No. 15 Nazareth Edges Ithaca to Win Empire 8 Championship

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Top-seeded Nazareth outscored third-seeded Ithaca 4-0 in the fourth quarter Saturday to rally past the Bombers for a 12-10 victory in the championship game of the Empire 8 tournament. The Golden Flyers captured their eighth E8 title with their eighth straight victory to gain an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Tournament pairings will be announced Sunday, but the Golden Flyers gained entry into the 29-team field for the 20th time in their history. Nazareth is 14-4 overall, while Ithaca dropped to 12-6.

Nazareth freshman Luke Wooters scored a career-best seven goals and added an assist to earn tournament MVP honors. He now has 59 goals on the season, breaking Nazareth's single-season mark of 57 set by Neal Powless in 1995.

Wooters was joined on the all-tournament team by junior midfielder Chris Aycock, who contributed two goals; freshman attackman Troy Haefele, who had a goal and an assist; and junior defenseman Mark Pinski. Ithaca was represented by sophomore attackman James Manilla, junior midfielder Ryan Burns and freshman goalie Scott Sidnam.

Trailing 10-8 through 45 minutes of play, Nazareth closed within one with 9:08 left as Matt McDermott scored for just the second time this season. Three minutes later, Troy Haefele converted a man-up opportunity for his team-leading 13th extra-man goal of the season to tie the score at 10-10.

Just 14 seconds after that, Wooters netted the game-winner, an unassisted tally for his 59th goal. Aycock added an insurance goal with 3:20 left, then Nazareth was able to hold the Bombers without a shot the rest of the way with the assistance of two Ithaca penalties.

Ithaca took an early lead on goals by Pat Slawta and Manilla, but sophomore Drew Simoneau scored just seven seconds after Manilla to put Nazareth on the board. Wooters' first goal of the day came with just :01 left in the first period and tied the score at 2-2. Wooters added two more goals to start the second quarter to push Nazareth in front 4-2.

A four-goal flurry by the Bombers enabled Ithaca to regain the lead at 6-4 before Aycock netted an unassisted score with just :04 left before halftime to make the score 6-5 at the break.

The teams exchanged scores in the third quarter before goals by Manilla and Connor Lowe enabled the Bombers to regain their two-goal cushion to start the fourth quarter.

Nazareth had advantages in shots (39-31) and ground balls (42-26) and Nazareth won 13 of 25 face-offs, including 13 of 23 for Simoneau, who had 11 more ground balls to run his season total to 208. Junior defenseman Jerry Chasteen had five ground balls and three caused turnovers. Each goalie had eight saves -- Sidnam for Ithaca and Scott Brown for Nazareth.

* * * *

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Ithaca fell in a 12-10 game at Nazareth on Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the Empire 8 tournament. The Golden Flyers, ranked 15th, outscored the Bombers 4-0 in the fourth quarter to reverse a two-goal deficit and capture their eighth Empire 8 championship. Ithaca is 12-6 on the year, while Nazareth improved to 14-4.

Five different players had multi-point afternoons for the Bombers. James Manilla (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) and Pat Slawta (Bethesda, Md./Walt Whitman) each had four points for Ithaca, on two goals and two assists. Andrew Bruce (Lafayette, Calif./De La Salle) had a goal and two assists and Connor Lowe (Fairport, N.Y./Fairport) had two goals and one assist in a balanced scoring effort. Ryan Burns (Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch) had a goal and assist.

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