SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Quinnipiac University men's lacrosse team's season came to a close on Thursday afternoon, as the Bobcats were narrowly defeated by Robert Morris, 14-12, in the Northeast Conference Tournament Semifinals at Bulldog Stadium in Smithfield, R.I. With the win, the Colonials advance to the NEC Championship to face top-seeded Bryant on Saturday.
Trailing by three, 13-10, late in the contest, Quinnipiac mounted a furious comeback to make things exciting in the waning minutes. Brendan Wilbur (Hingham, Mass.) scored twice just 23 seconds apart to cut the deficit to one with 4:25 remaining. RMU netted its 14th goal of the game two minutes later; but the Bobcats brought the crowd back to its feet with a pair of late goals. Jake Emms (Victoria, B.C.) score first, followed by the game-tying tally from Michael Sagl (West Islip, N.Y.) – leaving a 14-14 deadlock with 1:32 showing on the clock.
Quinnipiac won the ensuing faceoff but RMU regained possession and took advantage of its final offensive set. RMU's Connor Martin ripped a shot on frame where junior goalie Gill Conners (Ballston Spa, N.Y.) made an acrobatic 16th save of the afternoon. Unfortunately, Dave Morton was standing in the right place at the right time and buried the game-winner with 46 seconds remaining. Quinnipiac pushed forward in the final seconds but couldn't find the equalizer, falling short to the Colonials for the third straight time.
Sagl was once again the driving force of Quinnipiac's offense as the sophomore attackman collected seven points at the strength of four goals and three assists. Dylan Webster (Brampton, Ontario), Pat Corcoran (Stratford, Conn.), Emms and Wilbur each had two goals, while Matt Diehl (Towson, Md.) and Jay Binkowski (Bethany, Conn.) each scored once.
Possession was fairly even throughout the game, but penalties began to catch up with the Bobcats. RMU was 5-for-6 on the man-up, while taking 49 shots on the afternoon. The Colonials captured a plus-seven advantage in turnovers. Quinnipiac controlled the faceoff X, 22-10.
It was all Quinnipiac early on. Corcoran scored twice and two others (Sagl and Webster) each scored once to give the Bobcats a 4-0 lead deep into the first quarter. Robert Morris finally got on the board with five seconds left in the opening stanza, leaving a 4-1 Quinnipiac lead after the first 15 minutes.
The Bobcats carried their momentum into the second frame where they scored three straight goals to open a 7-1 lead. Webster tallied his second goal of the game and Sagl completed his hat trick with back-to-back markers within 40 seconds of each other. RMU netted three unanswered to close out the first half scoring summary, sending the Bobcats into the locker room with a 7-4 advantage.
After the intermission, scoring continued to come in bunches. Robert Morris found the back of the cage four straight times to take its first lead of the game, 8-7. Resilient and composed, Quinnipiac regained the lead with consecutive tallies off the sticks of Emms and Diehl. RMU capitalized on a man-up opportunity to tie the score for a third time, but the Bobcats managed to get one before quarter's end. On a tremendous individual effort, Binkowski scored his fifth goal of the season and granted Quinnipiac a 10-9 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of action.
Robert Morris was led by freshman Eric Rankel, who set a new NEC record with six goals in the game. The previous record was owned by Jack Oppenheimer when he scored five goals against Robert Morris in the 2011 NEC Semifinals. Morton also had six points with three goals and three assists. Charles Ruppert made 12 saves in net.
Bryant defeated Sacred Heart, 11-9, in the first semifinal and will meet the Colonials on Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Tournament.