PHILADELPHIA - For a majority of the first half on Sunday, the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University men’s lacrosse teams gave everyone exactly what was expected from this NCAA first-round game at Franklin Field -- high energy, some jangly nerves, and an ebb and flow on the scoreboard.
So when the Quakers’ senior long-stick middie, Alex Blonsky, scored off a Joe McCallion feed with the Quakers DOWN a man and just 1:16 left in the half, you had to feel good as a Penn fan about where things stood. The Red and Blue was up, 6-4, and hadn’t allowed Drexel a lead to that point.
Jules Raucci scored for the Dragons with 17 seconds left, making the score 6-5. What could happen in 17 seconds, right?
Nick Saputo could happen.
Drexel’s standout faceoff man beat Danny Feeney clean, rolled down the chute and fired a shot that beat Danny’s twin brother, Penn goalie Brian Feeney. That took about five seconds. The next faceoff netted the exact same result -- a clean Saputo win, a Saputo charge down the chute, a Saputo shot, a Saputo goal.
Eleven seconds. Three goals. 7-6 Drexel lead.
That momentum carried over to the second half. Drexel scored the first three goals in the third quarter in a span of 1:04, and tacked on another two minutes later. Midway through the period it was 11-6, Dragons, and somehow you felt like this was a deficit that even the Comeback Quakers of 2014 could not overcome.
They could not. Final score: 16-11, Drexel.
So Penn’s magical season ends at 11-4 overall, and while the Quakers will have fond memories of an Ivy League Tournament title, an eight-game win streak, and a lofty No. 4 seed in this tournament, there is little doubt that this result will sting for awhile.
Drexel (13-4) and Penn split the eight faceoffs in the opening quarter, and it was 6-6 until Saputo's performance to end the break. His dominance carried over, as Drexel won an astounding 12 of the 16 faceoffs in the second half.
Penn opened the game with the first two goals, as Pat Berkery and Zack Losco scored unassisted, and then after Hank Brown got Drexel on the board Kevin Brown finished a feed from Nick Doktor to make the score 3-1. Ryan Belka’s goal for the Dragons was answered by Doktor with just nine seconds left – but in an ominous portent to the second-quarter collapse, a faceoff violation was called on Penn and Saputo raced down to score with just 1.9 seconds left before the horn to make it 4-3.
(Did we mention that Saputo matched his goal total for the entire season in this one game? He started it with three, and had three more by halftime.)
Chris Hilburn and Nick Trizano matched goals midway through the second quarter, before a nearly five-minute drought was finally ended by Blonsky’s man-down goal.
Doktor had Penn’s only goal in the third quarter, but any chance the Quakers might get back into this thing was squashed early in the fourth when Drexel netted three in a row to make it 14-7 with 11 minutes left. Penn got three of them back with goals from Drew Belinsky, Isaac Bock and Joe McCallion -- the last two with less than three minutes to play -- but it was far too late. Doktor added a goal in the final minute to give him a hat trick and a four-point game.
Penn outshot Drexel, 47-45, but Will Gabrielsen had 12 saves to get the win. Feeney ended his decorated career with nine stops for Penn, while Lopes had one save in just his second appearance this season. Another senior who stood out was defenseman Maxx Meyer, who had four caused turnovers and six ground balls.
Drexel moves on to next week's quarterfinal round, and will face fifth-seeded Denver Sunday in Newark, Del.