In what was probably the most exciting game I've ever had the "pleasure" of listening to on the internet, the Michigan men's lacrosse team put forth perhaps their best effort in just over three seasons as a Division I program and took the #15 Cornell Big Red to the brink.
With 6:41 to go in the first quarter the Wolverines actually held the lead against Cornell, with scores coming by way of Kyle Jackson, Doug Bryant, and Mike Hernandez. Cornell's Dan Lintner scored his 12th goal of the season and tied the game at 3 with 3:44 to go in the first period, followed by Matt Donovan's score 43 seconds later to put the Big Red up 4-3.
Michigan's Peter Kraus wasn't about to let the game get out of hand and evened the score at 4. From this point on, Michigan would not regain the lead, nor would they be down by any more than three goals; they were playing the game of their lives and trying to get that signature win that can change the fortunes of young programs.
Man-up opportunities is where Michigan lived to keep the game as close as it was. The team was 4-8 on the extra-man chances, and 2-2 in the 4th quarter. After Cornell's Linter put what was seemingly the winning score on the board with 2:36 to go, his teammate Tom Freshour committed a slashing penalty with only 55 seconds left. The penalty gave Michigan the extra-man opportunity, with Ian King ripping one past Cornell goalkeeper Brennan Donville with 25 seconds to go in regulation.
Brad Lott won the opening face-off in the extra session, but a subsequent Michigan turnover gave the ball back to Cornell who was able to hold onto the ball until Matt Donovan scored the game winner for the Big Red.
The stats were pretty even for most of the game, but with Michigan having the advantage in clears (21-22 to 19-22) and going 18 of 33 at the X, Michigan put themselves in prime position for a major upset. Even in the loss, the performances by everyone on this team showed craziness beyond what anyone could have expected against a ranked opponent. In addition to Lott's faceoff performance, netminder Robbie Zonino turned in a 4th quarter tour de force with seven saves to Cornell's two and was, in my opinion, the literal game changer on the day. There were serious questions about the goaltender position when Gerald Logan went down for the season, but Zonino came out and answered against some of the toughest competition out there.
Of Michigan's six scorers on the day, only Mike Hernandez had fewer than two goals. Scoring was led by Kyle Jackson's 4 goals, followed by Peter Kraus's hat-trick. With freshman Ian King also adding two goals on the day, he shares the lead in goals (10) and points (11) with Jackson. Mike Francia and Thomas Paras are leading the team in assists with four each, while Brad Lott's .628 faceoff win % in the last three games is looking good.
Big step for our program today, but not quite big enough. We'll keep working. Will be good to get south for the week.— John Paul (@JohnPaulUM) March 1, 2014
Michigan (2-3) will head down to North Carolina to face off against High Point (3-2) at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night, followed by a 1:00 p.m. match-up against Furman in Greenville, South Carolina on Saturday. The Paladins are 0-5 in their inaugural season.