PHILADELPHIA – Tyson Gibson scored the game-winning goal with 10 seconds remaining in overtime as the No. 20 Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad dropped a 9-8 heartbreaker to Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference Championship title game on Saturday afternoon on Sweeney Field.
The Hawks close their season at 11-4 overall after claiming the 2018 NEC regular-season title with a 6-0 record in league play.
"I don't know what to say," said seventh year head coach Taylor Wray following the loss, which snapped an 11-game winning streak for the Crimson and Gray. "I'm heartbroken for my team. I thought that was an incredibly competitive game. I thought we had a great first half, but we let the game go the other way in the third quarter. The guys showed terrific resiliency, as they have all year, to come back and tie it up. We had our chance in the overtime. We had a great stop in overtime, but we just didn't get it done. I congratulate Robert Morris. They have a terrific team and had a great season. I'm just heartbroken for our seniors."
Saint Joseph's held a 6-3 edge coming out of the halftime break, but Robert Morris fired off five third-quarter goals (10:41, 10:33, 5:54, 5:20, 2:12) to jump out to an 8-6 lead entering the final 15:00; at the 6:20 mark, SJU was hit with a 1:00 non-releasable penalty for a cross-check to the head, and the Colonials converted a pair of EMO goals (5:54, 5:20) during that span.
Senior midfielder Kyle Cain, who led SJU with four goals and a helper on the afternoon, brought the Hawks back in the fourth quarter, scoring a man-up goal on a feed from senior attackman Chris Blewitt with the Colonials down two players at the 4:57 mark before taking a feed from freshman attackman Shane Fable and putting away the late equalizer with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
RMU won the face-off possession to open OT and, after being hit with a 30-second shot clock warning after 1:04 spent in their offensive third, the Colonials came out of a timeout and fired off a shot with four seconds remaining on the warning, but redshirt freshman goalkeeper Mike Adler came up with his 11th save of the day.
The Hawks cleared and got off a pair of shots, both off target, before RMU's defensive unit forced a Hawk turnover 32 seconds to play.
After clearing the ball with 17 seconds to go, Gibson hit the back of the net just seven seconds later for the game-winner.
The first half saw the Hawks jump ahead, 6-3, by the end of the first 30:00.
RMU struck first as Matt Schmidt opened scoring at the 10:37 mark of the first quarter, but senior midfielder Hayes McGinley evened things up at 7:31 before Cain scored a man-up goal, fed by Rastivo (2:51), and a man-down goal, unassisted (0:04), to give the Hawks an early 3-1 edge after the first 15:00.
The Colonials equalized with back-to-back goals (11:53, 10:23) to open the second, but the Hawks scored the final three goals of the second quarter to double up RMU, 6-3, entering the halftime break; freshman attackman Thomas Halm scored a man-up goal on a feed from Cain (9:40), graduate student midfielder Will McNamara (goal) and senior short stick defensive midfielder Davis Stoner connected in transition (8:47), and Rastivo fired off a blazing shot (5:52) during that three-goal run.
For the game, Saint Joseph's held a 34-31 edge in shots, but Robert Morris hit the back of the net five times on 10 shots in the third quarter for the difference. The Colonials also earned a 24-22 edge in ground balls, including both in the overtime frame, and took a slight 11-9 advantage in face-offs, including the significant one in overtime.
Freshman face-off specialist Billy Jardeleza went 7-of-15 from the X with two ground balls, while Stoner added four ground balls and one caused turnover. Senior long stick midfielder Austin Smith did a nice job when called upon at the X, going 2-of-4. Blewitt, McNamara, and senior defenseman Brendan McNicholas added three ground balls apeice.
Adler (10-4) was strong in net, making 11 saves vs. nine goals allowed in all 64:50; the redshirt freshman disrupted RMU's offensive unit all day, forcing a pair of turnovers and gobbling up four ground balls in the process.
For their performances against Sacred Heart in Thursday's NEC semifinal and against Robert Morris in Saturday's NEC final, Cain, Adler, and McNamara were named to the NEC All-Tournament Team.
Blewitt, Cain, McGinley, McNamara, McNicholas, Rastivo, Smith, Stoner, senior attackman Patrick O'Brien, and senior defenseman Nick Buckley played their final collegiate games for the Crimson and Gray.