#7 Tufts Wins NESCAC in OT vs. #9 Middlebury

MEDFORD - In a thrilling, back-and-forth NESCAC final, Tufts won its second straight conference title when junior Sean Kirwan (Boonton Township, NJ) scored with 1:55 remaining in overtime to give the Jumbos a 13-12 victory over Middlebury on Sunday afternoon at Bello Field.

With Tufts trailing 12-11 in the final moments of regulation, senior co-captain Matt Witko (Chappaqua, NY) scored with nine seconds on the clock to send the game to overtime. Both teams had possessions in the overtime period before Jumbo senior co-captain Alec Bialosky (Moreland Hills, OH) fought for a ground ball and put Tufts on offense. That led to Jumbo senior Ryan Molloy's (Setauket, NY) pass to Kirwan in front of the cage, and Tufts' single-season record holder for goals scored to give the Jumbos the title.

Middlebury had trailed 10-6 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied to take leads of 11-10 and 12-11. They scored five straight goals to begin the period, tying the score at 10-10 on senior Alex Giammarco's (Medfield, MA) goal with 3:49 on the clock, and then taking their first lead at 11-10 when senior Andrew Conner (Alexandria, VA) scored at the 2:42 mark.

Jumbo junior Kevin McCormick (Laytonsville, MD) retaliated with his fourth of the game at 2:17 to knot it at 11-11. Middlebury senior co-captain David Hild (West Hartford, CT) then scored his fourth goal of the game to give the Panthers a 12-11 lead with 1:01 remaining in regulation. That led to the dramatic conclusion.

The teams had gone back-and-forth for the entire first half. Tufts got out 2-0, with Molloy scoring and assisting. Middlebury netted the next two, including Hild's first of the game and 40th of the year for a 2-2 score at 3:07 of the first. The teams then traded the next six goals, with Middlebury's John McGoldrick (Norwalk, CT) tying the score at 5-5 with 5:45 remaining until halftime.

The Jumbos were able to build some separation over the next 14 minutes of play. Beginning late in the second quarter and running until late in the third, they out-scored Middlebury 5-1 to take a 10-6 advantage on Molloy's goal at 4:08 of the third. Molloy and McCormick both scored twice during the Tufts stretch.

However, Conner started Middlebury's five-goal run at 11:31 of the fourth, and the seven-time NESCAC champions scored six goals overall in the period to extend the game.

Molloy, who had scored with 0.4 seconds remaining in Tufts' 11-10 semifinal win over Bowdoin on Saturday, was the game-high scorer with three goals and three assists. Kirwan netted four goals, giving him 57 on the season to break the Jumbo record of 53 held by current assistant coach Clem McNally from 2009. Jumbo freshman goalie Patton Watkins (Chattanooga, TN) made 22 saves, giving him a NESCAC tournament record 54 saves overall.

The biggest ground ball of the season by Bialosky was one of six that he scooped up, the same total as sophomore Sam Diss (Ridgewood, NJ).

Hild led Middlebury with five points, while McGoldrick, Conner and sophomore Mike Giordano (Ridgewood, NJ) all finished with three. Sophomore Brian Foster (Medfield, MA) won 15 out of 22 face-offs for the Panthers, while junior Matt Rayner (Andover, MA) was one of three Middlebury players with four ground balls. Senior goalie Ryan Deane (Grosse Pointe, MI) stopped 12 shots.

Middlebury finished with advantages of 58-48 in shots, 37-31 in ground balls and 17-10 in face-off victories.

Seventh-ranked Tufts (15-2), seeded first in NESCAC's, earns the league's automatic NCAA berth and will begin defense of their 2010 national title next week. Third-seed and #9 Middlebury (12-4) is expected to gain an at-large berth into the NCAAs.

2011-05-08



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