NEC Playoff Spot on the Line as Pioneers Clash With RMU in Annual "Patriot Game"
FAIRFIELD, Conn. - The Pioneers and Colonials meet in the annual "Patriot Game" at Robert Morris at 1:00 pm, this time with a Northeast Conference playoff spot on the line. RMU can clinch a berth in the first-ever NEC men's lacrosse tournament, while SHU can clinch with a win and a Bryant win. Should Sacred Heart win and Bryant lose, the two teams would enter a three-way tie that includes Robert Morris. The most likely tiebreaker scenario would come down to goals against in conference play.
About the Pioneers... Sacred Heart dropped its third straight conference game and fifth-of-six overall with an 18-9 defeat at Quinnipiac, last Saturday. Sophomore attack Bryan Badolato and freshman attack Mike Mawdsley are tied for the team lead in points with 33. Badolato has scored 20 goals and dished out a team-high 13 assists, while Mawdsley leads the team with 25 goals, six on the man-up, to go with eight helpers. Freshman attack Cody Marquis ranks third in points with 16, including s second-best 12 assists. Sophomore midfielder Stephen Kontos has won 132 draws on the face-off X and scooped up a team-leading 58 groundballs. Freshman long-stick Tim Caton is second with 42 grounders picked up and leads the team with 13 caused turnovers. Senior goaltender Zach Frank has started all 12 games between the pipes and owns a .554 save percentage on 148 saves along with a 10.40 goals against average.
Scouting the Colonials... Robert Morris knocked off #17 Bucknell back on March 22, but followed that win up with back-to-back losses at the Mount and Quinnipiac to open NEC play. Since then, the Colonials have won three straight, including league games over Wagner and Bryant to enter Saturday's contest at 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Junior mid Kyle Buchanan is the reigning NEC Player of the week after tallying three goals, including the game-winner, and three helpers in a 16-15 win over the Bulldogs. He ranks third on the team with 32 points on 17 goals and 15 assists. Senior attack Trevor Moore leads the RMU offense that averages 13 goals per game with 44 goals scored and 54 total points. He leads the country in goals scored and goals per game, while ranking fifth in points per game. Classmate Patrick Smith is second on the team with 36 points, including 26 goals. In the cage, sophomore goalie Charles Ruppert has started each game and holds a .515 save percentage and 10.37 GAA.
Last Time Out... Quinnipiac held a 16-2 lead late in the third quarter before Sacred Heart showed a pulse. Freshman Bailey Dodds scored the first of seven straight for the Pioneers with 2:11 left in the third. SHU opened the fourth with each of the first six scores, including two man-up goals by Mawdsley. Junior Matt King tallied a score with 2:34 to go to trim the lead to 16-9, but the Pioneers would get no closer. The Bobcats added two more scores en route to an 18-9 NEC decision in Hamden, Conn.
Last Time They Met... Robert Morris escaped Campus Field with a controversial 12-10 win, last April. With Sacred Heart leading 9-8 with less than five minutes to play, the referees appeared to award the Pioneers a timeout. As both benches entered the field of play, the officials signaled the ball was in play and allowed the game to continue. RMU attack Corbyn Tao-Brambleby scooped up the ball and went in for an uncontested score to tie the game. The Colonials went on to outscore the Pioneers 3-1, the rest of the way. Earlier in the fourth, SHU tied the game on a goal by netminder Tom Trgo who fired a clearing pass down the middle of the field that bounded into an empty net.
All-Time vs. RMU... The Pioneers won each of their first four contests against the Colonials to grab a 4-2 lead in the all-time series. They have faced off for each of the last six seasons. In the last two seasons, Robert Morris is 2-0, while outscoring Sacred Heart 25-22. SHU last won, 15-11, in 2008 behind four goals from Bobby Rushton and a hat trick by Dan Casciano.
NEC Leaderboard... The Pioneers rank third in both scoring offense and scoring defense in the league at 10.09 and 10.33 goals per game. Face-off specialist Stephen Kontos is third with a .543 win percentage. In the cage, Zach Frank owns the top save percentage at .544.
C-Note... Sacred Heart head coach Tom Mariano registered his 100th career victory with an 18-4 win over Wagner at Campus Field on Saturday April 2, 2011. Mariano has now won 86 games at the helm of the Pioneers, while collecting 14 wins in two seasons at Marist.
On This Date... The Pioneers are undefeated, 3-0, when playing on April 30 and 2-0 in the Division I era. Sacred Heart has posted wins over Hartford, 13-12 in 2005, and Wagner, 11-5 in 2002.
Up Next... Should the Pioneers qualify for the NEC postseason, they would play in the conference semi-finals at Mount St. Mary's, against the host Mountaineers, on Friday May 6. The championship game will be held on Sunday May 8. The winner of the Northeast Conference Championship will not advance to the NCAA Tournament, unless it receives an at-large bid. The NEC will not receive an automatic qualifier until the 2012 season.