The Fairfield University men’s lacrosse team took sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings with an 8-6 win over visiting Massachusetts on Senior Day at Rafferty Stadium on Saturday. Junior Tyler Behring led the Stags to victory with 19 saves in the cage.
Fairfield (7-6, 3-0 CAA) has won five of its last six games and caps the home slate with wins its last three games on Conway Field. The Stags officially clinched a berth in the upcoming CAA postseason with Hofstra’s win at Drexel on Saturday afternoon.
Behring’s 19 saves mark the most for the junior netminder since turning away a career-high 23 offerings from Bucknell on Feb. 20. He also vacated the cage to collect four ground balls.
On the offensive end, Jake Knostman scored three goals to register his third career hat trick. His three tallies came in succession in the first half as the Stags put together a 6-0 stretch to claim the lead that carried them to victory.
Charlie Schnider added a goal and dished out three assists. The senior is the CAA leader with 27 assists this spring, moving into a tie for seventh place on Fairfield’s single-season list. Matt Callaghan ’98 and J.T. Groarke ’99 – both Fairfield Athletics Hall of Famers – share the top of that ledger with 33 assists apiece.
Charlie Horning chipped with a goal and an assist for Fairfield, with Nico Panepinto, TJ Neubauer and Colin Burke each scoring one goal to round out the attack. Horning also scooped up five ground balls, most of which extended Fairfield’s possession in the offensive end.
In the midfield, the faceoffs were split down the middle at 9-of-18. Will Fox accounted for five of the Stags’ wins and Joe DeLasho came away with four draws.
The starting defensive unit in front of Behring this afternoon was Andrew Eidenshink, Logan Williamson and Matt Borda. The Stags have allowed just 7.0 goals per game in their three CAA contests this season.
UMass (4-7, 0-3 CAA) was led by two goals and two assists from Buddy Carr, and Gianni Bianchin doled out three assists. In the cage, Sean Sconone made 10 saves. D.J. Smith took over in the final three minutes of action, mostly spent out of the crease as the Minutemen looked to force a turnover.
The Stags will play their final two CAA games on the road, beginning with a trip to No. 7 Towson next Saturday, April 23. The nationally-ranked Tigers are 10-2 overall and 2-1 in the CAA following a 10-7 home loss to Delaware (5-8, 2-1 CAA) on Saturday. Fairfield will visit the Blue Hens to cap the regular season on Friday, April 29.
The visitors scored the game’s first goal just 30 seconds into the action, but that marker was the only shot to elude Behring for the first 38:04 of action. The junior netminder saved the next 14 shots on goal that he faced, facilitating a 6-0 Fairfield run.
Horning scored to start the stretch, followed by three in row from Knostman. The last of the junior co-captain’s hat trick came with just 6.4 seconds to go in the half, sending the Stags into the intermission with a 4-1 advantage.
Out of the break, Burke and Schnider each buried unassisted goals to extend the margin to 6-1. After Carr scored again for UMass, Neubauer answered to extend the advantage to 7-2. The Minutemen scored twice in the final minutes of the third frame, cutting the Stags’ lead to 7-4 with 15 minutes to play.
After five scoreless minutes in the final frame, Dan Muller rattled the cage for UMass to cut the advantage further. However, the Stags needed just 67 seconds to answer as Panepinto fired home his fourth goal of the spring.
A goal for UMass with just 1:58 to play rounded out the scoring as the Stags ran down the clock on an 8-6 victory.
Fairfield was outshot, 40-31, by UMass but held the edge in ground balls, 24-23.
Prior to the game, the Stags recognized their six-member senior class: Conor Dalton, Joe Guidarelli, Robert Popdan and captains Neubauer, Schnider and Conor Barr. Including today’s win, the class of 2016 has been a part of 36 Fairfield victories.