April 4, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova twice battled back from a three-goal deficit and tied the game with two minutes remaining in regulation at 8-8, but the 6th-ranked Denver Pioneers (9-2, 3-0) pulled out the overtime victory, 9-8, on Friday night in Villanova Stadium.
In a back-and-forth affair that saw three tied scores and two lead changes, the contest marked a battle of the last two undefeated teams in the BIG EAST. With the win, Denver improves to 9-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference while Villanova falls to 4-6 and 2-1 in BIG EAST action. Additionally, it marked the third overtime game for Villanova this year: Villanova last played in three extra-time contests during the 2006 season.
The Wildcats opened the match on the right foot and took a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of action off scores from senior Kevin O'Neil (Cockeysville, Md.) and junior Eric Gartner (Malvern, Pa.), but following six minutes of settled play on both sides the Pioneers bounced back with two goals from Erick Adamson to tie the game at 2-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Denver continued their scoring streak with another three scores in the second stanza to increase their lead to 5-2 with two goals from Tyler Pace and one from Wesley Berg. The five-goal run by the Pioneers kept the Wildcats scoreless for 24:42 heading into intermission. During that run, Villanova suffered from a string of penalties with the final four Denver goals credited as extra-man opportunities to the Pioneers.
The Wildcats bounced back after intermission with 13:12 on the clock to start the third quarter when sophomore Jack Curran (Fair Haven, N.J.) took a low-angled shot from the goal line extended to close the Denver lead at 5-3. Following another Adamson score just over two minutes later, Villanova went on a three goal-run with help from Chris Piccirilli (Davidsonville, Md.) O'Neil and Gartner to tie the game at 6-6 heading into the final 15 minutes of regulation.
Denver would stifle the Villanova attack and notched the first two goals of the fourth quarter at the 12:38 and 6:57 marks from Pace and Berg to increase their lead once again by two at 8-6, but the Wildcats stormed back when senior John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) found an open Tim Mulrenan (Glen Ridge, N.J.) on an extra-man opportunity to get to within one at 8-7. Just three minutes later, senior Mark Jackson (West Chester, Pa.) tallied his first goal of the season off an O'Neil assist to tie the contest at 8-8 and send the game into overtime for the third time this season.
Denver's Chris Hampton won the ensuing overtime faceoff to give the Pioneers possession at the start of the extra period. Following a DU turnover caused by Jackson, the Wildcats had a chance for an offensive possession before a turnover gave the advantage back to the visitors. On the Pioneers following clear and settled possession, Jeremy Noble cut to the crease and found the back the net for the game-winner as Denver claimed the victory over the Wildcats, 9-8.
In arguably his best game of the season, freshman goalkeeper Dan Willis (Moorestown, N.J.) notched 12 saves including several point-blank shots in the first half to keep the Wildcats in the contest. Senior SSDM Remington Pope (Boston, Mass.), LoCascio and Willis each tallied four ground balls for the night.
Offensively, O'Neil and Curran led Villanova with a combined six points while eight Wildcats provided points on the evening. Gartner and O'Neil also continued their streak of providing points in all 10 games this season and the Wildcats outshot the Pioneers by a 38-24 margin on the evening. They also won the ground ball battle 33-29 and were 9-of-19 on faceoffs.
Denver's Ryan LaPlante and Jamie Faus combined for 12 saves.
Villanova will return to action in just over a week when they travel to Rutgers on Saturday, April 12th. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. in Piscataway, N.J.