No. 5 Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Upends No. 11 Rutgers 14-5, Secures Share Of Big Ten Regular Season Championship
No. 5 Penn State men’s lacrosse (9-3, 4-1 Big Ten) knocked off No. 11 Rutgers (8-5, 1-4 Big Ten) 14-5 in its regular-season finale Friday evening at Panzer Stadium.
The Nittany Lions went up early off the sticks of Kevin Winkoff, Mac Costin, and Jack Traynor. Once in the driver’s seat, Penn State never let up, taking a 7-3 lead into the half. Jeff Tambroni gave his seniors and youngsters game time as the clock wore down, making for an exciting and emotional fourth quarter before being awarded a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
How It Happened
Rutgers won the opening face-off and shot in a hurry, hitting the pipe and giving the ball to the Nittany Lions. After a botched clear, the Scarlet Knights returned to the offensive zone, but Penn State’s Kevin Parnham executed a slick check to take care of their attacker.
The Nittany Lions took advantage of their first offensive possession, settling the clear quickly and sending the rock to senior TJ Malone. He zipped a quick feed to Kevin Winkoff who defied gravity on a crease-diving score to put Penn State in the driver’s seat early. The Nittany Lions doubled down on the following possession with Mac Costin winning a physical scrum and hitting a powerful shot from up close to extend the lead to two.
The Nittany Lions continued to hammer the gas pedal with defensive midfielder Mark Sickler getting in on the fun to score the 3-0 goal. A minute later, the blue and wite exploited Rutgers’ defense again, faking a close cutter to set up Jack Traynor for a step-down rocket from afar to push their lead to four with 7:18 to go in the first quarter.
Rutgers finally seemed to get comfortable in their offensive zone, scheming Ross Scott open for a crease crank on Jack Fracyon. The shot-stopper read Scott like a book and kept the clean sheet, spurring his team on for the clear. Rutgers was drawn offsides and played with seven defenders while the flag was down, but the extra man wasn’t enough. Jake Morin netted the 5-0 goal with 5:46 in the first quarter.
After back-and-forth action, Rutgers mustered up an answer with 28 seconds to go in the quarter on the stick of Eric Civetti. They took the following draw too, but a slick guillotine check from Jack Posey kept the score 5-1 as the quarter expired.
Penn State’s Chase Mullins gained control of the face-off after the break, but a failed clear handed the Scarlet Knights possession. Jack Aimone dipped two Nittany Lions from behind the goal to sneak Rutgers’ second goal of the game past Fracyon. Alex Ross was caught pushing, putting the Nittany Lions down for 30 seconds. Though Penn State killed the penalty, David Sprock scored before he made it back to the defense and set the score 5-3 with 12:08 in the half.
The Nittany Lion offense was back in business after a quick defensive stand, with Malone setting the home sqaud up at the point. He took his defender east to west and found Luke Mercer on the pick-and-roll for a bounce-shot goal, pushing the score to 6-3.
The Scarlet Knights’ discipline started to slip as they conceded two fouls midway through the second quarter, one for going offsides and another for unsportsmanlike conduct. Ethan Long found himself wide open with the advantage and buried the rock for the Nittany Lions’ seventh goal with 5:38 in the half.
Rutgers continued to have trouble substituting from the midline and earned itself another offsides penalty. This time, it was able to fend off Penn State’s Big Ten leading power-play. A wild final minute saw opportunities to score at both ends, but the score held 7-3 in favor of Penn State at halftime.
The teams returned to the field and Mullins scooped another draw for Penn State. Costin channeled his inner brick wall to set a physical pick for Malone, giving the attacker space to score the 8-3 goal. Rutgers answered quickly though as Shane Knobloch took his defender for a run, using his speed to free his hands and returning the Scarlet Knights’ deficit back to four goals.
The Rutgers defensive trio combined for three caused turnovers and clears in the following three Penn State possessions but weren’t rewarded as offensive misfires continued to plague the Scarlet Knights. Kyle Mullin stood on his head in goal through the rest of the third quarter, stumping the Nittany Lions for 11 minutes of game-time for the longest goal drought in the game.
His efforts weren’t enough, though, to keep Long off the board for his second goal of the night with 55 seconds in the quarter. Penn State held onto its 9-4 lead as the third quarter expired.
Winkoff returned to the goal column early in the fourth corner as he led a three-on-two rush, faking the shot and slipping his defender before finishing up close to extend the Nittany Lion lead to six. Penn State took the ball back to the point and let its attack swarm the top half of the zone. Freshman Mac Hobbs headed the offense during the next possession, circling the field before cutting down the alley for his first collegiate goal and setting the score at 11-4 for the Nittany Lions.
Rutgers won possession following a midfield turnover, clearing the ball with defender Jack Stahanczyk. Penn State was late to slide and Stahanczyk netted the pole goal to pull the game back to six goals. The Nittany Lions responded by taking their time in the offensive zone, chewing the play clock down for a little under 60 seconds.
The rock cycled the perimeter before finding Mercer for a crow-hop snipe to make the score 12-5. Next, the Nittany Lions flexed their chemistry and split the defense near the cage. The move freed up Jeb Brenfleck for the easy goal in close quarters.
The Nittany Lions celebrated their Senior Game by giving graduating goalie Aleric Fyock the final minutes of the game. Winkoff put the exclamation mark on the season, scoring his hat-trick goal before time expired. As the buzzer sounded, Penn State took home a 14-5 victory.
- Sophomore goaltender Jack Fracyon continued to play well beyond his years, posting a herculean save percentage of 77.3%. He picked up some help from last year’s starter Aleric Fyock with the senior grabbing one more save before graduation.
- The Nittany Lions seemed especially vulnerable to stick checks and jumped passes this game, giving the ball to their opponents a whopping 20 times. Ball security will be a top priority of Jeff Tambroni’s squad going into the postseason.
The Nittany Lions will start their postseason with the Big Ten Tournament after a first-round bye with their win tonight.
Penn State will appear in the semifinal on May 4 at Homewood Field in Baltimore. Matchups and game times will be announced as the tournament progresses.
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