MEDFORD – The top-seeded Tufts University men's lacrosse team scored with five seconds left in regulation and then with six seconds remaining in overtime to erase a five-goal deficit and stun upset-minded Middlebury College 14-13 in the semifinal round of the NESCAC Tournament on Saturday at Bello Field.
Tufts trailed 13-8 when Middlebury sophomore Ryan Feldmann scored with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter. The Jumbos would outscore the Panthers 5-0 in the fourth and tied the game at 13-13 when senior Danny Murphy scored off an assist from classmate Ben Connelly just six seconds from the end of regulation.
In the four-minute OT period, Tufts junior goalie Mason Pollack made a pair of early saves. A Middlebury turnover in the final minute was cleared by Tufts. After a high shot by Connelly missed, he again assisted on a clutch goal with sophomore Max Waldbaum scoring in the closing moments of the extra session to win it for the Jumbos 14-13.
Tufts (16-1) will play Williams College in the championship game at Bello on Sunday at noon. The Ephs were 11-8 winners over Amherst College in Saturday's other semifinal at the site. Tufts is vying for its ninth conference title and second in a row. The Ephs seek their second NESCAC crown.
The Jumbos started their fourth-quarter comeback with a goal by junior Matt Treiber at 11:13 of the fourth. However, the score stood at 13-9 until Murphy scored at the five-minute mark to close Tufts to within 13-10. The Jumbos then scored goals by junior Nick Shanks and a man-up tally by Connelly 27 seconds apart at 3:42 and 3:15 prior to Murphy's dramatic game-tying goal at the end of the half.
Seventh-seed Middlebury (8-9) had come into the game off an 11-7 upset of defending national champion Wesleyan University last Saturday in the NESCAC Quarterfinals. They were intent on doing the same to the Jumbos as the Panthers scored eight times in the first quarter to lead by three. Seven different players scored the Middlebury goals including two by sophomore Will Brossman. Sophomore Garrett Samuelson tallied twice for the Jumbos in the first.
The teams traded two goals each in the second quarter giving Middlebury a 10-7 lead at halftime. Brossman had another one for the Panthers with 1:19 remaining in the second quarter to put the Panthers up by three heading into the intermission.
The visitors added to their lead by outscoring Tufts 3-1 in the third. Junior A.J. Kucinski assisted on two of the goals helping Middlebury take its 13-8 margin.
Connelly's three goals and two assists led the Jumbos today, while Shanks and Waldbaum both scored three times. Pollack finished with nine saves and junior Jack Donohue caused three turnovers defensively with three ground balls.
Junior Jake Madnick was a huge factor for Middlebury winning 19 of 30 face-offs. Brossman finished with the three goals while junior Chase Goree recorded two goals and two assists. Sophomore Tyler Bass stopped 12 shots in goal.
Shots went 64-52 in favor of Tufts, while Middlebury took a 35-32 decision in ground balls. Tufts did not commit a penalty in the game and was two for three on their own extra-man opportunities.