Brian Anken Post-Game Interview Below
LEXINGTON, Va. -- Playing arguably one of its most well-rounded games of the season, the Virginia Military Institute men’s lacrosse team suffered a 10-7 setback Saturday afternoon against Canisius College. The game served as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The game, which was held at VMI’s North Post Drill Field #2, was tied 6-6 early in the fourth quarter, but a four-goal run by the Griffins gave them a 10-6 edge. VMI tallied the final goal of the game with 23 seconds left on the board.
“This one hurts; it stings a little bit,” said VMI head coach Brian Anken. “We left some goals on the field that we’re going to be really frustrated with, some shot selection and a couple of really nice looks. Unfortunately, it negated a pretty good defensive effort over the course of 60 minutes.”
VMI’s offense was led by Russell East and Bernie Mowbray, both of whom scored a pair of goals. Will Baker, Mike DeBlasio and James Van Wie each scored once. East, who extended his scoring streak to 15 games, tallied an extra-man chance. Dan Bull and Eric Groleau recorded assist for VMI.
Canisius, the defending MAAC champion, was paced by seven points from Vince Gravino’s four goals and three assists. Joe Rautenstrauch tallied a hat trick while Austin Romantic notched a pair. Brandon Bull accounted for the Griffs’ 10th goal. Tim Edwards posted four assists while Romantic and faceoff specialist Mike Moran each had one assist.
Between the pipes, senior Matt Lindemann made 13 saves, his sixth game this year with double-digit saves, but suffered the loss in one of VMI’s best defensive effort of the 2013 season. Across from Lindemann, Alex Govenettio had seven saves to lead Canisius to its first win of the year.
After missing Tuesday’s game at Wagner College with an upper body injury, local standout Tyler Prasnicki returned with a vengeance, forcing four Canisius turnovers. Fellow defenseman Rory Dillon forced a pair of turnovers, helping VMI to 11 as a team.
“It seems like one side of the field gets healthy, and the other side of the field gets banged up. It’s been a good spring break to try and get guys healthy again,” noted Anken, whose defense was missing two key starters in games this week. “Having Prasnicki is such an unbelievable presence on the defensive side of the field. We made some changes on defense with some system things and Prasnicki really came in and anchored it … he’s just a great presence, a calming presence and helped Matty (Lindemann) get some good looks at the shots.”
The Griffs controlled the faceoff X, winning 13 of the 21 draws. Moran went 12-20 at the spot, while Edwards took the final face of the game to help ice the contest after winning his own draw. Gaston Ledford took 20 faceoffs for VMI, winning eight, but snaring four groundballs along the way. Luke Frizzell took one draw.
The Griffs won the groundball battle, aided by their success on the faceoffs, grabbing 34 grounders to VMI’s 26. Like Canisius, VMI had 18 turnovers, but just five were forced. The Keydets gained the offensive zone on 16 of their 22 attempts, while Canisius was 20-20 in the same category.
Canisius jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as Rautenstrauch and Romantic each scored in the first quarter. VMI held the Griffs off the board until the 8:26 mark. It would be another eight minutes before Canisius struck again as Romantic tallied his goal with 26 seconds left. Romantic and Canisius took advantage of VMI playing with just four players on the field, as Bull and Van Wie served coinciding pushing penalties. Gravino had both assists.
The Griffs struck quickly in the start of the second quarter as Brandon Bull notched his goal just 37 seconds into the fresh stanza. Romantic was on the back end of the goal with the assist.
But the momentum shifted towards VMI as DeBlasio and Mowbray scored within a minute of each other, cutting Canisius’ lead to 3-2. Groleau had the assist on DeBlasio’s marker.
A three-goal run by Canisius put the Griffs up 6-2 at the break, including back-to-back goals from Gravino to end the period. His second tally came with just eight seconds left in the half.
But despite the deficit, VMI would rally after the halftime break.
“The guys knew coming out of halftime that we were doing some good things defensively and we just wanted to make two subtle adjustments that I think worked really well,” said Anken of his defense, which did not allow a Canisius goal in the third quarter.
The third quarter belonged to VMI as the Keydets racked up three goals to pull within one. Van Wie struck early in the period on an unassisted dodge, followed by East with a shade under eight minutes left in the third, getting a pass from Dan Bull on the extra man. The man-up goal was East’s team-leading fifth of the year, tying former teammate Drew Leonard’s five for the most in the Brian Anken era at VMI.
Baker, who took four shots on the day, notched his first goal since April 30, 2011 with 2:12 left in the third quarter to pull VMI back within one, 6-5.
The Keydets would tie the game at six as Mowbray potted his second goal of the day with 10:41 to go in regulation, wrapping up a four-goal run for the Keydets en route to the deadlock. The run was VMI’s best of the season, surpassing several three-goal runs, most recently in the third quarter at Wagner (March 12).
But the Griffs iced the game over the next five minutes, scoring four goals, including quick strikes from Romantic and Gravino, the former scoring at 7:33 in the fourth and the latter at 7:27. Moran won the ensuing faceoff after Romantic’s second man-up goal of the day, feeding Gravino on the fast break.
East had the final tally of the day, scoring with just 23 seconds left in regulation, his first goal of the season with less than a minute remaining in a quarter.
“We’ve been in too many of these fourth-quarter battles this year to not come out on top with this one,” noted Brian Anken, whose team has been within three goals or less of the lead heading into the fourth quarter on three separate occasions this season. “This one is going to sting a little bit.”
The homecoming for VMI will be short lived as the Keydets get back on the road and head to the Motor City to face MAAC foe University of Detroit-Mercy next Saturday. VMI’s seventh road game of the season kicks off at Titan Field at noon.