Loudonville, N.Y. – The Canisius College men’s lacrosse team advanced to the MAAC Championship Game for the first time in school history with an 11-2 win over Manhattan in the semifinals. The second-seeded Griffs advance to play fourth-seeded VMI in the championship on Sunday. The Keydets upset top-seeded Providence in the first semifinal, 9-8 in overtime.
“From a program standpoint, it has been a long time coming,” said Canisius head coach Randy Mearns. “It was a complete 60-minute effort offensively and defensively today and that is something we have been looking for. A lot of players touched the ball today and a variety of guys scored. We are one step closer to an NCAA bid and that was one of our goals this season. Our guys deserved this win today. It is great feeling but now we need to focus on VMI, who is a very skilled team.”
The Griffs were led by a strong defensive effort. Senior Chris Courteau (pictured) recorded 10 saves in net, while sophomore defender Matt Barkas picked up a career-best nine ground balls and added three caused turnovers. Manhattan’s two scores were the fewest by a Canisius opponent since the Griffs defeated Wagner, 20-0, during the 2000 season.
Freshman Adam Jones led the Griffs’ offense with three goals, while senior Michael Blocho and freshman Nick LoCoco each netted two scores. Seniors Tom Hensel and Dan McAuliffe plus junior Brandon Martin and sophomore Alex Caldiero each netted a goal. Hensel also added two assists to pace the Canisius attack.
Jones scored the lone goal of the first period, registering an unassisted tally 8:15 into the contest. The Griffs’ (9-5) offense would get going in the second frame. Blocho scored a man-up goal only to see the Jaspers (6-9) follow with an extra-man score of their own. Canisius then opened a three-goal advantage with two scores just 17 seconds apart. Jones netted his second goal of the afternoon off a feed from Hensel. Martin then tallied his first collegiate goal coming off a transition opportunity. Neither team was able to add another goal for the remainder of the half as the two teams headed into intermission with a 4-1 advantage.
Canisius continued to increase its lead throughout the second half. Caldiero scored the first goal of the stanza but Manhattan responded to pull back within three, 5-2. However, the Griffs netted the next three scores of the period to seize control of the game. Hensel, Jones and LoCoco all scored as Canisius headed into the fourth period with an 8-2 advantage.
In the fourth period, LoCoco scored a man-up goal and Blocho and McAuliffe both netted goals during transition as the Griffs sealed the 11-2 victory and advanced to the Championship Game.
Canisius held a slight advantage in shots (28-27) and ground balls (34-33) but Manhattan dominated at the X, winning 13-of-17 faceoffs.
The Griffs and the Keydets will square off on Sunday on the campus of Siena College. Game time is slated for 1 p.m.
Game Notes: Canisius’ ninth victory of the season extends its school record for wins in a season … The Griffs are now 1-4 all-time in postseason games … Canisius and VMI are both making their first appearances in the MAAC Championship … Jones tallied his ninth hat trick of the season, tied for the most by a Griff since the 1990 campaign … With his two goals, Blocho raised his career total to 85 tallies and moved into ninth place in school history. He passed Tim Spaulding, who scored 84 goals from 1998 to 2001.