On a hot, sun-splashed afternoon at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, Long Island, Rutgers and Penn punched and counter-punched, each team getting up off the mat when it appeared the game may be getting away from them. And just when you thought Rutgers’ magical run may be coming to an end, down a pair with nine minutes left in the match, the Scarlet Knights scored five consecutive goals and salted the game away.
Rutgers reached the semifinals and championship weekend for the first time in program history, heading to East Hartford, CT to face the winner of Cornell-Delaware on Saturday, May 28th (time TBA).
1st Quarter Action
Both teams appeared to be playing tense and nervous, with an abundance of misfired shots well off cage. Rutgers would score the only two goals of the period, the first by Ross Scott, his 49th of the season, with just under five minutes left in the quarter. Shane Knobloch would add the second at the 1:59 mark, his 30th of the season, to put Rutgers up 2-0 heading into the second.
Rutgers outshot Penn 15-10 with each goalie making four saves. The Knights uncharacteristically turned the ball over 5 times and Penn won all three face-offs.
2nd Quarter Action
One minute into the period, Gabe Furey ended Penn’s drought and put the Quakers in the scoring column. Penn’s Cam Rubin would then knot the score 2-all on a goal at the 11.48 mark. The teams would trade two goals each, with Ronan Jacoby notching goal No. 36 at the 10:29 mark. With the score tied 3-apiece, Islip, Long Island native Ethan Rall would put the Knights back up 4-3 on a man-down situation. With :54 left in the quarter, Penn’s most prolific scorer, Dylan Gergar, notched his 49th of the season to tie the game up 4-all heading into halftime.
️ ️ There's some NASCAR ️ ️— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) May 21, 2022
ETHAN RALL in transition, the All-American LSM hammers home a man-down goal pic.twitter.com/VloDsbjEdQ
Rutgers outshot Penn 15-8 and 30-18 for the half but Quaker goalie Patrick Berkinshaw did his best impersonation of a brick wall, stopping shot after shot and finishing the first half with 11 saves. The Knights played a cleaner 2nd quarter, turning the ball over only twice while the Quakers had seven miscues. Jonathan DuGenio fared better on face-offs, winning 3 of 7 in the quarter.
3rd Quarter Action
Mitch Bartolo opened up the scoring with his 42nd tally of the season at the 12:49 mark and Zackary Frankowiak added a goal at 5:58 to push the Knights’s lead to 6-4. The Quakers countered with two goals of their own, the first by Gergar at the 5:22 mark and less than a minute later, Robert Schain would knot the score up once again, 6-all.
The teams each had 11 shots in the quarter. Kirst faced seven that were on goal and saved five. Face-offs were once again in favor of Penn, 3-2.
4th Quarter Action
At the 13:40 mark, the Quakers took their first lead of the game, 7-6, on a goal by Chris Canet. A little over a minute later, Gergar scored his 51st of the season, Penn’s 4th consecutive goal, to put the Quakers up 8-6. With all the momentum, the Quakers then won the face-off and had multiple chances to pad their lead. All-American Quaker Sam Handley missed wide from short range, Penn retrieved the grounder, Furey’s shot was saved by Kirst with Penn once again scooping up the ground ball. Kirst made yet another save on Gergar’s shot and Rutgers was able to finally gain possession.
After Rutgers safely cleared, coach Brecht called a timeout. Out of the timeout, as we have seen the Knights do all season, Knobloch scored on an assist from Mitch Bartolo to pull within one.
Jonathan Dugenio struggled much of the game but he won the subsequent crucial face-off and Rutgers tied the score 8-all on a beautiful assist from Scott to Brian Cameron. With 5:38 remaining in the match, freshman Dante Kulas who had missed seven games after being injured on this very same field at Hofstra, fired a laser in for his first goal since March 19th to put the Knights back up 9-8.
Penn won the ensuing face-off but a stout Rutgers defense blocked a shot and Kirst made yet another save. Franckowiak would scoop the grounder and clear and Knobloch would notch the hat trick at the 3:39 mark to put Rutgers back up two, 10-8.
At the 1:08 mark, the Quakers turned the ball over, Bryant Boswell took it coast to coast and sent one past Burkinshaw to give the Knights an 11-8 lead. The Quakers would win the face-off and score ten seconds later to close within 11-9 and keep the drama alive. Penn would then win yet another face-off but Ethan Rall would cause a turnover, which the Knights failed to clear. Kirst would make save No. 18 with 20 ticks left and history was made. Final score: Rutgers 11, Penn 9.
Bryant Boswell with the exclamation point! pic.twitter.com/WvrefCr0lF— Rutgers Men's LAX (@RUmlax) May 21, 2022
Colin Kirst had 12 saves in the 2nd half, including 7 in the final frame. The Quakers would win the face-off battle in the quarter, 6-3, and 16-8 for the game but the Rutgers defense and Kirst were able to get the ball back to their offense, which made the most of limited opportunities.
Rutgers dominated the 4th Quarter, outscoring the Quakers 5-3. The depth of the team paid off once again as the Knights looked fresh and quick while the Quakers were a step slower. When it looked like the game might get away from the Knights, they found a way to tie and then take the lead, pulling away in a dominant final nine minutes of action. We have seen this resiliency before from this unit that continues to rewrite history.
Oregon Trail Closed
The two Beaver-state stars, Ross Scott and Sam Handley, were held in check as each coach made it a point to not let the opponent’s best player beat them. Scott finished with one goal and one assist. Handley was held to zero goals and three assists.
Watch the Postgame Press Conference:
Championship Weekend in East Hartford, CT. Rutgers will face the winner of Cornell-Delaware.
As I’m writing this, Colin Kirst’s mom is traveling out to Ohio to catch C.J.’s game tomorrow versus the Blue Hens. What a storyline we would have with D-1 lacrosse’s most famous mom watching her two sons square off next Saturday.