BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Two-time defending Patriot League Champion Lehigh outscored Navy 4-1 in the fourth quarter to secure a 10-6 victory over the Midshipmen in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals played Tuesday evening at the Ulrich Sports Complex in Bethlehem, Pa. The third-seeded Mountain Hawks will face Army in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament, while top-seeded Loyola will battle the No. 4 seed Colgate.
“It was another hard-fought battle for the Midshipmen,” said third-year Navy head coach Rick Sowell. “We have had a long stretch against some really talented teams (Loyola, Army, Johns Hopkins, Lehigh) and there’s a lot of emotion that goes into those games. I’m extremely proud of the way we came out and competed against a team that got us pretty good a month ago. Lehigh is a talented team and well coached and at the end of the night they made a few more plays than us.
“We knew we were a better team than what showed up the last time we played here,” added Sowell. “But I think it was a combination of it being a playoff game and the confidence we have gained over the last few weeks. We certainly wanted to leave it all on the field tonight and I honestly couldn’t have been more proud of the effort my team gave.”
Navy opened the game with the hot hand as seniors Tucker Hull (Charlotte, N.C.) and Sam Jones (Annapolis, Md.) joined forces to put the Midshpmen up 1-0 six minutes into the contest thanks to a transition goal that was generated by a takeaway from rookie John Trainor (Northport, N.Y.).
Lehigh answered with just over three minutes to go in the opening quarter when Kurtis Kaunas fired in a five-yarder from the left wing.
The Mids took the lead once again when sophomore midfielder Kevin Wendel (East Islip, N.Y.) out-raced Lehigh defenseman Sam Lawrence and scored his third collegiate goal to put Navy up 2-1 with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Reid Weber slipped his defender and poked in his shot three minutes into the second quarter, queing a 4-0 run by the Mountain Hawks. Three of the next four goals were extra-man strikes as Lehigh owned a 5-2 lead with 9:25 to go in the first half.
Navy finally stopped the Lehigh run when Jones threaded his scoop shot through multiple defenders, as well as three-time All-Patriot League goalkeeper Matt Poillon, as Navy trailed 5-3 at the half.
The Mids trimmed the lead to one four minutes into the third quarter when senior middie Austin Heneveld (East Hampton, N.Y.) found a wide-open Hul standing on the left crease for his second goal of the contest.
Lehigh pushed its lead back to two when the Mids were unable to clear the ball out of the defensive box and Matt Smith punched in his fourth goal of the year from 10 yards out.
With under 30 seconds to go in the third period, Navy set up a play that saw Jones use a roll dodge to get free of middie Alan Henderson and post his second goal of the game with just 5.6 seconds left.
Down 6-5 heading into the final period of play, the Mids were unable to get anything going on the offensive end of the field while the Mountain Hawks scored four in a row, including an empty net goal with two minutes to play, to take a 10-5 lead.
The Mids scored a final time with 1:23 left in the contest when Hull produced his 14th collegiate hat trick with an unassisted strike from five yards out.
“We were able to get to within one a few times, but we just couldn’t get that goal to pull us even. Looking back that four-goal run they made in the second quarter was tough to come back from, but we did not give up until the clock hit zero.”
Hull and Jones paced the Mids with three points apiece as Hull became just the 14th player in program history to reach 80 career goals. Meanwhile, Jones moved into a tie for 10th place on Navy’s all-time points list with 143 points alongside Hall of Famer James Chambers (1946-49).
John Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.), who was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week on Monday, played a strong game between the pipes, finishing the contest with 13 saves including six in the third quarter. Senior long pole Pat Kiernan (Ridgewood, N.J.) turned in a team-best three caused turnovers, while also playing a huge role on the wings of faceoffs helping Navy freshman Brady Dove (Stevensville, Md.) win 13 of the 19 draws. Kiernan grabbed a team-best seven ground balls and jumped from sixth to fourth on Navy’s career ground balls list with 185. It’s the most ground balls by a Navy player since William Wallace set the record playing from 2004-07.
Dove, who was named a Second-Team All-Patriot League player, has now won 158 faceoffs this season which are the second most in school history behind record holder Chris Pieczonka who set the record with 173 in 2004 and played in five more games. Meanwhile, he stands eighth on Navy’s career faceoff wins list.
Five different players scored goals for the Mountain Hawks, including Kaunas who produced three goals and added an assist. Meanwhile, Poillon anchored the defense with 15 saves including four in the final quarter of play.
The Mids will close out the 2014 campaign a week from Saturday with a 1:00 pm contest against fifth-ranked Maryland.