The momentary hope of fans to redeem at least half of the $12 price of admission was soundly licked when No. 8 ranked ECAC Champ UMass (11-3) blanked GWLL Champ Fairfield (7-5) with 15-unanswered in first round NCAA (North) action at Brown Stadium. It only seemed that the Hopkins scout had any interest in the shooting clinic. The Minutemen were all straight up business as they mowed over the Stags 17-4 easily eliminating any question that an earlier season 7-6 win against the Stony Brook put them in a similar class. The all-star hot dog hour started early and finished late. Big man Don Little (Bridgton Academy, NY) led the storm trooper assault with four goals and one assist, while Senior defender Matt McFarland (Garden City, NY) put in a stellar performance and notched one assist for UMass. Junior Justin Geluso (Harborfields HS, NY) led the Stags with two goals.
First round NCAA game play at Brown marked the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools. The Minutemen have won all three prior meetings: March 8, 1997 (UMass 22, Fairfield 3), March7, 1998 (UMass 13, Fairfield 4) and March 13, 1999 (UMass 15, Fairfield 6). Currently, UMass ranks second only to Syracuse for the most effective offense scoring an average 14.07 goals/game and is the only team to enter the tournament with three 30-goal scorers (Morley, Leveille, Paccione). Head-to-head UMass and Fairfield have played five common opponents in the 2002 season – UMass went 4-1 while Fairfield was 2-3. To recap the numerology (hang tight) UMass defeated Stony Brook, Brown, Harvard and Penn State while only losing to Hofstra. Fairfield beat Brown and Stony Brook, and lost to Penn Sate, Harvard and Hofstra. Hofstra rolled over UNC who rolled over the Stags 15-8 while UMass lost to Hofstra in a tough 11-12 OT loss. Again, while attaching no significant meaning to the correlational data, there was the possibility of a competitive game to say the least. According to the balance sheet, it’s not difficult to diagnose the key success factors. UMass simply took care of the ball end to end and had complete field coverage by fully exploiting their quickness in fast break opportunities. UMass had 48 shots on goal to Fairfield’s 24, while the Minutemen had 60 groundballs to Fairfield’s 34. Head-to-head UMass simply had the depth. After three or four players, Fairfield had little to lean on in clutch circumstances.
Fairfield gained possession of the faceoff at the start of the first quarter. The Stags ran a stack at the top of the crease with the ball up top. Stags’ Head Coach Ted Spencer called for a timeout a minute and a half into the period. Fairfield managed to get a shot from leading scorer Junior attacker Matt Buecker (Fayetteville-Manlius, NY), but the lefty crank went wide of the cage. UMass gained possesion and worked the ball in a 1-4-1 settled offense. Senior attacker Dan Paccione (Farmingdale, NY) drove around right side of the crease from behind splitting the crease defender leaving Senior middie Dusty Smith (Henderson, NY) exposed in the hole. Smith got off a candy shot in the hole and put UMass on the boards 1-0 at 6:42.
Sophomore middie Neil Lundberg (Birmingham Seaholm, MI) scored unassisted at the 12:02 mark. Lundberg backed into his defender and had a Jordan-esque spinning fade away jumper shot that landed lower left corner (2-0). Fairfield gained possession of the faceoff and Junior middie Ricky Voight (South Side HS, NY) found Junior middie Justin Geluso (Harborfields HS, NY) open four and half steps shy of the top off the crease. Geluso rolled his defender and shot over Minutemen freshman keeper Bill Schell (Mahopac, NY) for 1-2. Geluso leveled the playing field more than a minute later off a feed from Junior attacker John Kusak (Brighton HS, NY) for 2-2. Geluso got free off the stack and had an open tarmac shot that cleared Schell’s right hip. While Fairfield preferred the stack, UMass opted for the high picks. The teams traded possession as there were a lot of turnovers for both sides. UMass’ Paccione wrapped up the first period scoring off a feed from Freshman middie Craig Conn (Holy Cross, Ont.) for 3-2.
