seconds for the victory, as the Stony Brook bench celebrated.
“We’ll be hanging out on the sidelines during the game and we’ll see a 50-50 ground ball and [Rees] comes up with it,” Pickel Jr. said. “We just look at each other like ‘I don’t know how he did it again, he’s like a vacuum’ and it’s just huge to have a guy that versatile out there.”
“He’s such a dynamic player, can’t say enough about his play tonight and all season,” coach Jim Nagle said. “It’s really uncanny how many ground balls he gets out of piles. He’s a special, special player.”
Stony Brook closes the regular season at Binghamton at 7 p.m. April 27 and secures the No. 2 seed with the victory. The Seawolves could earn the No. 1 seed and host the conference championships with a victory and if Albany — ranked No. 2 in the country — loses to Hartford April 28. The America East Tournament semifinals and finals are hosted at the site of the regular-season champion.