Army vs. Rutgers
March 20, 2004
The Game Story:
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Goalie Matt Darak's save in the final seconds, his 20th stop of the day, preserved 15th-ranked Army's 12-11 upset win over #4 Rutgers Saturday at West Point's Shea Stadium, giving the Black Knights their first victory over a team ranked in the Top 5 since 1987.

Army (4-1), which has now captured four straight games after opening the year with a tough 19-15 loss to Syracuse, upped its existing winning streak versus Rutgers (4-1) to six games Saturday while handing the Scarlet Knights (4-1) their first loss of the 2004 campaign. In each of the past two years, the Scarlet Knights have lost to Army while occupying a spot in the Top 10 of the USILA Coaches' Poll.

The Black Knights also snapped a 13-game losing streak against teams ranked in the Top 10. Army's most recent victory over a team listed among the nation's Top 5 was an 11-10 double overtime verdict over Massachusetts on April 25, 1987.

Darak was the star of the game for Army Saturday, and he saved his best effort for the outing's final minutes. After Army sophomore long-stick middie Torry Sokul scored his first career goal to put the Black Knights ahead 12-10 with 3:03 left to play, Rutgers turned up the pressure on Darak.

From Sokul's tally until the final gun, the visitors maintained possession nearly throughout. In that span, Rutgers unleashed nine shots. Darak made five stops while allowing only Leif Blomquist's unassisted tally with 22.7 seconds left. Three of Darak's saves came on shots taken inside of 15 yards, including a nearly point-blank effort by Blomquist with 2:40 to play.

Following Blomquist's tally, Rutgers' Sean Battoni won the ensuing faceoff, with Daniel Rauch scooping up the ground ball. After calling timeout, the Scarlet Knights set up a play for leading scorer Delby Powless. Working in traffic just off to Darak's left in the final five seconds, Powless tried to redirect a pass from behind the cage but his shot was tipped by defenseman Matt Luyster, allowing Darak to go down low and halt the attempt just prior to the final gun.

"I felt comfortable today," Darak said. "I have a great deal of faith in my defense and (Matt) Luyster tipped that shot at the end, which helped tremendously. This is a great win for our program. This will hopefully move us up in the rankings, where we feel we belong."

"Matty is an unsung player on this team. He always seems to play his best in big games," Army head coach Jack Emmer said. "We have focused on being a good one-goal type of team all year. Now we are 2-0 in one-goal games, so I think it is paying off."

While Army's defense was standing tall in front of Darak for much of the day, the Black Knights' balanced offense was able to solve a Rutgers defense that entered the game allowing just 5.0 goals per game, tops in the nation. RU goalie Greg Havalchak,, who boasted a .723 save percentage, struggled while making just 12 saves on Saturday.

Seven different players scored goals for the Black Knights, with Jim Wagner notching three tallies-all in the first half--and one assist to lead the way. Jake Couch, Justin Bokmeyer and Marko Kostovic added a pair of tallies each as Army capitalized on Rutgers paying extra attention to standout John Walker, who finished with one goal and one assist.

Rutgers appeared to seize momentum of the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Black Knights 4-1 to secure an 8-7 lead late in the stanza. It would be Rutgers' only lead of the day as Army answered with four straight tallies, capped by successive goals from senior Kostovic and freshman Bokmeyer within a span of 45 seconds midway through the fourth quarter.

Bokmeyer's goal came with 7:28 to go and boosted Army's lead to 11-8. Powless converted a Blomquist feed 12 seconds later to keep the visitors close. Tim White brought Rutgers to within one goal, 11-10, with his unassisted tally with 3:20 left, setting the stage for Sokul's score 17 seconds later.

Perhaps the most important goal of the day for Army came off the stick of John Walker with 12:59 to play. Trailing 8-7 with Matt Ellement serving a pushing penalty, Army forced a Rutgers turnover and registered the man-down fast-break goal after junior middie Geoff Costa found Walker along the left side of the cage.

The Black Knights jumped on top early, grabbing a 2-0 lead in the game's first 78 seconds, thanks to Wagner and Couch, but Rutgers rallied to even the contest at 3-3 after one period. After Wagner and Battoni exchanged goals to make it 4-4, Army received scores from Wagner and Kostovic, at 4:12 and 45.6 seconds, respectively, to carry a 6-4 cushion into the locker room.

Powless' four goals topped the Scarlet Knights. He was the only Rutgers player with multiple goals. Blomquist added two assists to his one goal.

Army now has one week to prepare for arch-rival Navy, which visits West Point's Michie Stadium next Saturday for a noon game. The contest will be televised live by College Sports Television. The game will pit the Patriot League's two best teams. Navy, in its first year in the league, owns a six-game win streak over the Black Knights.

Navy was 5-1 prior to battling Colgate in Florida on Saturday afternoon.