PREVIEW: No. 17 men's lacrosse to face No. 2 Merrimack in NE10 Championship


MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Saint Anselm College men's lacrosse team will take on Merrimack College this Sunday, May 6 in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship at 1 p.m. in North Andover, Mass. 

The Hawks, ranked 17th in NCAA Division II by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, will battle the second-ranked Warriors only two days after Saint Anselm toppled top-ranked Le Moyne in the NE10 Semifinals by a 9-8 margin in overtime. It was the first win for Saint Anselm against a top-ranked team in any sport since unranked women's soccer downed No. 1 Saint Rose on Oct. 11, 2014.

Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children and seniors. Students that present a valid ID from a Northeast-10 Conference member institution will be admitted for $1.

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Saint Anselm has already set a program record with 11 wins against NCAA Division II competition in 2018, sprinting out to an 11-4 overall record entering play on Sunday. Merrimack has racked up a 14-1 record to date after losing to Le Moyne in an early-season fixture. Sunday's game will be the Hawks first-ever NE10 Championship game appearance.

Merrimack was able to ease past fourth-ranked Adelphi in Friday's league semifinal game, earning a berth in the NE10 Championship game for the 12th time. The Warriors last won a conference title in 2010.

LAST TIME OUT: Taking on the top-ranked NCAA Division II program in the country, Saint Anselm stunned previously-unbeaten Le Moyne College by a 9-8 score in overtime on Friday in the NE10 Semifinals.

Le Moyne, ranked first in NCAA Division II by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, falls to 15-1 on the year – the Dolphins were the final team in the division without a loss.

Down by a 2-0 margin shortly into the second quarter, the Hawks fired off six-straight goals to capture a 7-2 lead with 6:58 left in the third quarter. The Dolphins countered with six of the game's final seven goals in regulation time, including a game-tying strike with 21 seconds left from Justin Kesselring.

Following a failed offensive possession by the Dolphins, the Hawks turned to their offense in the final minute of the first overtime period. Taking advantage of a fallen defender, junior Patrick Sweeney cut from left to right and beat Le Moyne goaltender Jack Sweeney for the game-winning goal with 47 seconds left in overtime.

Junior Anthony Busconi led the way with three goals and an assist for four points (3-1=4). Senior Ryan Hesseltine and Sweeney each scored twice with freshmen Griffin Shoemaker and Matt Ward scoring one goal apiece. Xavier Quinn and Sean Tomaszewski each tallied an assist in the victory.

Hawks netminder Matt Richard made 10 saves in the winning effort. Sweeney yielded nine goals on eight shots while Kyle Lumpe, who earned the win over Saint Anselm during the regular season, played 76 seconds in relief to close out the fourth quarter for the Dolphins.

Derrick LaBranche and Ryan Melley each recorded four ground balls for the Hawks.

LAST TIME OUT vs. MERRIMACK: The Warriors stunned the Hawks in the regular-season meeting, sprinting out to an 11-1 lead through the game's first 19 minutes. Merrimack was able to hold on to a 17-9 victory despite a late Hawks rally that included a 7-3 scoring spurt by the Hawks near the midpoint of the game.

Sweeney and Shoemaker picked up three goals apiece and six other Hawks recorded at least one point on offense. Ward registered a goal and an assist for Saint Anselm.

In the first half alone, the Warriors won all but one of the game's 20 face-offs and controlled the ground game, securing 28 ground balls and limiting the Hawks to only 10 through the first 30 minutes of action.

Saint Anselm answered with three-straight goals, slowing the hosts momentum with a tally from Ward and back-to-back strikes from Shoemaker. Across a 17-minute timeframe between the second and third quarters, the Hawks scored seven goals and limited Merrimack to only three markers but the early damage had been done.

Hawks netminder Nick Richard drew the loss, falling to 3-3 on the year after allowing 12 goals on 15 shots. Freshman CJ Hart had a strong game in relief, making eight saves on 13 shots against. Merrimack's Peter Brown made three saves on 12 shots, improving to 5-1 on the year.

