Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/1/14
Frrom Press Release
Ryan Belka scored 1:27 into overtime today as host Drexel rallied from a late three-goal deficit to defeat Towson, 11-10.
The Dragons will now play at Hofstra on Saturday night in the CAA championship game with the winner getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It was the seventh straight win for the Dragons (11-4).
Drexel’s Nick Saputo, who had a huge day at the “x” for the Dragons, won the face-off to start overtime. After a Drexel timeout, the Dragons got the ball to Belka, who used two screens across the top to get from the right side of the field to the left. He drove to the left alley and fired a right-handed shot, low to low off the far pipe to put Drexel into its third CAA title game.
Towson (8-7) had a chance to win the game in regulation. The Tigers got the ball after a Drexel turnover with :16 remaining in regulation. Jack Adams, a freshman short stick defensive middie, carried the ball past midfield and brought the ball down the field on the right side, one-on-one with a Drexel defender. He got a step and fired a shot that hit the crossbar just before time expired.
The Dragons trailed by three entering the fourth quarter after Greg Cuccinello scored on a man-up goal late in the third. Neither team could score in the first five minutes of the final quarter. Drexel finally started its comeback when Ben McIntosh, who earlier in the day was named the CAA’s Offensive Player of the Year, rifled a shot past Tyler White to make it 9-7.
McIntosh was not done with his day quite yet. The senior scored again to cut the deficit to one with 3:35 to play. The Dragons tied the score 48 seconds later. Belka, who was behind the net, fed Cole Shafer, and the freshman scored his fourth goal of the game from the left side of the crease.
The Dragons again won the ensuing face-off and McIntosh scored an unassisted goal with 2:14 to play. It was his fourth goal of the game and his 42nd of the year. Towson won the next critical face-off. Thomas DeNapoli got possession behind the cage and found Devin Grimaldi who evened the score at 10-10.
Drexel jumped out to an early 2-0 lead just 1:12 into the game. Shafer and McIntosh each had goals before Justin Mabus put the Tigers on the board at the 8:39 mark. The teams swapped goals in the final six minutes of the quarter. Shafer scored on the man-up for the Dragons, while Ben McCarty had and unassisted goal for the Tigers.
Belka’s first goal of the game put the Dragons ahead by two early in the second. However, that wouldn’t last long as Towson scored four unanswered goals. Cuccinello sandwiched a pair of goals around a Ryan Drenner tally and a Joe Seider man-up goal with 4:04 remaining in the half.
Belka then set up Nick Trizano with three minutes even to go in the half, cutting the Tigers lead to 6-5. It was the 100th career point for Belka. Shafer tied the game less than three minutes into the second half, before the Tigers rattled off three straight goals to take the three-goal lead heading into the final frame. Mike Lowe, McCarty and Cuccinello supplied the scoring as the Tiger defense held Drexel scoreless from the 12:43 mark of the third until the 9:17 mark of the final period.
Saputo, a First Team All-CAA selection, had one of his best games ever in a Drexel uniform. The junior won 19 of 22 face-offs and had 11 ground balls. Drexel wasn’t able to take advantage of Saputo’s performance, as the team committed four turnovers in each of the first three quarters before settling down in the fourth.
McIntosh finished the day with five points and moved into ninth place on the school’s career goals list with 94. Belka scored two goals and assisted on three others. Shafer scored four times in the game and now has 30 in his first season. The freshman has nine of his goals in two games against the Tigers. Will Gabrielsen made seven stops for the Dragons, who outshot the Tigers 43-30 and doubled up the visitors in ground balls (39-17)
Cuccinell had a hat trick and an assist for Towson. McCarty had a pair of goals, while Seider had three points. White played well in the cage, coming up with 14 saves, including a pair right on the doorstep.
Face-off is set for 7 p.m. at James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead. The Pride is 11-4 and ranked 13th in the latest USILA Poll. Hofstra handed Drexel its only CAA loss earlier in the season, defeating the Dragons, 11-9, on March 22 in Philadelphia.