Red Storm Comeback Falls Short at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 2, 2014) In a seesaw battle under the lights of Rutgers' High Points Solutions Stadium on Wednesday evening, the St. John's lacrosse team dug itself out of an early 5-1 hole to take a one-goal lead entering the final quarter of play.

In the end the Red Storm couldn't quite hold on, however, suffering its first conference defeat of the season, 16-13, in Piscataway, N.J. to snap a four-game win streak. St. John's is now 6-4 overall and 2-1 in Big East following its first loss in three weeks, while the Scarlet Knights improve to 7-4 and 2-2 in conference.

Senior attackman Kieran McArdle tallied a team-high six points to lead the Red Storm offensively and was one of four players to record a hat trick along with classmates Colin Keegan and Kevin Cernuto. In the midfield, junior Stefan Diachenko added three goals of his own while senior Ryan Fitzgerald finished with two assists and one score.

The Red Storm went 11 for 12 in the clearing game and converted 3 of 5 of its extra-man opportunities but saw Wednesday's hosts record 54 shots and win 19 of 33 faceoffs on its way to snapping a four-game losing streak in the series between the two programs.

Defensively, freshman goalie Joseph Danaher finished with 14 saves to record double-digit stops for the seventh time this season while junior defenseman Mark DiFrangia collected a team-high three groundballs and caused one turnover.

"I give [Rutgers Head] Coach Brian Brecht and Rutgers a ton of credit," said St. John's head coach Jason Miller. "They were the hungrier team tonight. They played harder and faster than we did. They seemed to get to the loose balls a step ahead of us all night."

After Keegan had opened the scoring from a Fitzgerald feed with St. John's on the man-up, Rutgers overcame three first-quarter failed clears to tick off five-straight goals and grab a 5-1 lead after 15 minutes played.

With plenty of time remaining to mount its comeback, the Red Storm wouldn't take long to find its feet in the second stanza and in the span of 11 seconds got itself right back into contention. Keegan scored his and St. John's second inside of a minute played in the second quarter to cut Rutgers' lead to 5-2 and, barely 10 seconds later, the Red Storm found the back of the net again with McArdle collecting his first goal of the night from an assist by long-stick midfielder Chris Fisher Jr. to make it 5-3.

The Scarlet Knights responded with two of the next three goals to reestablish a three-goal advantage at 7-4, but St. John's clawed back once again to trail by a single goal at halftime. McArdle found Diachenko on the doorstep to make it 7-5 before the former scored with just 23 seconds remaining in the first half to put the visitors well within striking distance with two quarters to play.

Rutgers would get the better start in the second half, scoring three of the first four goals after halftime to take a 10-7 lead. One more time, the Red Storm would come roaring back, however, ending the third quarter on a 5-1 run to snatch its first lead since the opening minutes. Junior Mario Carrera won 7 of 11 faceoffs in the third stanza to spark St. John's resurgence and finished the game with a team-high four groundballs.

Getting the comeback underway was Fitzgerald, who ran practically the width of the field to evade his mark before scoring on a running effort. Cernuto then took matters into his own hands, scoring back-to-back unassisted goals to pull St. John's even at 10-all with 4:33 remaining in the quarter. The Scarlet Knights scored next to quell the visitors' momentum momentarily, before McArdle fed Diacheko a second time to even things at 11-all. The Red Storm's comeback was complete 23 seconds later, as Keegan found the back of the net with a hard and low shot from a good 15 yards out to put St. John's up 12-11 heading into the final 15 minutes of play

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