For the Michigan men’s lacrosse team, it came down to the last three seconds.
After a 14-12 victory against Penn State on March 20, the Wolverines (2-7 Big Ten) looked to repeat its performance against the Nittany Lions (3-6) on Friday in Happy Valley, Pa. Penn State, however, managed to pull off a fourth-quarter comeback and send the game to overtime, where it eventually scored with just three seconds left to win, 14-13.
The first quarter was evenly matched, as each team notched three goals. Thanks to strong defensive efforts and excellent goaltending, it was very difficult for either to create separation on the scoreboard.
In the second quarter, Michigan forced 11 turnovers compared to Penn State’s two, which provided offensive opportunities. Junior defenseman Andrew Darby forced a turnover late in the second quarter, allowing the Wolverines to clear the ball and to set up a scoring play.
The Wolverines led 7-6 at halftime.
Penn State switched goalkeepers during the second half which initially gave Michigan another opening. The Wolverines proceeded to go on a 5-1 scoring run in the third quarter to make it a 12-8 Wolverine lead.
“Penn State went with a different direction for their goaltender, and when you put a guy in who has not played yet and it is cold, it is hard for him to get into rhythm,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “We exploited him with good shots in good spots.”
The Wolverines, however, were unable to keep up the momentum heading into the fourth quarter, as Penn State scored five unanswered goals to take the lead with under five minutes left in the game. The Nittany Lions picked up the pace defensively by playing in a tight zone, which allowed for minimal shooting opportunities.
“They dropped into a zone and really packed it in which had our guys take some outside shots, and we were fortunate (sophomore midfielder) Jacob (Jackson) scored one at the end,” Conry said. “But for a lot of them, Penn State was able to get bodies on us, and we were not putting them to the pipes which allowed them to take a better position which really cut down a lot of our opportunities.”
Michigan scored with just under three minutes left in regulation to force overtime. While in overtime, the Wolverines were in the offensive zone twice and created many scoring chances, but Penn State goalkeeper Aleric Fyock made arguably two of the best saves of the game, allowing the team to clear the ball and set up offensive plays.
Key contributors to the Wolverines’ offensive included sophomore attackman Josh Zawada, who tallied a goal and three assists, and freshman attackman Michael Boehm who knotted a hat trick.
With just three seconds left in overtime, Nittany Lions’ senior attackman Mac O’Keefe scored the game-winning goal, finishing with six tallies on the day. O’Keefe was able to create separation against the Michigan defenders allowing him to take an easy shot with no traffic in front of the net. Penn State squeaked out a one-point win, but even more impressive was O’Keefe breaking the NCAA’s all-time goal-scoring record in this game against Michigan.
“Making good decisions down the stretch is a part of our maturation process,” Conry said. “So, every time that we are out there, we are learning and growing. It is certainly disappointing to lose a lead, but at the end of it, we had our opportunities to win the game.”