SFU lacrosse bounces back with win, after close loss on the road
The 22nd-ranked Simon Fraser’s men’s lacrosse team hit the road last week to battle their Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League rivals, the seventh-ranked University of Oregon Ducks, and then traveled further south to face the 25th-ranked Chico State Wildcats.
SFU and Oregon have been bitter rivals for many years. In fact, in the 16 PNCLL championships that have happened since 1997, SFU has won eight and UO has won seven. Needless to say, this game was a barn-burner.
Despite a slow, nervous start for both teams, six goals were scored in the opening frame. Oregon struck first when attackman Matt Johnson buried the ball past SFU goaltender Darren Zwack. Luckily, SFU’s Andrew Branting scored to tie the game with an outside rip shortly after.
After Oregon scored to take the lead, 2–1, Johnson scored his second of the game to double the Duck’s lead. SFU attackman Colton Dow cut the lead to one when he dunked a pass from Sam Clare on the crease. But before the quarter had run out, Johnson completed his hat-trick, and the Clan trailed 4–2.
The second quarter pace was slower than the first. Zwack managed to keep all but two balls out of the net, but Clare was the only one to score for SFU, and they hit the locker rooms down by three. SFU flew out of the locker room with a purpose, they looked more together and had a calm approach to their task. Dow got them on the board early, only to have Oregon respond with one of their own, keeping the lead at three, 7–4.
They didn’t give up, and were rewarded with back-to-back goals. First, Branting scored his second of the game, and then Brendan Farell scored to cut the lead to just one, meaning that SFU trailed by only one heading into the final 15 minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, the Ducks found the back of the net first in the fourth quarter, restoring the two goal lead.
The hostility picked up when Ward Spencer took a pass from Eric Ransom, and made no mistake putting it past the Oregon goalie. The Ducks answered right back once again, but the Clan kept their heads up and refocused on the next draw. Oregon took an undisciplined flag, which allowed Ransom to take a feed from Spencer and launch a rocket through the goalie’s legs.
SFU won the next face-off and took over what would be the last possession of the game. However, the Duck’s defense was too stingy that night, and the Clan lost their first game of the season, 9–8. SFU needed to be more efficient with their shots, as they slung 48 shots towards the net, including a 31–12 advantage in the second half. Mark Hilker and Riley Wanzer held down the loose ball category for SFU picking up seven each. Next, the Clan headed to try and tame the Wildcats in front of their home fans. Once again, SFU allowed their opposition to score the first goal of the game. Dow tied the game before the end of the first quarter, and assisted on Ransom’s second quarter goal to give the Clan a 2–1 lead.
After Chico State tied the game at two, Dow made a great pass to Travis Hayes who buried it for another Clan lead. They held that lead until the buzzer sounded to end the first half.
The see-saw battle continued into the second half. The Wildcats tied the game at three, but SFU reclaimed the lead on Lyndon Knuttila’s first collegiate goal, which was assisted by Hayes. After Chico State tied the game for the third time, Clare took a pass from Branting and rifled a shot past the goaltender. His goal ended up being the winning one as the Clan defensive unit shut the door in the final quarter.
SFU added three more goals in the fourth to take their third win in seven days, 8–4 over the Wildcats. Zwack made nine saves in the effort, and was clutch when he needed to be. Dow and Clare led the team with three points each. With only four goals against, it ties the all-time record against ranked opponents, which was set last year against Illinois.
SFU’s head coach Brent Hoskins was satisfied with the road win. “This trip built a lot of character for us early in our season,” commented Hoskins after the game, “so it was important to grind one out versus Chico State.” He was impressed by his team’s ability to stick with it until the final buzzer. “Ultimately this was a great learning experience, and we felt like we grew a lot as a team over the course of tonight’s game,” he finished.
The Clan are 3–1 on the year, but have yet to play any opponent from their PNCLL north division.