Fletcher, Runkel strong as Loyola tops Army in low scoring affair

March 15, 2014 | WNST Staff

BALTIMORE – Loyola University Maryland goalkeeper Jack Runkel made 19 saves on 45 U.S. Military Academy shots, and defender Joe Fletcher picked up five ground balls, as the second-ranked Greyhounds held off the Black Knights for a 7-6 Patriot League win on Saturday afternoon in front of 2,624 fans at Ridley Athletic Complex.

In addition to his ground balls, several of which came at key moments in the action, Fletcher held his Army’s leading scorer, John Glessner who entered the game with 15 goals and seven assists, to two goals on 22 shots.

Loyola (6-1 overall, 3-0 Patriot League) entered the game ranked third nationally in shooting percentage, scoring on 37.9 percent of their shots this season. The Black Knights’ defense, which was first in the nation in scoring defense by allowing just 5.33 goals in their first six games, held the Greyhounds to just 20 percent from the field (seven goals on 35 shots), its worst mark of the year.

After Loyola scored the first two goals of the game, Army (4-3, 2-1) evened the game with just eight-tenths of a second left in the first period. Glessner, a high school teammate of Fletcher’s at West Genesse High School in Syracuse, went on the run down the right alley and snuck a hard shot inside the far post to tie the game at 3-3.

A scoreless second quarter that saw Runkel make five saves and Army’s Sam Somers post three, Army took a 4-3 lead 2:23 into the third quarter when Shea Mullins scored his second of the game. Mullins rolled right-to-left 12 yards out and tallied a goal with a sidearm shot.

Later in the third quarter, the Greyhounds had a protracted offensive possession, extended by Pat Frazier and Fletcher pickups after balls rolled to or over the midfield line.

Somers made a save on a Brian Schultz shot from the left side, but the ball rebouned out of the crease and into traffic. An Army defender came up with the ball momentarily, but it was jostled away,Kevin Ryan picked up the loose ball and scored his second of the game to tie the score at 4-4 with 6:53 left in the frame.

Loyola went back in front with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter as Justin Ward fed Schultz who was rolling the crease. Schultz got topside and scored to push the Greyhounds up one.

Nearly a third of the way into the fourth quarter, Army went a man-down after an unnecessary roughness call, and the Black Knights were forced to play two short after a cross-check was flagged during the playout of the extra-man opportunity.

Ward used the two-man advantage to the Greyhounds’ benefit, shooting a hard pass from the point to Nikko Pontrello on the top left of the crease, and Pontrello shot-faked Somers to score at 10:45.

Less than two minutes later, Loyola pressed out to its largest lead of the game, 7-4, when it recorded a transition goal.

Runkel made a save on a Glessner shot, and Fletcher picked up the ground ball as it rebounded out of the crease. Defender Pat Frazier made the run into the offensive box for Loyola, and Pat Laconifound him posted up four yards in front of the goal. Frazier scored his first career goal at 8:52, giving the Greyhounds a three-goal lead.

Minutes later, Somers stopped a Schultz right-side attempt, but Zack Sirico came up with a ground ball in front of the crease from his knees. Sirico flipped an over-the shoulder shot from the ground, but Somers was there again to make the save.

Somers sent an outlet over the top, and Army’s Jimbo D’Aprile ran the ball into the offensive end. He found Glessner on the doorstep of the left side, and he finished with his second goal of the game at 4:22.

Loyola looked to run more time off the clock, but Pat Hart caused a turnover for the Black Knights. In transition, Tim Stackpole took a shot, but a Loyola defender checked his stick. The ball floated right to Will Mazzone on the close left side, and Mazzone scored at 2:18 to make it a 7-6 Loyola lead.

Army won the ensuing faceoff, but Glessner’s first attempt was high, and Runkel saved the second to give the Greyhounds possession.

Loyola successfully cleared the ball, and Ward broke out of a triple-team at the top left corner of the box. He threw a lob pass to Shultz on the opposite side of the crease, and Schultz dumped a one-time shot on goal. Somers, however, came sliding across to make a save, and Army cleared the ball with 30 seconds to play in regulation.

An initial Glessner attempt went wide left, and the Black Knights took a timeout with just over six seconds left on the clock. Glessner tried to speed-dodge Fletcher from the end line, but he could not get an angle, and his shot went wide right and out of bounds with just over a second left.

Led by the five from Fletcher, Loyola had a 34-25 advantage in ground balls, a mark that was 20-11 in the second half.

The Greyhounds scored the first two goals of the game, opening up with a Ryan extra-man goal off a Ward assist at 13:01. Laconi then struck in transition at 10:34 after causing a turnover, picking up a ground ball and running a one-man clear.

Mullins scored Army’s first at 5:54, but Pontrello posted up on his defender and scored from the left side at 2:41 to put the Greyhounds up, 3-1.

Gunnar Miller used a long-range bouncer to pull Army within a goal with 60 seconds left in the first quarter before Glesener’s first strike tied the game.

The Greyhounds are back in action quickly as they travel to Washington, D.C., for a 6 p.m. faceoff at Georgetown University on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. The game from Multi-Sport Field will air live on CBS Sports Network.