LEWISTON – It is the time of year that Peter Lasagna expects every game to be a one-goal affair.
With his Bates College men’s lacrosse team facing the heart of its regular-season schedule, the Bobcats enter each game knowing full well that nothing is going to come easy.
“Now, these are the best teams in the league,” said Lasagna. “Tufts, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Wesleyan, it’s almost always going to be a one-goal game. This stretch decides the NESCAC championship.”
Bates had the nail-biter it envisioned Saturday, but it was Tufts that had the goal that mattered. Clem McNally scored his fifth goal of the game 1:20 into the second sudden-death overtime to lift the Jumbos to an 8-7 win.
“As I said to the team, I don’t like the result, but I like the way we played,” said Lasagna, whose team has now lost two in a row after starting the year 9-0. “That’s the best we’ve played in quite some time.”
Bates (5-2 in the NESCAC) rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the first quarter and built a 6-3 lead in the second quarter. Tufts (9-4, 4-3 in the conference) held Bates to one goal the rest of the way and blanked the Bobcats on key offensive possessions late in regulation and in overtime.
“I wish I knew what that was,” said Tufts coach Mike Daly. “I’d bottle it up and be a better coach. We simply made more plays in the second half than we did defensively in the first half.”
After Bates had lost possession when a player went out of bounds, McNally finished it off, whirling around to fire a shot past Bates goalie Paul Kazarian. McNally also had the tying goal, converting a pass from Brett Holm with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
Bates had plenty of chances to break the tie late in regulation. Wes Couture put a shot wide and Craig Blake had a bid stopped by Matt Harrigan in the Tufts’ net. In the first four-minute overtime, Brenton Pitt had a bid denied and a Matt Erisman try in the closing seconds was stopped.
“I thought we tried to shoot the ball through the goalie’s chest about four times,” said Lasagna. “You get one more in this kind of game and maybe we don’t go into overtime.”
After falling behind 3-1 in the first quarter, Bates rallied and took the lead early in the second. Erisman tied the game on a break with 2:26 left in the first quarter. Then Justin Simon tipped in a rebound in the final seconds for a 4-3 lead.
Erisman converted a steal to start the second quarter and Brent Morin scored from the top of the circle to make it 6-3 with 10:25 left in the half.
“It would have been nice to maintain that a little bit,” said Lasagna. “It was pretty much what we expected it was going to be – two teams that really needed to win this game. They got one more than we did.”
Tufts got goals from Holm and McNally in the final 5:50 of the half to get within 6-5. Though Bates got a goal from Couture 2:03 into the third quarter, Tufts scored on a Mike O’Brien goal with 5:37 left in the quarter and got McNally’s equalizer just over a minute later.
“We just tried to stick to our plan,” said Daly. “Our kids are gritty and tough. They did a great job just playing and not reacting too much to that run they made.”