PAINESVILLE, OHIO – The Lake Erie College men's lacrosse team went toe-to-toe with the nation's top-ranked team Tuesday night (April 16) but ultimately came up short in its upset bid as No. 1 Mercyhurst University escaped a raucous Jack Britt Memorial Stadium with a 13-12 East Coast Athletic Conference Division II Lacrosse League win.
Spurred by a big-night from senior attacker Keegan Bal (Coquitlam, B.C./Centennial Secondary), the Storm (8-2, 4-2 ECAC) found themselves in a tie game at 10-10 with nine minutes to play after a goal by junior Macgregor Johnston (Nanaimo, B.C./Dover Bay).
But Mercyhurst (12-0, 6-0 ECAC) won the ensuing three face-offs and turned each possession into goals – including two by Zac Reid - to take a 13-10 lead with six minutes left. Junior Reagan Harding (Saskatoon, Sask./Bishop Jones Mahoney) scored his third goal of the game a minute later and Johnston made it 13-12 with just over a minute to play.
After a tremendous defensive effort got the ball back with 18 seconds left, the Storm had one final chance to tie after Bal, who scored a game-high and career-high-tying six goals in the contest, collected a rebounded off Johnston's shot attempt. But Michael Grace, who made nine saves in the game, deflected Bal's attempt at the final horn to secure the Lakers' 30th consecutive regular season victory.
Before the late drama, there was plenty of excitement as the two teams battled back-and-forth throughout. Neither team led by more than one goal until Ian Brooks scored with a minute left in the second quarter to give Mercyhurst an 8-6 lead at halftime.
Junior Trevor Tarte (Amherstburg, Ont./Kiski Prep) and Bal scored in the third quarter to tie the game, but a quick answer by Brian Sheetz after Bal's goal gave the Lakers a 9-8 edge heading into the final period.
Bal scored four goals in the first half and also added an assist for a seven-point night. It was the fourth time in five games he has totaled seven or more points, including 16 points in the last two. Harding scored three times and had an assist for four points while Johnston and senior Joeyjohn French (Tully, N.Y./Tully) had two assists each.
Freshman Tom Lipomi (Hamburg, N.Y./Hamburg) made a career-high 16 saves in goal, proving nearly equal to the veteran Grace.
Reid and Sheetz each scored three goals to lead the Lakers while James Chayka scored twice. Sheetz also had four assists to match Bal with a seven-point game. Mercyhurst held a 45-37 edge in shots but also committed six more turnovers (20) than the Storm (14).
The loss snapped Lake Erie's school-record four-game winning streak.
The Storm will look to bounce back Sunday, April 21, when they host Rollins College for a 1 p.m. face-off in the home finale and Senior Recognition Day game.