STATE COLLEGE, PA - For the second time in as many weeks, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team (5-6, 2-3 ECAC) successfully fought back from a fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime. But just like last week, RU fell short in the extra session, dropping a 8-7 heartbreaker to No. 13 Penn State (7-4, 5-1 ECAC) on Saturday at Jeffrey Field.
As it had in a 13-12 loss to No. 9 Syracuse last Saturday, RU scored in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, this time getting a goal from Jeff Rommel (Syracuse, NY) to knot the score at 7-7 with just six seconds left. PSU’s Nate Whitaker scored the game-winning goal with 12 seconds left in the extra session, giving the Scarlet Knights their third one-goal loss of the season.
RU got the game’s first goal, with Tad Stanwick (Baltimore, MD) taking a Devon Britts (Scottsville, VA) pass in front of the net and connecting at the 13:06 mark. But Nittany Lion Gil Pearsall answered right back with an unassisted goal a minute later to tie the game at 1-1. Neither team would score again, however, until Josh Ashcraft (Carthage, NY) notched an unassisted goal with just :34 left to play in the first period, giving Rutgers a 2-1 lead after the first stanza.
Rutgers also scored the first goal of the second period, getting a man-up goal from Colin Checcio (Wayne, PA), off an assist from Chris Doctor (Skaneateles, NY), just 1:11 into the period. The Scarlet Knights continued their offensive onslaught at the 10:52 mark when Matt Gaines (Abingdon, MD) took a pass from Britts to put RU up 4-1. John Eremus answered back for PSU, scoring off a Pearsall pass with 6:52 to play to cut the Rutgers lead to 4-2. Chris Gannett scored again for Penn State goal shortly thereafter with an unassisted goal at the 5:43 mark. The Nittany Lions completed the mini-comeback with just :05 to play in the half when Pat Heim scored an unassisted goal to tie the game at 4-4 heading into intermission.
The third period was scoreless until the 7:38 mark when Penn State’s Pearsall nailed an unassisted goal to put the Nittany Lions up 5-4. Bubba Scott gave Penn State a two-goal lead (6-4) when he took a Ryan McAleenan pass and found the back of the net at the 6:37 mark. Rutgers stopped the PSU streak with :12 left in the period when Austin Rodgers (Baltimore, MD) scored an unassisted goal to cut the Nittany Lion lead to 6-5 heading into the fourth period.
Rutgers tied the game up early in the fourth when Gaines and Britts connected on another goal at the 14:15 mark of the fourth. Eremus put Penn State up 7-6 with a man-up goal at the 12:49 mark off Brian Boyle assist. Both defenses stiffened and no goal was scored until Rutgers tied the game with just :06 left. Rommel scored off a Checcio assist to knot the game at 7-7 and send the contest into a four-minute sudden death overtime period.
The overtime period was scoreless until just :12 seconds remained. The Nittany Lions secured the victory when Nate Whitaker took a Boyle pass and connected for the game-winning goal, giving the Nittany Lions an 8-7 win.
Defensively, senior goalie Greg Havalchak (Corning, NY) made 13 saves, raising his career total to 617, which currently ranks second all-time on RU’s list. Havalchak passed John Naslonski (1982-83) and John Schmunk (1988-91) to move into second place with today’s performance.
Rutgers returns to action on Tuesday, April 25, when it makes a short trip to Princeton, NJ, to face the sixth-ranked Tigers (7-4), who lost 4-3 to No. 5 Cornell today. Opening face-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Class of ‘52 Stadium.