Eastern Tops FDU for Freedom Title, Advances to MAC Final

ST. DAVIDS, Pa.- Eastern was unable to score in the opening 10 minutes of the Freedom championship game against visiting FDU-Florham. Once the scoring started, however, the Eagles jumped to a 6-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 15-6 victory. The win gives the Eagles a chance to play for a MAC championship and an NCAA Tournament bid this Saturday.

Early turnovers and patient FDU attack put the Eagles on the defensive for much of the first period. Eastern goalie Aaron Benz made three early saves to keep the visiting Devils off the board and the Eagles were able to break into the scoring column first with 5:11 on the clock when Matt Soldano caught a Chris Farrar pass 12 yards out, made a quick hitch move and tucked home his first of four goals on the day.

After AJ Ryan won the ensuing face-off, the Eagles struck again on an Andy Jameson strike from the edge of the crease. Jameson, who had been out several weeks with injury, returned to the line-up for a pair of highlight reel goals.

In what would become a pattern for the day, the Eastern attack found an extra gear in the final seconds of the period. After an FDU turnover with 30 seconds to play, the Eagles earned the offensive zone and Andrew Travers found Matt Wagner on the doorstep for a goal with 4.8 seconds on the clock. Wagner finished with three goals and an assist on the afternoon. The Eagles narrowly missed a fourth first-period goal as AJ Ryan found Chris Farrar on the left side in shooting range. Farrar beat the clock and the goalie with his shot, but it sailed just high.

Despite being out-shot 7-5 for the period, the Eagles led 3-0 after 15 minutes. Ryan added his own goal only 20 seconds into the second period. Ryan, won many of his 18 successful face-offs to himself, but it was Travis Park who chinned a tough ground ball on the face-off against hard pressure from a pair of FDU poles. Park flipped a pass over the defenders to the open Ryan who attacked the cage and unfurled a venomous effort that beat the FDU goalie high.

Soldano scored his second of the day on a dodge down the left alley and Farrar scored from Zac Ivy to make it 6-0 Eastern.

In the regular season meeting between the two schools, the Eagles had jumped to a big lead and then held off a late FDU charge for an 8-7 win. It appeared that the Devils were working to repeat that effort when their star Paul Colflesh finished a pair of goals from Adam Koontz to pull the game to 6-2 with four and a half minutes to play in the half.

The Eagles grabbed the momentum back with two tallies in the final thirty seconds to take an 8-2 lead to the locker room. The first tally came only seconds after an FDU penalty expired. Farrar found Wagner cutting in space for the goal on the doorstep. Ivy delivered the coup-de-grāce with six seconds left on a clever pass from Wagner.

The Eagles' late charge pushed the edge to 8-2, and the FDU side, wearied from an overtime win only two nights before, was unable to mount a come-back.

Brian Goodwine scored an even-strength goal seconds after an Eastern penalty expired four minutes into the third period, but Eric Waibel, in a similar situation, scored on a good bounce shot from 15 yards out following a Farrar pass that looked like it was intended for a cutting Wagner. As they had done in the opening two periods, the Eagles again scored in the waning seconds, this time, it was Jameson. He caught a pass in transition from Kevin Anderson and uncorked a blistering strike that kissed the crossbar and the right upright on its way to the twine.

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