Cardinals Edge Camels in NESCAC Quarterfinals

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (April 26) - Meeting for the second time in four days, Wesleyan and Conn. College were matched up as NESCAC tournament quarterfinal combatants here today with #2-seeded Wesleyan coming away with a tight 10-8 victory over #7-seeded Conn. Four days ago, Wesleyan rolled to a 16-7 win, but today was a very different story.

Junior Matt Prezioso paced the Cardinal attack with two goals and three assists as Wesleyan trailed early, 1-0 and 2-1, but took its first lead, 3-2, at 3:59 of the first quarter when senior Graham Macnab put home a long-range, low bounder from a slight angle on the left off a pass from senior Aidan Daniell.

Sophomore Lyle Mitchell made it 4-2 when he converted a pass from sophomore Jackson Arnold with another long bouncer to start the second period, that coming with an extra man at 13:51. Three of the first four Cardinal goals came during a Conn penalty.

But the Camels responded with two goals to finish out the second-period scoring, the first by senior JR Hartgers, who caught a smart pass from junior Derek Bertolini in stride for a marker at 3:37, and the second by Bertolini off a run from behind the net on the left for a high shot just inside the right post with :13 left, making it a 4-4 tie at intermission.

Wesleyan reassumed the lead with two goals to begin the second half with junior Quentin DellaFera completing a fast break as he was wide open in front of the Conn cage, receiving a pass from Prezioso at 12:58. Less than two minutes later, Prezioso turned a Macnab feed into his 33rd goal of the year for the 6-4 Wesleyan edge.

Again, Conn came back to tie the score, 6-6, with Bertolini assisting both senior Kevin Dachille and junior Briggs Barton, the latter for his 30th of the year on the man-advantage, at 5:54. Before the period ended, both DellaFera and Prezioso struck again for Wesleyan, giving the Cardinals the lead for good as Wesleyan took an 8-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Prezioso leads Wesleyan with 34 tallies this year while DellaFera has 30.

When sophomore Niall Devaney made good on a long-range shot from a Prezioso pass at 10:43 of the final period, Wesleyan had the game's largest lead at 9-6. Conn didn't quit and responded with two goals in a span of just 17 seconds midway through the frame, to make it 9-8 with 6:49 left. A goal from senior Tyler Hegarty, scored on a behind-the-back shot for his team-leading 36th of the year and second of the game, followed a high shot from senior Thomas Woessner.

A very scrambling final six minutes featured up-and-down action by both teams but two costly procedure penalties by the Camels in the final two minutes helped Wesleyan run off much of the closing minutes, while adding another Mitchell goal with :37 left, assisted by Prezioso, as Conn was chasing the ball and left the net open with the Cardinals up a man.

Wesleyan generated an overwhelming 44-23 edge in total shots but only put 19 shots on cage while Conn hit the mark 17 times. Wesleyan junior keeper Justin Schick finished with nine saves but also caused three turnovers by intercepting Conn centering passes. Camel starting keeper sophomore Bobby Bleistein also had none stops and played all by 43 seconds during the closing moments, allowing nine goals.

Wesleyan will be making its 11th appearance in the NESCAC semifinals, to be hosted by Tufts, the top seed and a convincing winner of Colby in its quarterfinal match-up. Wesleyan will take on #3-seeded Amherst in its semifinal as the Lord Jeffs downed Bowdoin, while Tufts goes against #4-seeded Williams, a winner over Middlebury in its first-round contest. The semifinals are Sat., May 3. The championship game is slated for Sun., May 4.


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