ELIS SCORE 5 STRAIGHT IN FOURTH QUARTER
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – With less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Yale men's lacrosse team's biggest rival had a chance to tie the game. Harvard carried the ball into their offensive zone, and got a shot off with 38 seconds remaining, but freshman goalie Hoyt Crance made a crucial save that would erase all hopes of overtime. His save preserved a victory over the Crimson, after a four-goal comeback by the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
The Elis were down 8-4 with eleven minutes remaining in the game. Junior Eric Scott then took control of the Yale offense, scoring once and then assisting the next three goals to tie the game within four minutes of being down four. Shane Carr then scored on an extra-man opportunity with three minutes remaining to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, and Crance's late save secured the win.
With the victory, the No. 6 Bulldogs end the regular season with an 11-2 record, and the No. 2 seed in the Ivy League Tournament next weekend. The team also earned their first victory against their archrivals since the 2013 regular season.
The two teams traded empty possessions to begin the first quarter. While on offense two turnovers gave the ball back to the Crimson, Hoyt Crance stepped up early in the game for the Bulldogs. The freshman, making his third collegiate start, made two big saves in the early minutes of the game. One came off a hard shot on a Harvard extra-man opportunity, and Crance was able to cover up the deflection to regain possession for the Elis.
Two goals for Harvard midway through the first quarter gave the visitors an early lead. They added a third with four minutes remaining to take a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs, however, have faced similar situations this season. They went down three early to Albany last weekend, before tying the game up before the end of the first frame. The Crimson had a chance to make it four with a point-blank shot late in the first, but Crance made a big stop on a shot from just outside the crease to keep the game within reach. The horn sounded to end the first quarter, and while the Bulldogs had four shots, they were unable to find the net as they faced a 3-0 deficit.
The Elis opened the second quarter with high-percentage shots on target, but two saves by Harvard goalie Robert Shaw kept them from getting on the scoreboard early. After a Crimson turnover, attackman Jeff Cimbalista carried the ball down from the midfield line all the way to the crease. He was pushed into the net from behind by a Harvard defender, giving the Bulldogs a one-minute EMO. The initial possession ended in a turnover, and the midfield stopped the ensuing clearing attempt, a Scott shot in the offensive zone hit the crossbar and sailed out of bounds.
The Bulldogs would retain possession, and with ten minutes remaining in the second quarter, they set up their offense once again. Sophomore Ben Reeves carried the ball behind net, isolate with a defender. The team's point leader spun around, moving back towards the right side of net. He then turned again to lose his defender, and wrapped around to the face of goal. Firing from his right side, he launched a shot that sailed past Shaw and hit the right side of the net. Reeves' 33rd goal of the year put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard after being held 21 minutes without a goal.
After senior Jonathan Reese won the following face-off cleanly, the Elis set up their offense again. Jack Tigh received the ball around the perimeter, on the left side of the zone. His defender left him too much space, and the freshman took advantage. He sprinted towards net, and with a clear lane in front of him finished calmly to the right side to pull the Bulldogs within one. The defense then stopped the next Harvard possession, giving the ball back to the streaking offense.
Back in the offensive zone, Tigh made a turn that caused a Crimson defender to fall to the ground, then passed to Reeves. He then spun around, breaking the ankles of his defender, and with a clear look on net, fired from the right side of goal, and finished near post. For the second straight game, the Bulldogs had erased a 3-0 deficit, and leveled the game with five minutes remaining in the half. The Crimson scored once more to regain the lead, but at the half the Elis were within striking distance, down 4-3.
The halftime statistics were fairly even, with the Bulldogs possessing a slim advantage. They were outshooting the Crimson 16-14, as they launched 12 shots in the second quarter alone. They were 5-9 from the face-off position, and Crance had made six saves. One key area on the scoresheet was the turnover margin, as the Elis had committed ten turnovers to Harvard's six. After being shutout for over a quarter, the Bulldogs notched three goals in five minutes to keep the game within reach.
Much of the third quarter consisted of the two teams trading possessions, with neither team able to find the net. Crance continued to make saves for the Bulldogs on defense, while the on offense their shots were not bearing results. The Crimson broke the scoring drought with five minutes remaining in the quarter to take a two-goal lead. On the next possession for the Bulldogs, they were able to capitalize on an opportunity. Michael Bonacci held possession on the left side of the goal-line extended. The senior then threaded a pass through traffic, somehow finding Eric Scott in front of the crease. The junior then quickly released a shot, beating Shaw to pull the Bulldogs within one. The Crimson scored twice late in the quarter, and after three they held a 7-4 lead over the Bulldogs.
Harvard scored again early in the fourth to take a four-goal lead, their largest of the day. After some time setting up a play in the offensive zone, the Bulldogs needed a goal to have a chance of coming back. Scott held the ball at the perimeter, and called his own number as he ran at an angle closer to the net. After a push from his defender, Scott made an off-balance shot that sailed between the legs of the Crimson goalie to cut the deficit to three, giving the Bulldogs hope with ten minutes remaining in the game.
Yale won the next face-off to get another possession on offense, and they were able to convert again. Scot ran down the right side of the zone again, but instead of taking a shot, made a dangerous pass to Jason Alessi in front of the crease. Scott's pass was perfectly placed, as Alessi was able to immediately deflect the ball into the net, and within two possessions Harvard's lead was cut down to two. Yale won another face-off and Scott once again held possession in the zone. He passed back to Michael Keasey, who was left with space in front of him. The senior launched a rocket from ten yards out, beating Shaw again to continue his goal streak and cut down the lead to one. After three straight opportunities, the Bulldogs converted three times to make it an 8-7 game with seven minutes to play.
Scott continued to create chances on offense as the Bulldogs won their fourth consecutive face-off. This time, he ran to the left side of the zone, before quickly passing behind him to Reeves. Not known for his distance shooting, Reeves fired a missile from 15 yards out, and the ball flew into the top right corner. His third goal of the game completed the five-goal comeback with just over five minutes left to play.
After Joseph Sessa earned the Bulldogs an EMO, the Elis set up their extra-man offense with a chance to take their first lead of the game. A string of quick passes with clinical execution led Tigh to find a streaking Shane Carr, as the EMO specialist made a run towards net. The senior collected the ball without losing his stride, and placed a shot to the lower right corner to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game with three minutes remaining. On the next Harvard possession, a Crimson attackman was left with a seemingly open look in front of the net to tie the game. Defenseman Christopher Keating slid over to cause a turnover just before the shot was to be released, causing a turnover and preserving the lead for Yale.
Crance then made the late save that ended in a clear as time expired. The freshman goalie ended the game with 10 saves on 18 shots. Scott let the Bulldogs in points with five (2 G, 3 A), four of which came in the fourth quarter comeback. Reeves and Keasey both continued their goal streaks, and Keating led the Elis on defense (2 GB, 2 CT).
With the No. 2 seed locked, the Bulldogs will travel to Providence next weekend for their seventh consecutive Ivy League Tournament. The team will take on the Penn Quakers in the afternoon game on Friday, a team the Elis beat 11-10 in overtime earlier this season. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3 and the Ivy League Digital Network.