RPI men’s lacrosse looked ready to polish off a season opening victory early at Keene State College last Saturday.
Two goals by junior attackman Breanainn McNeally, and one each by junior attackman Matt Hall, sophomore attackman Matthew Gilman, freshman attackman JT Kelly, and freshman midfielder Lucas Bastarache gave RPI a commanding 6-0 lead before 12 minutes had elapsed. But, 48 minutes later, the game was over and the Owls had won, 14-12.
The Engineers started to unravel after their sixth goal of the first quarter. A delay-of-game penalty resulted in a man-up opportunity for Keene, and they took advantage. Midfielder Frank Baccarella scored with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter, and fellow Owls midfielder Tyler Reilly added a goal of his own moments later, collecting a ground ball and firing it into the Rensselaer net to make the score 6-2.
Still, RPI’s McNeally scored his third goal of the game with eight seconds left in the first frame, and the Engineers looked well on their way to victory.
Another penalty on the Engineers early in the second period gave Keene another man-up opportunity, and they capitalized moments later on a goal by attackman Hunter Arnold. Ninety seconds later, they cut the lead to three when attackman Bryan Rotatori scored his sixth goal of the season for the Owls.
After Gilman scored his second goal of the game to make the score 8-4, the Engineers offense went cold. It wasn’t until 12:32 in the third that the Engineers scored their ninth goal. By then the Owls had caught up, making three consecutive goals to end the first half and another to open the third quarter.
After a cross-checking on Keene just before the 10-minute mark in the third quarter, McNeally scored his fourth goal of the game to put RPI back up by two scores. However, a minute later, the momentum shifted back to the home team when attackman Tyler McKelvie whipped a shot into the Rensselaer net to trim the lead to one goal. This score started another four-goal spurt for the Owls that extended into the final quarter and gave the home team a 12-10 edge.
However, RPI still showed some life after losing the lead. Hall assisted Kelly twice for RPI goals down the stretch to bring the game to its third and final tie at the three-minute mark in the fourth quarter.
Those were the last two goals the Engineers would score as Keene capped off their comeback victory with two goals in the final seconds of the game and emerged from the battle with a 14-12 win.
Rensselaer junior goalie David Gibbs saved 18 of 32 shots that he faced while opponent Matthew Howe collected 17 of the 29 that went his way for Keene.
Kelly and Gilman each recorded their first career hat tricks at Rensselaer, and McNeally started off his junior campaign well with four scores after tallying 44 and 35 in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. Senior Patrick Finn and Matt Hall led the Engineers with two apiece.
Surrendering a big lead and losing on the road is tough to accept, but there was no better time for it to happen. The Engineers will learn from their mistakes in this game and look to be primed for a terrific 2016 campaign led by veteran starters McNeally and Finn on offense and Gibbs between the pipes.