No. 9 Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Tops Michigan 17-13
No. 9 Penn State (12-2, 3-2 Big Ten) traveled to Ann Arbor to take on a ferocious Michigan team that was looking to spoil the Nittany Lions’ NCAA Tournament chances.
Thanks to early and constant offense, Penn State was able to quell the Wolverines (8-6, 0-5 Big Ten) and leave with a 17-13 victory.
How It Happened
Penn State’s Matt Florence got things started for the Nittany Lions just four minutes into the game, as he rifled a shot past the Michigan goalie after receiving a nice pass from Nick Aponte. Shortly after, Aponte gave the Nittany Lions an early 2-0 lead. With 7:35 remaining in the opening quarter, Michigan countered with a goal of its own to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Aponte once again gave the Nittany Lions a two goal cushion as he dove across the face of goal and slotted one home to make it 3-1 with four and a half minutes left in the first quarter. The Nittany Lions were flagged for illegal contact late in the quarter, but they were able to fend of Michigan’s man advantage. Seconds after the penalty expired, Michigan tallied a goal to make it 3-2. With 1:11 left, Penn State regained a comfortable two-goal lead after Dan Craig beat Michigan’s goalie with a bounce shot. At the end of the first quarter, Penn State held a 4-2 lead.
Michigan won the opening face-off of the second quarter and the Wolverines were able to capitalize and cut the deficit to 4-3. Penn State and Michigan traded penalties over the next five minutes, but neither team was able to make the other team pay. Right on cue, Aponte completed his hat trick and once again gave Penn State a two goal lead after a nice individual effort.
The Wolverines controlled the second half of the quarter and were able to even the score at 5-5 after tallying two goals at 7:08 and 4:45 respectively. Michigan continued to break down the Nittany Lion defense and took its first lead of the game with 3:25 left before the half. The Nittany Lions halted Michigan’s momentum after Craig netted his second of the afternoon to tie the game at 6-6 with 2:11 remaining in the first half. The game remained tied at 6-6 heading into halftime.
Penn State took an early 7-6 lead to open the second half as Mike Sutton ripped a shot into the back of the net. Thirty seconds later, freshman phenom Mac O’Keefe joined in on the action and sniped one top corner to make it 8-6. With 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Michigan countered with a goal of its own to make it a one-score game.
O’Keefe notched his second goal of the game to make it 9-7, but Michigan would score two consecutive times to tie the game at 9-9. Aponte cashed in his fourth goal of the evening with 5:21 left in the quarter to make it 10-9. He then found Kevin Hill cutting toward the net, who was able to bury one to make it 11-9. O’Keefe gave Penn State a three goal margin after he netted his third goal of the game with just a minute left in the third quarter. In the waning seconds of the third quarter, Michigan cut the deficit to 12-10 to keep the game manageable.
In the final quarter of the regular season, the Nittany Lions took control of the pace and never gave Michigan a chance to mount a comeback. O’Keefe added another goal to make it 13-10 Penn State after he sent a heat-seeking missile into the back of the net from about a quarter mile away. Michigan countered with a goal of its own to make it a two-goal game, but Ryan Keenan answered right back to push the lead to 14-11.
Aponte netted his fifth goal of the game to make it 15-11 with 10 minutes left in the match. Craig added another goal midway through the quarter to give the Nittany Lions a five-goal advantage. Penn State added a late goal courtesy of Dylan Foulds to to boast the lead to 17-11. With just under two minutes remaining, Michigan added two goals to end the scoring at 17-13.
- Nick Aponte was the hands down MVP of this game. His 22 points in Big Ten play are the most ever by a Penn State player.
- With this win, the Nittany Lions have all but secured a spot in the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament. Hockey and lacrosse couldn’t be having more of the same season. It’s unreal.
- Mac O’Keefe finished the day with four goals and now holds the freshman single-season scoring record with 46.
- Two consecutive wins gives Penn State the momentum it needed heading into postseason play.
Penn State will enter the Big Ten conference tournament and face the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins this Thursday at a time to be determined.
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