May 22, 2011

Salisbury Uses Stick Penalty to Sink Roanoke

by Shawn Nisson | | Live Blog Replay | Blog/Chat Center

"Here in our locker room, it's been about redemption, all year redemption," Salisbury's Matt Cannone (three goals, three assists) said after beating Roanoke to advance to the national championship game. "Trying to get to the show and beat Tufts again. Honestly, I'm glad they're there too. We get to get after them one more time."

© Justin Odenhal

SALISBURY, Md. -- Already trailing by two goals with 2:38 to play in the first quarter against No. 1-ranked Salisbury University, the No. 7-ranked Roanoke College men's lacrosse team gained possession, entered the offensive zone and called a timeout.

While seemingly inconsequential, Roanoke (17-4) head coach Bill Pilat would later come to regret calling for the game to be paused, as during the break referees examined the short stick of defender Troy Grogan before ruling it to be illegal. The three-minute, unreleaseable foul would turn the game for good in Salisbury's favor, as the Sea Gulls struck twice on the man up opportunity before scoring once more just a second after the penalty expired.

Salisbury seized an 11-2 lead going into halftime and went on to coast to a 16-7 victory.

"It was big. I mean, a three-minute penalty against a team like Salisbury, you're in trouble there," Pilat said. "It was our defenseman who uses a short stick. He's not even an offensive player. I guess the ball got caught up in his stick. I didn't check his stick before the game. He hardly ever handles the ball, so I didn't think to do that. The ref just happened to grab his stick. You really can't be man down for three minutes against a team like that, with the kind of firepower they have."

Unfortunately for the Maroons, they made a habit of spending time in the penalty box, and the Gulls would take advantage of it all day. Salisbury went 4-for-4 on man-up opportunities in the first half and finished with a 5-for-7 mark.

"Our man-up did a really nice job of moving the ball," said Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman. "Our man-up has really come together as a unit. They take what the defense gives them and they did a great job of that today. We didn't settle for that long shot today. We got at the goalie early and got to his confidence. All of our first five, six shots were within eight yards."

After a scoreless 10-minute stretch to start the game, Salisbury (20-1) broke it wide open over the final five minutes of the first quarter. Matt Cannone scored his first of three goals on the day off a nice feed from Ryan Clarke that left the attackman alone on top of the crease to give Salisbury a 1-0 advantage with 4:57 to play in the first. Just 10 seconds later, the Gulls would double their lead, as Corey Nowak swooped in to scoop a lose ball on the ensuing faceoff before charging into the Maroons' zone and scoring on goalkeeper Charles Pease.

Shortly after that, the stick penalty was called on Grogan, and the Maroons could never recover. Kyle Quist, Tony Mendes and Erik Krum would all tally to give the Gulls a 5-0 lead. Salisbury expanded its lead to 8-0 before Jeff Keating tallied to get the Maroons on the board with 10:14 left to play in the second quarter.

The Maroons had their best stretch of play in the third quarter, as they rattled off four straight goals to close within 13-6, but that was as close as they would come. Roanoke's biggest problem besides its persistent march to the penalty box was at the faceoff dot, as Salisbury's Tyler Granelli dominated by winning 16 of his 23 draws.

"We had the ball the whole game," Berkman said. "Granelli dominated. It was like we were playing pick-up basketball make it, take it. It's a whole lot easier to win when you are playing make it, take it."

The Sea Gulls will play defending champion Tufts in the Division III national championship game next Sunday at 7 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. It will be a rematch of last year's championship game, and it's something the team has been looking forward to all year long.

"We had one goal in mind -- to get to the national championship and win the national championship," said Cannone, who contributed three goals and three assists on Sunday. "Here in our locker room, it's been about redemption, all year redemption. Trying to get to the show and beat Tufts again. Honestly, I'm glad they're there too. We get to get after them one more time."

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