Springfield, Mass. - March 14, 2012 - Sophomore goalkeeper Robert Maher registered a career-best 17 saves to lead the 19th-ranked Springfield College men's lacrosse team to a convincing 14-5 win over 8th-ranked Middlebury on Stagg Field Wednesday afternoon.
The Pride now stand at 3-1 on the year, while the Panthers drop to 1-1. This marks the first time that Springfield has knocked off Middlebury since March 29, 2006 when the Pride bested then 4th-ranked Middlebury, 11-10.
In a game that was very evenly statistically, it was the goaltending that proved to be the deciding factor. Maher stopped 17 of the 30 shots he faced in the game, while his counterpart, Nate Gaudio, made just six saves on 31 shots.
Offensively for the Pride, Eric Balslov had a huge performance, tallying four assists and two goals for a game-high six points. Mike Delia posted five assists and a goal, while Shane Ferguson found the back of the cage four times. Ryan Murphy tallied three goals and an assist and Branden Fernandez scooped up a team-best six ground balls.
For the visitors, Mike Giordano was the lone Panther with multiple points as he recorded two goals and two assists. Billy Chapman was all over the field, causing three turnovers to go along with a game-high seven ground balls.
Jack Balaban opened up the scoring as he converted along the crease 1:07 into the game to give the Panthers an early lead. Just seven seconds later, Murphy stuck his shot low following a great look from Ryon Lynch to even the game. Middlebury then took their final lead of the game at the 7:42 mark of the opening quarter on a man-up strike from Giordano.
From that point on, the Pride rattled off nine unanswered goals and held the visitors off the scoreboard for nearly 21 minutes. Consecutive strikes from Balslov in the final 2:27 of the first quarter provided the hosts with a 3-2 lead.
In the second, Springfield scored the first seven goals, including six in a 4:32 span to blow the game open. Goals from Dom Roberto and Mike Donoghue just nine seconds apart with 3:21 left gave the hosts an eight-goal cushion at 10-2. Giordano finally broke the Panthers drought with a shot that found the top corner as the teams went into halftime with the score 10-3.
Ferguson kicked off the third quarter with a highlight reel goal, battling through checks along the crease before scoring with 13:07 on the clock. Tim Cahill answered back for the Panthers with 10:57 to go, but markers from Ferguson and Murphy made the score 13-4 after three quarters of play.
Dylan Sheehan got into the scoring mix to put Springfield up 10 with 11:30 remaining after he found the lower corner of the cage following a great look from Balslov. Middlebury's Scott Redmond closed out the scoring 18 seconds later, and the Pride used five saves from Maher in the quarter to hold on for the win.
The Pride held a slight 31-30 advantage in shots, but won the ground ball battled, 36-24. Springfield also held the Panther's man-up unit to just 1-for-6 for the game.
Springfield will travel to Florida to take on Keene State on Saturday afternoon. Face-off in the Sunshine State is slated for 12:30 pm.