MANCHESTER, N.H. – The nationally-ranked Saint Anselm College men's lacrosse team battled to a halftime deadlock with the reigning NCAA Division II national champions from Merrimack College, but the Warriors pulled away in the final 30 minutes to capture an 18-12 win over the Hawks.
Saint Anselm, ranked 20th in NCAA Division II by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, fall to 3-4 overall on the season. Fourth-ranked Merrimack, who toppled the Hawks in last season's Northeast-10 Conference championship game, move to 7-1 overall and to 5-0 against league opponents.
Senior Patrick Sweeney (North Andover, Mass.) led the way with two goals and three assists followed by four-point performances (3-1=4) from junior Matt Cullinan (Fairfield, Conn.) and senior Anthony Busconi (Watertown, Mass.). Cullinan matched his career-high in both points and goals with Tuesday's output. Sophomore Thomas Mapstone (Andover, Mass.) led student-athletes from both teams with three caused turnovers.
The Hawks opened up the game with two quick goals from Busconi and Cullinan, but the reigning USILA Co-Player of the Year, Charlie Bertrand, posted two goals within eight seconds to draw the game even. Cullinan put the Hawks up again less than 30 seconds later, propelling the Hawks to a 3-2 lead with just over five minutes elapsed in the first quarter.
Merrimack closed the opening quarter with three of its final five goals, tying the game at five heading into the second stanza. Both teams found themselves tied at nine heading into the locker room at halftime as Merrimack and Saint Anselm each did not lead by more than one goal throughout the second quarter.
Merrimack scored four of the third quarter's five goals and tallied four-straight goals down the stretch in the fourth quarter, creating a game-high lead of six goals on two occasions with under 3:30 to go in regulation time. Bertrand finished with a game-high eight goals, followed by Christian Thomas and his five goals and four assists (5-4=9). Sean Black dished out 10 assists for the Warriors.
The Warriors held statistical edges in shots (42-to-33), ground balls (41-to-21) and face-off victories (22-to-11). Merrimack also capitalized on all three of its man-up opportunities while the Hawks were stymied with the extra player, notching only two goals on six chances.
Sophomore CJ Hart (Reading, Mass.) made his first career start on Tuesday, drawing the loss after allowing 18 goals on 25 shots. The tandem of Nick Ponte and Peter Brown made five saves on 12 shots with the latter earning the victory across the final 45 minutes of game play.
The Hawks will host American International College this Friday, Apr. 5 at 4 p.m.