Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Fighting Start: Stags take down Friars in Lax Opener

When a team starts a season, anything seems possible.

The Fairfield Men’s lacrosse team proved that adage in its bizarre 6-5 victory over the Providence Friars, a game that began as a blow-out, gradually developed into a nail-biter, and ended in a near fist-fight between the two teams.

Midfielders Dan Boudreau and Greg Downing led the way for the offense. Boudreau had three goals and Downing scored early in the contest to give the Stags exactly what they wanted: a fast start.

As the game wore on, it was the other end of the field that took over.
Stifling goaltending from Mike Kruger kept the Stags in the game during the Friars seemingly improbably run. Kruger finished the game with 10 saves, some of them coming from point blank range and on man-down defense.

“He played phenomenal,” said Spencer.

It was truly a tale of two halves for Fairfield, who dominated the first half and controlled ball possession.

The Stags offense clicked early and often at the outset. Pre-season All-American Greg Downing scored on extra-man offense just 1:33 into the game.

After some strong defensive stands, Dan Boudreau scored his first of three goals at 9:35 in the 1st quarter.

Brian Stanton hit the back of the net mere seconds later on a missed defensive slide from the Friars, and Travis Nelson finished off a textbook fast break sparked by a stick check from Matt Scanlon picked up by Downing, who took it to the other end of the field.

Fairfield continued its overwhelming momentum into the second quarter, following a 4-0 first in which they limited the Friars to just two shots.

Dan Boudreau scored his second goal on a pretty lefty underhand shot in front of a screen. Seconds after the goal, Providence coach Chris Burdick pulled All-MAAC preseason pick Peter Littell from the net.

The early success was more than just offense – the team played well in all facets of the game.

The defense limited Providence to a mere six shots in the entire first half.
In addition, the Stags attackmen did a fantastic job riding the defense on clears, as Providence turned the ball over on six straight attempts at one point in the second quarter.

A turning point for Providence came late in the 2nd quarter with the Stags up 5-1. The Friars finally got the ball on offense and decided to play keep away – finally maintaining a possession. Fairfield didn’t get the ball for over two and a half minutes, a period during which Providence did not even run away.

In retrospect, Head Coach Ted Spencer felt it made a difference in the game.

“Personally, I feel it was a very good coaching move by them. They knew they couldn’t run with us and they started stalling,” said Spencer. “I think they wanted to keep us on defense and keep us tired and force us into penalty situations.”

Penalties and turnovers played a key role in the Friars' comeback, as the Stags committed 10 penalties over the course of the game. They turned the ball over 18 times, 11 of those in the second half during the Friars’ comeback attempt.

For Providence, senior midfielder Devin McBride scored three times on five shots on goal and willed the Friars back into the game, lessening it to a two score contest at 5-3.

Fairfield, though, refused to relent. Boudeau added his third goal to complete the hat trick and put the Stags up with a commanding 6-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Providence wouldn’t give up immediately, as Bobby Labadini scored 26 seconds later to pull the Friars back in the game.

The Fairfield defense was a huge factor in stopping the potential Friars' rally, but the story of the game was the outstanding job from senior Mike Kruger, who had key saves in man-down defense.

“A lot of [our penalty killing] was Mike Kruger’s phenomenal play in goal,” said Spencer.

As if the game could get any crazier, a late hit at the buzzer following a Providence turnover eventually led to an altercation between the two teams in front of the benches. Referees and coaches desperately attempted to separate the two sides.

Spencer claims such an act was a rarity.

“We have zero tolerance for that. It’s the first time in my 12 years something like that has happened,” he said.

“It was a passionate game,” said Spencer.

- Keith Connors


a fan said...

Hey Keith, old boy, what game were you watching? Fairfield controlled the first quarter, period. The Stags were lucky to come out of this with a win. Fairfield should not be proud, or take any consolation from this victory.

Anonymous said...

I thought the write up of the game was accurate and balanced. Rest assured, the STAGS were not pleased with their performance as a team but a win is a win! The key is learning from it for the next game. Dartmouth will be tough at home especially coming off two losses against Duke and UNC.