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MLAX: Denver beats Villanova in Big East Tournament Championship

Villanova Athletics

The Villanova Wildcats held close to the Denver Pioneers for the entire first half, building two separate two-goal leads. However, the Pioneers would use an 8-0 run across the third and fourth quarter to take the Big East Tournament Championship by a score of 14-7.

"I'm really proud of our young men, especially that second half" Pioneers coach Bill Tierney said after the game. "It was as good as it gets, because that first quarter was as ugly as it got."

Tierney wasn't exaggerating about the first quarter- Villanova looked like they were on their way to an automatic NCAA berth. Eric Gartner netter the game's first goal within the first two minutes, and Devin McNamara would have his own five minutes after. Technically, McNamara's goal was an own goal as Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante went to pick up the grounder and inadvertently pushed the ball over the line. Denver would not go down easily as Wes Berg would score at the 5:14 mark with his 6th goal of the tournament. Less than a minute later, Tyler Pace would assist Zach Miller on his first of four goals on the day to tie it up at 2-2. That tie would last shortly as Johnny Gallaway, then McNamara again, would put the lead back at two goals. With three seconds left in the quarter, Denver's Garret Holst would assist on Mike Riis to trail only one going into the second quarter.

The Pioneers looked like they would take the lead when John Moderski and Chris Piccirilli would serve 1-minute penalties at the same time. Denver couldn't make anything of the 2-man advantage but Berg would tie the game again at the 8:15 time. Harrison Archer would give the Pioneers their first lead of the day 50 seconds later. That lead lasted 2:11 when Matt McIver tied it up with the assist from Kevin O`Neil. Jack Bobzien would break the tie with his first goal of the day, but Thomas Croonquist would take the faceoff and go the distance to tie it 5 seconds later. The score would stand at 6-6 at halftime.

Villanova was lucky not to be trailing after two quarter; Denver's stats looked much more dominant. They won 10 of the 15 total faceoffs, owned the groundball advantage 20-11, and outshot the `Cats 18-14. Both teams were perfect on clears. Dan Willis had 6 saves in the first half, and LaPlante had 3. LaPlante was replaced by Jamie Faus for the final two quarters.

The second half was all Denver, and by all Denver I mean ALL DENVER. Specifically, Zach Miller lead the surge this quarter. With 2:58 left in the quarter, he had scored his 4th goal of the game, meaning he had 3 in the 3rd. Miller felt generous from there as he would assist the next goal by Tyler Pace on a man-up opportunity. To end the quarter, Bobzien scored his second of the day. Denver would outscore Villanova 5-0 and outshot `Nova 12-5.

The run would not end there. Wes Berg completed yet another hat trick 1:00 into the 4th, and Pace and Sean Cannizzaro would score before Villanova ended the 8-0 run. Near the end of the game, Remington Pope and goalie Dan Willis each got unnecessary roughness penalties, displaying the obvious frustration from a lack of offensive prowess. Matt McIver would find the back of the net with 1:28 remaining, but that would prove negligible. Denver would take the NCAA Tournament automatic berth.

Faceoffs were an obvious downfall for the Wildcats; they lost 2/3 of them. Denver dominated on the groundballs 40-18, serving as great defense in the cold Wildcat second half. The `Cats clearly had less offensive chances as the were outshot 42-24.

The Wildcats finish the season 6-10, and the Pioneers 14-2.