Eagles Grab Early Lead, Top Utica in Home Opener

ST. DAVIDS, Pa.- After starting the year with four straight road tilts, Eastern opened the home portion of its schedule with a non-league game against a high-scoring Utica squad. The Eagles grabbed a 3-0 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back en route to a 12-6 victory.

Eastern (3-2) entered the day's competition knowing that the pressure would be on its defense to slow a Utica attack that had scored 18 times in each of its first two games.Eastern goalie Pat Groschen picked up the win with 12 solid stops, but it was the work of his poles in front that kept the Pioneer offense off balance all day. Ben Swan, Jon Pacitto, and Jordan Norris combined for 12 ground balls and six caused turnovers in the Eastern end.

Ron Johnson opened up the scoring with a transition shot off the inside of the pipe only three minutes into the game. Less than two minutes later, Matt Soldano dodged down the right alley and dropped home his second goal of the year from close range. Soldano and Johnson each finished with a pair of goals on the afternoon. Grant Ferguson made the Eastern lead three when he took a pass from Andy Jameson from behind the goal and, after moving the goalie's stick witha quick series of fakes, popped in his sixth tally of the year from on the crease.

Utica grabbed a goal back with three and a half minutes to play in the period on Ben Winkler's 11th tally of the season. The crease attackman led the Pioneers with three tallies. Winkler picked up his second after an Eastern turnover to start the second period. The ten minutes that followed saw both teams commit careless turnovers and had periods of undisciplined play that frustrated both coaching staffs.

The Eagles broke the game out of its miasma with three sparkling goals to finish the period. Will Johnson set up Kyle Lansey with a nice skip pass through the Utica zone at the five minute mark. Andrew Travers took advantage of a man-up opportunity with less than two minutes to play, and Ron Johnson scored his second of the day with six seconds on the clock with a nifty behind the head shot after a strong dodge down the alley.

Eastern face-off specialist AJ Ryan won 7 of 10 face-offs in the first half, and he was 13 of 20 for the day as the Eagles had a decided advantage at the dot for the afternoon.

The Eagles took advantage of a Utica turnover deep in the Pioneer end to push the Eastern lead to 7-2 only seconds into the second half. Chris Farrar checked the ball free and came up with a loose ball behind the cage. The junior attackman found Ferguson at the goal line extended, and Ferguson flipped a perfect pass to Lansey on the doorstep. Lansey ripped the nets for the second time on the day.

The Pioneers claimed a goal back on a man-up opportunity, but Eric Waibel and Soldano each scored to close out the period. Ferguson gave the Eagles a seven goal edge less than a minute into the fourth on a pass from Kyle Gillam.

The Pioneers answered that goal with two quick tallies to bring the game to 10-5 with over 13 minutes left on the clock. After a big save from Groschan, the Eagles were able to control tempo and the clock. Will Johnson set up the final two Eastern tallies of the day with precise passes to Andy Jameson and Zac Ivy. Winkler closed out the scoring with 11 seconds left for the final margin.

The Eastern staff was very pleased with the play of the young group of defenders and was positive about the way the offense responded to tactics designed to shut off Will Johnson and Chris Farrar. Johnson entered the afternoon with 10 goals in four games. He did not score, but picked up three assists. Farrar was held to only a single assist, but the rest of the Eastern attackmen were able to take advantage of match-ups to give the Eagles the win.

Groshan picked up his third win on the year. Utica goalie Joe Davis made 14 saves in the loss.

Eastern is off for the next week before taking on local rival Rosemont College next Wednesday.


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