W&L led 9-3 headed to the fourth, thanks in large part to four points by Mac Means and a 37-12 edge in shot attempts, but VMI rallied in the final period. A Mickey Hofmeister goal with 14:32 left cut the margin to five, and Hofmeister scored again with 8:57 to play, making it 9-5 and bringing the VMI portion of the crowd to its feet.
That portion of the crowd had still more to cheer about off the ensuing faceoff, when Stephen Robarge won the draw and immediately took the ball towards the goal, firing a shot by W&L keeper Patrick Jennings to make it a three-goal game. Jennings made two huge saves, including a kick save with his right foot, as the clock ticked under six minutes, and those proved to be huge later in the quarter.
The Keydets struck again at the 4:59 mark of the fourth, whipping the VMI fans into a frenzy as Mike DiBlasio notched his third goal of the game, scoring on a shot from about 20 yards out in the middle of the field. DiBlasio was hit by W&L’s Peter Schubert on the play, and Schubert was whistled for an unnecessary roughness penalty, giving VMI a man-up chance to tie the game. VMI was stopped by the W&L defense, but on the ensuing clear, the Generals turned the ball over and DiBlasio scored again, making it a one-goal game with 3:26 remaining.
The Generals won the ensuing faceoff and ran over two minutes off the clock, but the Keydet defense trapped a General attacker and stripped the ball loose. VMI cleared the ball and called timeout with 34 seconds left, setting up a chance to tie the game, but two shots went astray and the clock ran down to 13 seconds. A final pass towards the net was just off target and landed in front of the goal, creating a skirmish between multiple players from both teams, but the Generals emerged with it and ran the clock out to preserve the victory.
With the victory, the Generals captured their 22nd win in the history of the Lee-Jackson Classic, which began in 1988. It is, however, the fourth time in the past seven meetings that the result has been decided by two goals or less. Means won the Worrell-Fallon award, given to the MVP from each team, for W&L, while DiBlasio captured the honor for VMI.
The first quarter was relatively evenly played, as Means put W&L on the board seven minutes in, but DiBlasio answered with 2:28 left in the period, knotting the score at 1. The Generals did get a man-up goal from Sam Mott, the first of his three scores, with 44 seconds left in the quarter and consequently, led 2-1 after 15 minutes of play.
That lead grew in the second quarter, as after the teams traded scores in the first 3:30, making it 3-2 W&L, the Generals launched a three-goal run over the final 4:18 of the half, giving them a 6-2 lead at halftime. W&L was helped by four VMI penalties, three of which led to man-up goals in the first two quarters.
Cameron Dabir pushed the run to four with 8:44 left in the third, giving W&L an 7-2 edge, before DiBlasio got VMI back on the board at 6:25 of the third period, cutting the deficit back to four. Scott Meehan, last year’s Worrell-Fallon award winner, and Mott closed the quarter with goals for the Generals, however, and the lead was six headed to the dramatic final 15 minutes.
DiBlasio led VMI with his four goals, while Hofmeister had three scores and added an assist. Chris Kitchen assisted on two goals for VMI, while Robarge went 13 for 20, including 4 of 5 in the fourth quarter, at the face-off X. He also had 11 ground balls on the night.
Kelly McMinn made 16 saves for VMI, helping the Keydets weather the early barrage of W&L shots, while Jennings stopped 11 shots for W&L.
VMI lacrosse is scheduled to open its 2012 spring season Saturday, Feb. 11, as the Keydets travel to Annapolis, Md. to take on the Navy Midshipmen.