FAIRFIELD, Conn. - In his final game on Alumni Field, redshirt senior Tom Werney (Somers, N.Y.) scored a hat trick to lead the No. 17 Fairfield University men's lacrosse team to a 9-8 victory over No. 12 Denver on Saturday evening in front of a crowd of 1,298 to give the Stags a share of the Great Western Lacrosse League Championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. It is Fairfield's second Co-Championship during their five years in the league having also won a share of the title in 2002. With the win, the Stags end the regular-season with a record of 11-4 and a 4-1 mark in the league while the Pioneers fall to 9-5 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
Fairfield found themselves with an early man-up opportunity just eight seconds into the first period as a Denver midfielder was called for slashing. The Stags wasted little time, scoring 12 seconds into the man-up situation as freshman Travis Nelson (Oswego, N.Y.) converted off a pass from freshman Matt Castele (Medina, Ohio). Fairfield ran the score to 2-0 just over two minutes later as junior Kyle Herman (Northport, N.Y.) cut to the left side of the goal and received a pass from junior Josh Thornton (St. Charles, Mo.) and one-timed it into the goal.
Denver, the eighth-ranked scoring offense in the nation, was held scoreless in the first period by the Stags' defense as sophomore Michael Kruger (Ellicott City, Md.) made three of his 13 saves to preserve the Fairfield lead.
The Pioneers opened the scoring in the second period as Scott Davidson scored the first of his team-high three goals at the 12:53 mark but Werney responded with his first goal of the day as he beat his defender, drove to the goal and beat Denver's goalie Jeb Hollingsworth with a shot over his left shoulder. The Pioneers tallied the final score of the half with 1:47 remaining to cut the Stags lead to 3-2 at the intermission.
Sophomore Michael Bocklet (Katonah, N.Y.) opened the third period with a goal off a pass from junior Chris Manley (Keuka Park, N.Y.) to build the Fairfield lead to 4-2 but three unanswered goals by Denver gave the Pioneers their first lead of the day, 5-4.
With 2:34 remaining in the period, Hollingsworth committed a slashing penalty and had to serve a one-minute penalty, forcing Brian Sanders to go into net for the Pioneers. Werney, who tried to test the new goalie early, had his shot blocked by a Denver defender but managed to collect the rebound and send a quick pass to Nelson. A one-touch pass to Bocklet, who was positioned just outside the crease, resulted in an easy goal to knot the game at five apiece.
The action came fast and furious to begin the fourth period with three goals scored in the course of a minute and a half, beginning with a man-up goal for the Stags off the stick of Werney with 13:54 to play. Davidson answered the call once again for the Pioneers, tying the game at six apiece just 52 seconds later but Werney tallied his final goal of the game in a man-up situation off a pass from Bocklet with 12:29 remaining. Denver's Greer Hanlon tied the game for the fourth and final time at seven apiece just over one minute later but back-to-back goals by Herman and sophomore Greg Downing (Auburn, N.Y.) sealed the win for the Stags. Matt Brown, the Pioneers' leading scorer with 34 goals on the season, was held scoreless by a smothering Fairfield defense until he notched Denver's final goal of the game with 3:58 remaining.
In addition to Werney's three goals Fairfield was led by Bocklet and Herman who each tallied two goals and one assist on the day. Defensively, the Stags were led by Kruger's outstanding performance in goal as well as defender Matt Bocklet (Katonah, N.Y.) who picked up a career-high 11 groundballs on the day.
Denver outshot the Stags 37-28 but Fairfield held the edge in groundballs, 44-35, and face offs, as sophomore Charles Keinath (Melville, N.Y.) won 10 of 19 attempts.
Fairfield will find out who their opponent will be in the first round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow evening, Sunday, May 8 as the 16-team bracket will be revealed beginning at 9:30 p.m., on ESPNews. In addition, the complete men's bracket will be posted on www.NCAAsports.com after the selection show.
Fairfield vs. Denver