NORTHFIELD, Vt. - The Norwich University men's lacrosse team faced their toughest test of the 2019 season on Tuesday night, defeating the Wildcats of Johnson & Wales University by a 15-13 final score to advance to the program's fourth conference championship game and their second appearance in a row.
In a rematch of the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship game that JWU upset Norwich in, both teams brought their best.
As he's done all season long, Cody Moore got Norwich started with a goal off a Parker Campbell assist to make it 1-0. A fast-paced first quarter saw the two teams firing on all cylinders offensively with both defenses doing their best to weather the storm, as Norwich ended up carrying a slim 5-3 at the first break. The second quarter was the polar opposite, as the two teams settled into over 16 minutes of scoreless lacrosse. Norwich finally broke through with Aidan Moulton's third goal of the afternoon, and Payden Masaracchia notched an unassisted goal with just 20 seconds left in the half to make it 7-3 Norwich. Johnson & Wales executed perfectly coming out of a timeout with nine seconds on the clock, as Brad Kretz took a Ben Farrell feed and cashed in for a goal with just three seconds left to make it 7-4.
The Wildcats came out in the third quarter and jumped all over Norwich, tying the game in just 8:14 of game time with a 3-0 run. Norwich responded, however, rattling off three straight goals to close the period and re-establish their three-goal advantage.
Both teams traded a pair of goals to start the fourth before Norwich came up with a 3-0 run that proved to be vital, as Cody Moore assisted on the second goal of the run and scored the third goal unassisted to propel Norwich to a 14-9 lead with just barely seven minutes remaining. The Wildcats came back at Norwich with a vengeance, rattling off a 4-0 run highlighted by back to back unassisted goals by senior Thomas Lyons to bring the Wildcats to the brink of yet another upset in the GNAC postseason.
Needing a faceoff win, Head Coach Neal Anderson sent Chris Ward into the faceoff circle to win a vital faceoff for Norwich. Ward did just that, bullying his way to the faceoff win with great physical play. Norwich got two good shots at the insurance goal, but John Jennings shot wide with the first attempt, and JWU goalie Bradley Morris made yet another terrific save on a Cody Moore shot to keep the Wildcats' chances alive.
With just under a minute to go, senior Ben Farrell ran by nearly the entire Norwich team on a drive to the goal. His took a shot that got by a diving Jacob Center from about 15 yards out, and Brandon Milburn made the biggest save of his career to save Norwich's one-goal lead. The Cadets came back down and played keep-away from the Wildcats until John Jennings found Parker Campbell in the middle of the field and Campbell beat the JWU goalie one-on-one to seal the game with seven seconds left. The clock ran out and Norwich escaped with the 15-13 victory.
One of the best games in recent Norwich lacrosse memory saw contributions from all parts of the roster. It started at the top, with senior team captain Cody Moore registering four goals and three assists on the day. Aidan Moulton had the first-half hat trick, Payden Masaracchia had a pair of goals, and Jake Andrews-Pestana notched a very clutch man-up goal in the fourth quarter. The Norwich defense stepped up when it needed to, especially Sean Wallace who caused two turnovers one after the other in the third quarter that directly led to a Jack Anzalone goal on the other end.
Joseph Santangelo went 20-29 in the faceoff circle with 13 ground balls in yet another great performance by the senior, while Chris Ward went a perfect 2-2 in relief on the dot including the clutch win in the fourth quarter. Brandon Milburn did what he needed to do in goal, making seven saves, none more important than the last, to improve to 5-0 individually on the season.
Norwich will advance to the GNAC Championship game this coming Saturday, where they will take on the #1 overall seed Lasell College Lasers. The start time is yet to be announced, but will likely be around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Look for a confirmed time on NorwichAthletics.com tomorrow afternoon.