April 5, 2013

Riorden, Albany Take Down Johns Hopkins

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Blaze Riorden (above) had 20 saves, helping No. 20 Albany upend No. 10 Johns Hopkins on Homewood Field, 10-9, on Friday night.
© John Strohsacker

BALTIMORE — University of Albany head coach Scott Marr said before his team made its trip to Johns Hopkins that the Great Danes were becoming more than just a scoring machine. He said the Albany defense, which earlier this year had seemed like a mere afterthought in the scheme of things, was getting considerably better.

Then, the 20th-ranked Great Danes strolled into Homewood Field on Friday night and proved it. Behind a monster, 20-save showing by freshman goalie Blaze Riorden against the 10th-ranked Blue Jays, Albany left most of the 1,525 spectators in stunned silence with a 10-9 victory.

On a night when sophomore attackman Lyle Thompson, the nation's leading scorer, was held scoreless by the Blue Jays, the Great Danes found memorable ways to spring a huge upset that dealt a damaging blow to Hopkins.

Albany (7-3) pulled it off with some trademark, quick-strike offense, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Great Danes scored their last three goals in transition – none more important than long-stick midfielder Doug Eich's fast-break goal with 2:01 left that was the final tally of the evening.

Eich was the period at the end of a sentence that was written for much of the contest by the defense, especially Riorden, who killed the Blue Jays (6-4) from start to finish. He even overcame a shot by attackman Brandon Benn that struck Riorden in the lower abdomen and knocked him out of the contest briefly in the second quarter, when backup Max Huber came in and made a save. It was that kind of night for the Albany defense.

Fittingly, the game's deciding play began when Riorden easily stuffed Hopkins freshman midfielder Ryan Brown and got the offense rolling with a crisp, 25-yard outlet pass to Eich.

Eich then sprinted down the middle of the field, and when the Blue Jays decided not to slide to him – senior defenseman Tucker Durkin stuck with Lyle Thompson as he had throughout a brilliant performance – Eich buried an eight-yard runner to break the 9-9 tie.

"I was going to call a timeout, but Doug kind of got good separation [from the pursuing Blue Jays] five or six yards from the top of the [offensive] box," Albany coach Scott Marr said. "I decided I was going to see how this plays out. [Eich] made a good read."

After initially losing the ensuing faceoff, Hopkins regained possession following an Albany turnover, and Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala called two timeouts over the final 44 seconds. But the Blue Jays could only muster one shot, a 12-yarder by midfielder John Ranagan that went wide left.

The Great Danes finished a great defensive effort by forcing Wells Stanwick – who led Hopkins with four goals and an assist – to dump the ball to Brown in the closing seconds. Brown lost control of the ball, as time ran out on Hopkins, and Albany began a raucous celebration.

It marked the second time Albany had beaten Hopkins in 12 meetings. It also marked another high point in a season that began with a huge victory at the Carrier Dome against No. 8 Syracuse.

"Defensively, we played as good a ballgame as we could play. This team has been about resiliency. We talk a lot about chemistry, and this team just has that," Marr said. "I don't know if you can name another team that has won against Syracuse and Hopkins on the road. Lyle did not have his best game. We took everything [Hopkins] gave us. I'm just proud of these guys."

"The 20 saves look good. But our defense gave up shots we wanted to give up," Riorden said. "Somebody was going to step up. We don't rely on one person or one unit. We try to stick together as a team."

The Great Danes, who came into the game averaging an NCAA-leading 15.1 goals per game, produced their lowest scoring output in a victory in 2013, and have now won three straight games, each by holding their opponents to single-digit scoring. Albany is also 6-1 on the road.

Albany survived by getting just enough juice at the offensive end, even with Lyle Thompson getting blanked while taking only three shots and committing five turnovers. Miles Thompson (three goals, two assists) and Ty Thompson (two) came up big. So did midfielder Derrick Eccles, who rebounded his own miss following a great save by Hopkins goalie Pierce Bassett and burned the Blue Jays with a shovel shot in close that gave the Great Danes a 7-6 lead with 12:52 left.

The Blue Jays would rally with a 3-2, fourth-quarter spurt and tied the score at 9-9 on a 12-yarder by Benn with 5:05 left.

But in the end, the Blue Jays, despite a 15-save gem from Bassett and a 14-for-23 night from faceoff man Mike Poppleton and an offense that generated 44 shots, came up short against another ranked team.

"For most of the night on number 2 [Miles Thompson] and 4 [Lyle Thompson], I thought we did a really good job," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "But we didn't make the plays we needed to win the game. When we make mistakes, we get punished for them. When our opponent makes them, we don't capitalize on them."

Next up for the Blue Jays is a renewal of their storied rivalry with Maryland, which should retain its No. 1 ranking after beating Navy Friday night. It's a game that Hopkins must win in College Park on Saturday, or else the Blue Jays could begin to slip out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

"We're obviously not in a position we'd hoped to be in earlier in the season," Durkin said. "Our minds are on Maryland right now."

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