DENVER – The No. 2 seeded University of Denver men’s lacrosse team fell to Towson 10-9 on Sunday at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium in the NCAA Tournament First Round. The Pioneers finish the 2016 season with a 13-3 record, and the senior class led the country in wins at 60-13.
Tewaaraton nominee Trevor Baptiste (Denville, N.J.) won 20-of-22 faceoffs and picked up 11 ground balls in the game.
Towson earned a 2-1 advantage after the first quarter. The Tigers were the first to get on the board as they took advantage of a Denver broken stick to fire a shot past freshman goalie Alex Ready (Lancaster, Pa.) with 8:56 remaining in the opening quarter. The Pioneers evened things up with 7:09 to play in the first quarter. Junior captain Tyler Pace (Coquitlam, B.C.) drew a hold call, and the potent DU offense went on the power-play. Zach Miller (Steamburg, N.Y.) and Brendan Bomberry (Ohsweken, Ontario) played a give-and-go to score Denver’s first goal of the game.
Towson regained the lead as Jon Mazza took the ball from behind the cage and turned the corner to put the ball in the net. Denver outlasted a long Towson possession with Ready making a save and Denver’s defense gathering the ground ball to move the ball ahead. After a successful clear, the Pioneers turned the ball over and allowed the Tigers to score before they settled.
Denver had the final chance in the first quarter as Miller took a behind-the-back shot, which landed outside the net.
Towson continued its run in the second quarter as Spencer Parks recorded back-to-back goals, including the lone assisted goal for the Tigers in the first half, increasing Towson’s lead to 4-1. Parks then assisted a goal by Mike Lynch with 5:24 remaining in the first half. Ready got a piece of the shot, but could not hold on to the rebound.
Denver responded in the final 4:05 of the first half. Connor Cannizzaro (Cazenovia, N.Y.) drew a tripping call against the Tigers, giving the Pioneers another man-up opportunity. Cannizzaro tallied the goal off an assist by Miller with a step-down shot from distance. Denver then drew a penalty with 2:09 remaining in the second quarter after Pace caused Towson’s lone turnover of the half and used tic-tac-toe passing on the power play to cut Towson’s lead to 5-3. Pace finished the goal off another assist by Miller with 1:56 remaining in the first half. Despite timeouts by both teams in the final 1:56 of the first half, neither team was able to find the back of the net.
The bright spot for Denver in the first half was Baptiste at the faceoff dot. Baptiste won all 10 faceoffs in the first half, picking up five ground balls in the process, but the Pioneers committed nine turnovers, including six unforced errors.
Towson returned its lead to three out of halftime on their first power-play opportunity of the game, as Joe Seider finished an assist from Parks 3:11 into the third quarter. After an 8:55 drought by both teams, Miller worked his way to the cage for an unassisted goal with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers and Pioneers traded goals once more as Lynch scored his second of the game for Towson with 1:22 to play in the third quarter, before freshman Colton Jackson (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) scored his first of the game with 0:02 on the clock. Baptiste lost the final faceoff of the quarter but tracked down Alec Burckley to cause the turnover and give DU the final possession. Jackson capitalized on a rebound from a Denver shot that was saved by Tyler White and fired it to cut Towson’s lead to 7-5 going into the fourth quarter.
Denver drew a foul to begin the final frame of action for their fourth power-play opportunity of the game. After converting on the three previous extra-man opportunities, the Pioneers failed to score, but Jackson tallied his second goal of the game shortly after the penalty ran out as he ran to the goal and scored with 12:45 remaining in the game.
Just 1:10 later, the Pioneers tied the game up 7-7 with a goal by Connor Donahue (Groton, Mass.), assisted by senior Jack Bobzien (Littleton, Colo.). Donahue took the initial shot on the possession, but White matched him with a save. Miller snagged the ground ball and took a shot, but Towson blocked the second Denver attempt. Jackson picked up the ground ball to save the Denver possession before Bobzien ultimately connected with Donahue for the game-tying goal.
The tied game did not last long as Towson rattled off a goal with 9:27 remaining in the game. The Tigers continued their run with goals 2:07 apart to gain a 10-7 lead with 1:39 to play.
Denver attempted a comeback in the final seconds of the game. Cannizzaro ran from behind the cage and scored with 0:41 remaining in the game, then Miller earned a hat trick in the game with 0:13 on the clock off an assist from Pace, cutting Towson’s lead to 10-9.
Baptiste won the final faceoff of the game, but the Pioneers could not find an overtime-forcing goal, falling to the Tigers 10-9 and concluding their season with a 13-3 record.