Butler vs. Denver
April 21, 2002
The Game Story:
INDIANPOLIS, IN - The University of Denver men's lacrosse team battled back from a one-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation and celebrated senior Chad Wittman's (Colorado Springs, Colo.) heroics in overtime to defeat Butler, 9-8 in a Great Western Lacrosse League game at the muddy Butler Bowl on Sunday afternoon (Apr. 21). With their first league win of the season and third straight over the Bulldogs the Pioneers snap a three-game road-losing skid and improve to 6-6 overall, 1-3 in the GWLL. Butler's two-game winning streak is halted as the Bulldogs fall to 5-6 in the season, 1-3 in league play. Trailing by one goal late in the game, Denver's defensive unit stepped up the pressure and forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over near midfield. Wittman seized the opportunity as the final seconds ticked away and beat his defender one-on-one before firing the ball into the far corner of the net to tie the contest, 1-1 with 22 ticks remaining in regulation. Butler won the ensuing face-off and stormed down the field for the apparent game-winner, but junior netminder Jeff Nunziato (Latham, N.Y.) came up with a remarkable save on a point blank shot by Rich Pavlick with three seconds left to force the extra period. Each team traded possessions in the overtime period before junior midfielder Mike Kenlay (Wilmette, Ill.) found Wittman wide open on the left side of crease, who one-time the feed into the upper corner of the net to record his second game-winner of the season and give the Pioneers the much-deserved victory. "This was a great win for us today," said senior captain Wittman. "We definitely needed this game today to help bring the team chemistry together as a stepping stone for the younger players looking forward to next season. We had run the winning play three times earlier in the game but were unsuccessful in the execution. We regrouped and were able to exploit the defensive set they had on the field and it paid off for us. What can I say, this was a true team effort from start to finish."

Denver opened the scoring in the first quarter with an unassisted goal by sophomore Jeff Biggs (St. Louis, Mo.), his 19th of the season to give the Pioneers an early 1-0 lead. Butler answered just over a minute later with the first of five Adam Cichospteksi-Ryan Ward combo goals to tie the game 1-1. Each team traded two goals apiece over the remainder of the period and entered the first break with score even, 3-3.

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game early in the second quarter on a goal by Pavlick, but a costly turnover in the offensive zone on an extra-man opportunity resulted in a breakaway for the Pioneers. Junior midfielder John Sanders (St. Louis, Mo.) executed a text-book odd-man rush and fed Biggs for the short-handed marker that knotted the game, 4-4. Butler took advantage of two Denver penalties late in the half and took a 6-5 lead into the halftime recess.

Sophomore defender Cory Vann (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) scored the game's lone third period goal when he accepted a clearing pass at midfield and dodged three Bulldog defenders on his way towards the goal. Butler goalkeeper Brendan Winkler was caught off guard and fell victim to the nifty stick work of the long-pole sniper and failed to stop the shot, which tied the game, 6-6 heading into the final quarter.

Butler took its fifth lead of the game with the third extra-man goal of the game with just under five minutes left to play, but was unable to stave off the relentless Pioneer attack down the stretch and yielded the equalizer in the final minute.

For the game Denver out-shot Butler 36-34 and out-hustled the Bulldogs for groundballs 41-27. The Pioneers recorded one extra-man goal on three attempts and added a man-down tally, but allowed three extra-man goals to the opponent on six tries. Nunziato was credited with 14 stops on the afternoon, including the crucial game-saving play at the end of regulation.