Charlie Bertrand had four goals for Merrimack and Sean Black assisted five Warriors goals. Blake Boudreau won 24-of-28 face-offs for the home team.

SCOUTING SAINT ANSELM

  • Saint Anselm has set or equaled single-season program records in goals scored (195), goals per game (13.00) and game-winning goals (11)
  • The team's 21 man-up goals are the second-most in the NE10 this season, trailing only Merrimack (21)
  • Saint Anselm has caused 123 turnovers this season, the fourth-most in the NE10 while committing only 13.53 per game, the ninth-best mark in NCAA Division II
  • As a team, the Hawks have combined to post a .580 save percentage which trails only Le Moyne (.610) and Saint Rose (.587) among NE10 programs
  • The Hawks have posted 299 points on the season, scoring 195 goals and tallying 104 assists (195-104=299) which stands as the second-most in a single season for Saint Anselm
  • Busconi, his team's lone NE10 First Team selection, has scored 37 goals this season, the sixth-most ever by a Hawk in one year and the fifth-most in the NE10 this season
  • Sweeney recently crossed the 100-point plateau for his career and has scored 35 goals and 13 assists for 48 points (35-13=48) to date
  • Sweeney's five game-winning goals in 2018 is a single-season record in that statistic
  • Hesseltine has had a breakout season for the Hawks, scoring 26 goals and 22 assists for 48 points (26-22=48) – he entered his junior campaign with 23 goals and 10 assists for 33 points (23-10=33) across two complete seasons
  • Hesseltine ranks fifth in the NE10 with 22 assists
  • Ward has led the Hawks freshmen in goal scoring (31), scoring just over two goals per game while handing out 16 assists – he has recorded five points in a game on three occasions this season
  • Senior Derrick LaBranche leads the NE10 in caused turnovers with 27 to his credit
  • Only playing in five career games entering the 2018 season, Richard has posted 146 saves this year en route to a 11-4 record in goal for the Hawks – he has averaged 8.34 goals-against across just over 777 minutes
  • Richard's .575 save percentage is ninth in NCAA Division II

SCOUTING MERRIMACK

  • Boasting a high-powered offense, Merrimack leads the NE10 in assists (125), assists per game (8.33), clearing percentage (.903), ground balls per game (34.13), points per game (22.87), scoring offense (14.53) and shot percentage (.347)
  • With only 12.33 turnovers committed per game, Merrimack is second in the country and trails only Franklin Pierce (12.23)
  • Sean Black averages three assists per game, ranking second in NCAA Division II, while netminder Peter Brown boasts a league-leading 6.58 goals-against average – Blake Boudreau ranks in the top-10 in face-off percentage (.664) and secures 9.33 ground balls per game to rank seventh in the country
  • Charlie Bertrand leads the NE10 in goal scoring (52)
  • James Bassett is the reigning USILA Defensive Player of the Year and has helped the Warriors limit 12 of their last 15 opponents to single digit goal scoring totals

NE10 POSTSEASON ALL-TIME: The Hawks are now 5-12 all-time in the NE10 Tournament, having won the team's first NE10 postseason game since 2009 last Tuesday against Saint Rose. Saint Anselm has qualified for postseason play in all but one year since 2012.

THE SCIAMANNA FILE: Third-year Head Coach Mike Sciamanna has guided the Hawks to a 27-16 record since his debut during the 2015 season, piloting the Hawks to three-straight NE10 postseason appearances. Assuming the reins of a program that won only two games in 2015, Sciamanna recorded back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2016 and 2017 and saw the start of his team's recognition on the national level. In 2018, the Hawks entered the year ranked in several preseason coaches' polls and ranked as high as 16th in NCAA Division II this season.

ALL-TIME vs. MERRIMACK: The Hawks have won only three of the 27 all-time meetings between the two teams. Winning the last 13 games over Saint Anselm, Merrimack last lost to the Hawks on Apr. 11, 2007, a 9-4 result in North Andover. In the NE10 postseason, the Warriors have defeated Saint Anselm twice (2007, 2014), both times in the semifinals at Merrimack.