May 15, 2009

Waverunners: St. Thomas Swamps Davenport

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Once St. Thomas switched Derek Michalski (11) onto Davenport's Shawn Beer (16), the Panthers' offense never operated like it did at the beginning of the game, allowing the Tommies to pour it on.
© Cecil Copeland

DENVER -- Joe Costello believes it was just a matter of St. Thomas catching the right breaker.

"This team has just been riding one epic wave that has been gathering and swelling, and we're just riding it right now," said Costello. "It's that sunset rip we've been all talking about. It's about a lot of hard work, and if anything comes our way, we're just going to wipe it out."

Caught in the Tommies riptide on Friday was Davenport University.

Leading by three goals early in the game and trailing by just a goal at halftime, the third-seeded Panthers were swept away by an 8-0 third-quarter run by No. 2 St. Thomas. The Tommies' defense posted a shutout for the entire second half on its way to a 18-7 win in the first MCLA Division II semifinal at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Holding an 8-7 lead at the start of the second half, St. Thomas roared out of the locker room, scoring four goals -- including two by Cooper Mazon -- in the first 6:39 of the third quarter to balloon the lead to 12-7 and force Davenport to burn an early timeout.

The barrage continued, with Tony Sadder and Nic Michealson completing their hat tricks with a pair of goals each to push the lead to 16-7 heading into a final period that felt like a formality.

"I thought we were in pretty good shape heading into halftime, but we really came out flat in the second half," said Davenport head coach Bob Clarkson. "I thought we had a chance to beat them, but look at the score."

The credit on the offensive end goes to the improved play of Andrew Larson in the final 30 minutes. Abused early at the faceoff X by DU's Jeremy Simms, who pocketed 13 of 17 first-half draws, Larson altered his approach.

"We got dominated in faceoffs in the first half, so I just changed my angle on the other guy and we ended up winning quite a few," said Larson, who also chipped in with three assists. "With me winning faceoffs and the offense scoring goals, it just led to a lot of momentum."

Defensively, UST head coach Pete Moosbrugger tweaked his matchups after about 10 minutes, switching his best pole, Derek Michalski -- a transfer from Providence -- onto Davenport's Shawn Beer, who either scored or set up the first three goals of the game that gave the Panthers an early lead.

With Michalski in his back pocket, Beer managed just one more goal the rest of the way.

"We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, but once we got back to our game plan with the offense controlling the ball, we didn't see it much in our end in the second half," said Michalski.

Surprisingly, the Tommies weren't fazed by the early deficit.

"That's kind of our thing," said Michalski. "In big games, we always seem to fall behind early, but we have the confidence we can bounce back."

Asked why his team has started slow in critical games, Moosbrugger replied, "I wish I knew. It seems like we just have to be woken up. This team likes to be challenged, and it seems like they always rise to the challenge."

Beer provided the challenge at the start of the contest, scoring a pair of goals within 10 seconds of each other to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead less than a minute into the game. Beer gave St. Thomas a chance to answer by picking up a pair of technical fouls, but Davenport killed the penalty and Beer fed Jordan Richtsmeier on the doorstep for a 3-0 bulge.

After several empty possessions, Ryan Pietsch finally cranked one past Justin Scott with 6:42 left in the first quarter to get the Tommies on the board. Over two minutes later, Costello raced in off a substitution and flipped an underhand shot into the bottom right corner to narrow the game to 3-2. Dylan Gilbert took a nifty lead from Jeff Samuels to increase Davenport's lead to 4-2.

The two teams traded goals, giving the Panthers a 5-3 lead early in the second, but the Tommies offense finally showed some composure and tied the game.

Costello trimmed the lead to 5-4 with a dodge and finish. Off a save, St. Thomas goalie James Hoffman bolted toward the Davenport side of the field and didn't stop until he stepped into the box, where he hit Costello. Costello connected with a cutting Michealson, who easily beat Scott, tying the game at 5 apiece with 8:04 left in the second.

Still tied at 6-6 late in the second quarter, UST showed what was to come later. Dustin Clark drove in from the midfield to give the Tommies their first lead of the game, and then 38 seconds later, Michaelson potted his second off a perfect strike from Larson for an 8-6 lead.

Sloppiness that had hamstrung St. Thomas in the first quarter resurfaced in a failed clearing attempt that allowed Gilbert to walk in all alone on an empty cage to trim the lead to 8-7 with 2.8 seconds left in the half.

But it wouldn't matter once the UST tsunami came at the start of the second half.

"If we keep our heads on straight, no one can touch us," said Larson.

With St. Thomas advancing to Saturday championship game, the possibility of playing archrival St. John's for all the marbles is very real. That would be a double-edged sword for Moosbrugger.

"It would be great for Minnesota lacrosse, but I wouldn't get any sleep tonight," said the St. Thomas coach.

Relax coach. You just need to ride the wave.

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