GREENVILLE, S.C. — It took a third overtime for the Westminster College men’s lacrosse team to defeat St. John’s (Minn.) 9-8 in the semi-finals of the MCLA National Championships on Thursday afternoon at Sirrine Stadium.
“I just told them to get to the (cage) and keep shooting,” assistant coach Brad Lavoie said. “It wasn’t pretty but we will take it any way we can get it.”
Brian Tyrrell sent the second-seeded Griffins (16-5) to the second championship game in school history as he scooped a loose ball into the net with 1:43 left in the third overtime session. The ball became free after an initial shot from Kyle Postler was turned away by St. John’s (13-3) goalie Michael King. Tyrrell was moving away from the goal when he chipped a shot in the cage and sent the Griffins into a celebration.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Tyrrell said after the game. “It could have been any one of us, but today it was me.”
Early on it seemed as though Westminster was going to run away from the third-seeded Johnnies. The Griffins used a goal from Adam Marfice and two from Kyle Postler to lead 3-0 after the first quarter. Miles Armitage scored for SJU early in the second quarter, before Postler, Kevin Gee and Tyrrell scored three straight for the Griffins to give them a 6-1 advantage with 2:59 left in the half.
The game swung in favor of SJU when Michael Culshaw-Maurer scored with 1:27 left in the half. That goal sparked a string of seven straight goals by the Johnnies that put them ahead 8-6 with 9:03 to play in the fourth quarter. Collin Madsen started the Griffins rally when he scored with 4:37 to play to make it a one goal deficit.
As things continued to look bleak for the Griffins, Elias Fairman tied the game at 8-8 when he scored his only goal of the game with 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Westminster won the ensuing faceoff, but it couldn’t get a final shot off before the game was sent into overtime.
Westminster goalie Chris Burckle came up with four saves in the first four-minute overtime to give his team a chance to win. The biggest save of the game came from Griffin defender Matt Lambourne. With Burckle out of the cage, SJU got a shot from 15 yards out on an empty cage before Lambourne stepped in front and kept the game even.
Both teams would get one shot on goal in the second overtime and both came up empty. The Griffins controlled the third extra period and forced King into two stops before Tyrrell’s winner.
“Lacrosse is a game of momentum,” Lambourne commented. “We had to rally together and play as a team today to get this one.”
The Griffins took 48 shots in the game while allowing SJU to just 30 attempts. It was the Johnnies that were more efficient as they put 21 of those 30 shots on cage while the Griffins also had 21 on target. SJU won 14-of-23 faceoffs, including 13-of-17 following the first quarter. The Johnnies also finished with a 26-24 edge in ground balls.
“This was not an offensive game,” Lavoie added. “Our defense was picked on all day and they continued to rise to the occasion.”
Postler finished the afternoon with five points after adding two assists to his three goals. Fairman, Gee and Madsen had one goal and one assist apiece with Fairman matching Postler with a team-high nine shots. Burckle finished with 12 saves and earned his eighth win of the season.
Armitage and Conlan Meade scored three goals apiece to lead the Johnnies. King made 12 saves in cage while also picking up two ground balls and attempting one shot.
“We now have to put this in the past and move on to Saturday,” Lambourne said of Saturday’s championship game. “Today isn’t the finish line.”
The win puts the Griffins into Saturday’s championship game against the winner over No.1 seed St. Thomas (Minn.) and fourth-seeded Liberty (Va.). The Griffins defeated Grand Valley State (Mich.) in the team’s last trip to the title game in 2008. Saturday’s game will begin at 3 p.m. (MT) and be streamed live on the MCLA website.