May 12, 2011

Hartford's Compitello: 'Anything Can Happen'

by Chris R. Vaccaro |

Ryan Compitello called his last-second goal to clinch the America East championship "a lucky bounce." Hartford could use a few more of those Saturday at Cornell, the Hawks' first-ever NCAA tournament game.

You know a team's season is going good when the coaching staff has to make a new to-do list at the end of the regular season and conference tournament.

"We handed out new goal sheets to all our guys," said Hartford coach Peter Lawrence, whose team stunned No. 12 Stony Brook with a last second goal by Ryan Compitello in the America East Conference championship game on Long Island. "Everything we had on our list as a team, and most of the guys as individuals, we accomplished. It's a great feeling."

The final task was winning a conference title. Even if it wasn't a goal, the Hawks have won 11 games this year, their most since 2000 and more wins than their last four seasons combined (eight). They're also ranked in a national poll for the first time in 11 years, 19th by the USILA.

Now, of course, added to the list is winning an NCAA tournament game, albeit in the first tourney appearance in school history. And knocking off third-seeded Cornell (13-2) at Schoellkopt Field in Ithaca is some task.

For starters, Lawrence said he doesn't want Hartford's preparation to be completely about Cornell. Instead, "we want it to be about Hartford and how we can get better as a team this coming Saturday." It's the same approach he's used all year, so why change?

Compitello, whose goal sent his brother Tom and Stony Brook packing, didn't skip a beat when asked how Hartford has turned the program around.

"Senior leadership," he said, just as Lawrence as eluded to all season. "They all have stepped up and done huge things in big games."

As for his historic goal, Compitello was modest.

"I think it's a lucky bounce," he said. "We're happy we can extend our season. All the guys have been ear-to-ear smiles."

Expect faceoff specialist Tim Fallon, who has been ranked nationally all season with a percentage above .625, to perform at a high level as usual. Compitello and Carter Bender, both juniors, have notched a combined 100 points, which have largely accounted for Hartford's 10.4 goals per game in 2011.

Even with all the Cornell luster – the 10-game winning streak, an appearance in three of the last four final fours, the country's

Listen to Hartford head coach Peter Lawrence talk about "Tough Guy Tuesdays" on the LM podcast.

best player in Rob Pannell – Lawrence, who makes it a point to visit the NCAA championship weekend every year with his family, said Hartford must limit its mistakes to have success.

"You make mistakes, they make you pay for it," he said. "We'll stay true to what's got us here. That's playing tough."

Said Compitello: "We're focused. We have to play our game. Anything can happen, and we're excited to play a team of that caliber."

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