Sophomore Minuteman Jeff Zywicki (Sir Robert Borden, Ont.) started the shooting bonanza with an unassisted goal at 9:55 for 4-2. UMass called for a timeout. The Minutemen came out on fire and had perhaps one of the sweetest goals of the game. UMass looked fast in the transition game always having options with one man lower than the ball. The Minutemen were gunning down the field topside right when Junior middie Chris Fiore (Freeport, NY) received the pass from up top on the crease. By the time he caught the ball, he didn’t have the high percentage angle (although do-able) and dished of the pass to Junior middie Kevin Leveille who followed the cut in just as hard and then smacked the lower left corner with a shot for 5-2. Fairfield “D” couldn’t slow down the transition and was late on every slide creating a virtual 2v1 all the way down the field. Paccione again closed out the period with a shot off an assist from Dusty Smith who dished off a no look pass to Paccione who was on the goalie’s right side. Paccione released the ball quickly and tagged lower left corner (6-2).
UMass gained possession of the faceoff at the top of the third quarter. Fairfield later turned over the ball on a bumbled clear. Freshman attacker Gene Tundo (Orchard Park, NY) fed the ball behind and played monkey in the middle with Stags’ keeper C.J. Kemp as he crowned him with a pass to Little who was cutting in hard from the top. The defense was polite enough to steer clear of Little who then whipped the ball lower left corner (7-2). Minutemen leading scorer (35 g, 12 a) Marc Morley (Canton, NY) scored the following two goals. Little dished off a flat pass from the leftside to Morley in the middle who then shot several steps in the restraining line past the keeper’s right hip (8-2). UMass gained possession of the faceoff and Lundberg fed from the top of the box to Morley was filing his taxes on the crease. Morley then turned and got off a tight shot that hit upper 90 (9-2). Little scored the following goal unassisted less than one minute later. Little came flying in topside right and cranked one low, fast and hard and hit lower left corner (10-2). McFarland kicked off another textbook fast break with a key interception. Sophomore attacker Kevin Glenz (Lynbrook, NY) found a totally defender-free Little waiting for the five o’clock train. Little had little left to do but fire one in left side hip high on a bouncer that came back out of the net for 11-2. UMass’ Chris Fiore used his 6-4, 200-lb. frame to overwhelm his defender as he muscled his way in and got a lefty skip bouncer that hit lower right corner (12-2). On the next fast break, UMass brought the ball down field in a 1. Behind the back midfield pass 2. No look pass down low 3. Nasty pipe finish on the shot series. Clearly, UMass was in the groove. Soon thereafter, Dusty Smith cleaned the cobwebs in the top left corner with a lefty rocket off an assist from Lundberg (13-2).
In the fourth quarter, UMass outshot Fairfield 2-to-1. Longstick “D” McFarland brought the ball down field and found Paccione on the upper lip of the crease. Paccione hit lower left mesh (14-2). Fairfield gained possession of the faceoff but then turned over the ball. Little smoked the keeper off a sidearm winder that whizzed past the keeper’s right hip. Little was assisted by Morley (15-2). Leveille found the largest hole in the Swiss cheese D and had time to restring his stick and then shoot past C.J Kemp’s right shoulder (16-2). UMass retired the guns after Glenz’s shot. Tundo worked the ball up the left side of the crease and fed Glenz a cross-crease tight pass who finished on a quick stick shot (17-2). Fairfield was able to bring it down into Minutemen territory and looked a little disoriented with their plays. Finally, the Stags recovered a looseball and shot past the keeper’s left shoulder (3-17). Fairfield rounded out the day on a Brothers Bamann combo. Tony Bamann assisted Garrett Bamann as he drove around the right side of the crease and found baby brother cutting from high. Garrett finished with a left side hip-high shot (4-17). Final score UMass 17, Fairfield 4.
It’s hard to assess either team’s chances moving into the next round as clearly they were untested. Cornell is stacked with defensive power and has some fire starters on the offensive end while UMass is loaded on offense with some defensive stars. UMass is definitely quick and looking to cash in. While UMass has been a little inconsistent, the team demonstrates a lot of intuitive creativity outside of the playbook, a definite plus. UMass will meet No. 1 ranked Johns Hopkins at Hopkins on Sunday, May 19. The game is scheduled to start at noon. Pictures from Cornell and UMass to follow.
Fairfield vs. Massachusetts
|Don Little||(4, 1)|
|Dan Paccione||(3, 1)|
|Dusty Smith||(2, 1)|
|Marc Morley||(2, 1)|
|Neil Lundburg||(1, 2)|
|Gene Tundo||(0, 2)|
|Chris Fiore||(1, 1)|
|Kevin Glenz||(1, 1)|
|Kevin Leveille||(2, 0)|
|Jeff Zywicki||(1, 0)|
|Craig Conn||(0, 1)|
|Matt Mcfarland||(0, 1)|