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Men’s lax falls to Mammoths, 18-11

MIDDLEBURY — Sometimes statistics do tell the story. Case in point: On Saturday, visiting Amherst won 26 of 32 faceoffs against the Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team.
Those extra possessions translated into a 54-37 advantage in shots and eventually into an 18-11 victory for the Mammoths, who broke open a tight game by scoring seven of the final eight goals.
Amherst, ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division III, avenged its upset loss to the Panthers in the 2017 NESCAC playoffs and improved to 8-1, 4-0 in league play.
Middlebury dropped to 3-5, 1-4 NESCAC, with its third straight loss. The Panther have faced five ranked teams.
Coach Dave Campbell’s faceoff specialists are usually competitive, but they had little luck with Mammoth Dylan Finazzo, who won 25 of 31.
Campbell — who was not pleased his team was flagged for five fouls to none for the Mammoths — credited Finazzo.
“Dominant faceoff guys can win it to themselves,” he said. “We need to get better there as well, obviously.”
Campbell would like to see a better record, but can point to the fact they are in similar situation as in the past two years. Each time they have surged late in the season and made a postseason run to the NESCAC title game, winning it two years ago and almost repeating in 2017.
He expects the Panthers to improve.
“The older guys have played in two NESCAC championship games in a row and have had success down the stretch, so I think there’s a lot of belief in this team,” Campbell said. “I know how much they care about each other and the program, so I know they’re going to keep working to their tails off to get there.” 
Certainly, the Panthers held their own for most of the game on Saturday.
Middlebury took an early 2-0 lead as A.J. Kucinski (three goals, one assist) set up Danny Jacobs (three goals, three assists) and then bounced a shot home at 8:08. The Mammoths responded with three goals in 36 seconds, two by Matt Solberg, to take the lead. Kucinski, from Jacobs, and senior middie Parker Lawlor found the net to put the Panthers on top, but another three-goal Amherst outburst made it 6-4, Mammoths, after one.
Evan Wolf  (five goals, five assists) notched the first two of his goals in that run, including the first of three Mammoth man-up scores.
Amherst still led by two, 8-6, midway through the second despite two long-range bombs from Panther attacker Michael McCormack.
Then the Panthers rallied to tie it at the half. McCormick fed Jacobs at 6:18, and after an outstanding kick save by Middlebury goalie Charles Midgley (13 stops) the Panthers converted a fast break, with Jacobs setting up senior middie Henry Riehl on Mammoth goalie Chad Simons’ doorstep at 3:41. Midgley preserved the tie by sticking his right knee in front of a Solberg bullet with about two minutes left in the half.
The teams traded goals for most of the third. After Solberg scored 10 seconds into the period, Simons made kick saves on senior middie John Jackson and McCormack, but could not stop Jacobs’ short-side stuff on a solo move at 11:24. Wolf made it 10-9 with a man-up goal, and then Simons (13 stops) made a key save on Riehl after a long Panther possession. After that Wolf struck at 7:36 to make it 11-9.
A faceoff violation gave the Panthers the ball, and at 6:59 middie Chase Goree whipped home a Jacobs feed to make it 11-10.
Then the Panthers won a faceoff, but turned the ball over and committed a penalty. At 5:14 Amherst made it 12-10 with a man-up goal. Amherst won the draw, and the Panthers forced a turnover (they held a 9-19 advantage in that department). But they coughed the ball up again.
Midgley stopped two shots, but a chance to cut the lead was lost, and at 1:25 another penalty led to another man-up goal by Solberg, with Wolf assisting. Then Wolf scored with 9.6 seconds left in the period, and suddenly it was 14-10.
Kucinski quick-sticked home a Goree feed at 13:24 of the fourth to make it 14-11. The Panthers got the ball back with a chance to cut the lead to two, but they were whistled for a moving pick behind the Mammoth goal, and the game spun out of control from there.
Campbell saw positives in his team’s play, but he said the Panthers could not afford those mistakes in a tight game against Amherst.
“That’s what good teams do,” Campbell said. “They bear down and make you pay.”
Now, Campbell said, it is time for the Panthers to bear down and up their game.
“We’re going to enjoy our time together and keep after it,” he said. “And we’re going to turn the corner eventually.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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