Posted: April 28, 2006
HAMILTON, N.Y. – After scoring the game’s first goal, Lehigh had a tough time getting its offense going on Friday evening, and fell to Navy by a score of 9-2 at Tyler’s Field in the semifinals of the 2006 Patriot League Tournament. Junior Michael Zurfluh and senior captain Jeff King netted the lone Mountain Hawk goals, as the Brown and White sees its season come to a close with a record of 8-7. Navy’s leaders on offense, Ian Dingman and Jon Birsner, both came up big for the Mids with four points each as they move onto Sunday’s Patriot League Championship tilt with archrival Army.
Head coach Chris Wakely expressed his thoughts following the loss to the number-seven team in the nation. “I thought we came out much stronger than we have in the past against Navy. We played them even for a good portion of the first half, we just weren’t able to capitalize on several opportunities we had. You look at a team like Navy and even though they might not have played their best game out there tonight, they found ways to get the job done and ultimately get the win.” Wakely added, “We challenged our team with a tough schedule this season with the mindset that it would get us ready for postseason play and it did. I am proud of the way we competed with such a tough opponent and can take away many positives from this game.”
Both teams came out slow, feeling their way on offense, until Zurfluh broke the scoreless deadlock with his eighth goal of the season at the 5:12 mark of the quarter putting Lehigh up 1-0. The Mids wasted little time in tying the game however, as Dingman scored just seven seconds later, making it a 1-1 affair with 5:05 remaining in the first. Navy then took the lead when Billy Looney scored off of a feed from Bruce Nechanicky with 3:39 to go, and the Mountain Hawks found themselves down 2-1.
Dingman would then score his second goal of the quarter at the 2:35 mark, putting the Mids up 3-1 and forcing the Brown and White to call a timeout. The quarter would end with the Midshipmen ahead by the same 3-1 score, which was an improvement over the previous two meetings, when Lehigh trailed 4-0 and 5-1, respectively after 15 minutes of action.
Ward Hackett upped Navy’s lead to 4-1 with 10:09 remaining in the second with a goal of his own off of a feed from Nick Mirabito, but that was the only score of the quarter. Lehigh unleashed 12 shots in the first 30 minutes to Navy’s 16, while scooping up nine ground balls and clearing the ball on a perfect eight of eight attempts. The Mids were 0-2 on clears in the second quarter and recorded nine ground balls for the half with William Wallace leading the way with five. Starting goal keeper Eric Spirko made two saves in the half for Lehigh, with All-American Matt Russell sending back five Mountain Hawk shots.
Both teams came out rather sloppy in the third quarter, with neither able to get into any sort of rhythm on offense, and plenty of turnovers to go around. Lehigh had several opportunities for shots in close, but had trouble handling the ball, allowing Navy to maintain its three goal advantage. The Mids then gave themselves some more breathing room with back-to-back goals in a span of 1:21 as Dingman and Mirabito scored two straight, to up their lead to 6-1, which is how the score would remain heading into the final quarter.
Mirabito would score the fourth quarter’s first goal, his second of the game, to put the Mids ahead 7-1 with 6:01 left in the contest, and Birsner fed Chris Barnard making the score 8-1 with 4:00 remaining. The assist from Birsner was the 100th of his celebrated career at Navy, and his second of the evening. King scored his first goal of the season with just over three minutes to go, and Lehigh had its first score of the second half to make it an 8-2 game. The Mids came right back however, with Dingman scoring yet again on another assist from Birsner, to up the Navy lead to 9-2 with 2:12 left.
Lehigh was out shot 31-19 for the game and won only four of 15 face offs. The Brown and White were a perfect 16 of 16 on clear attempts however, and scooped up 14 ground balls, led by Mike Moran’s three. Spirko finished with five saves, while Russell sent back six Lehigh shots.