KEENE, N.H. 5/3/12 – The Keene State College men's lacrosse team posted the programs' third overall and the first-ever shutout in the 11-year history of the Little East tournament, blanking rival Plymouth State 21-0 in a semifinal game of the conference tournament at Owl Athletic Complex on Thursday afternoon.
KSC previous shutouts came against Franklin Pierce College (28-0) in 1998 and Southern Maine (19-0) in 2004.
Winners of seven straight games, the second-seeded Owls (10-5) move onto the championship game against the winner between top seed Eastern Conn. and fourth seed UMass-Dartmouth. The finals will be held Saturday at the highest remaining seed.
The sixth seeded Panthers, who upset third seed Western Conn. in the quarterfinals 9-5, falls to 10-6.
Following the game, Keene State junior goalie Jason Leser (Brewster, N.Y.) said it was the first time he's ever had a shutout. "I'm still shaking from it," he said. "The shutout was in the back of my mind, but I didn't want to jinx it."
"Jason just did everything under the sun. Any ball that was relatively close he stole it from them," said KSC Coach Mark Theriault. "It's my first shutout too, so it's pretty exciting."
Leser, who finished the game with 13 saves, made on of his toughest stops of the game at the 11:21 mark of the second quarter when he denied a point-blank bid by freshman Nick Morello (North Billerica, Mass.) right in front of the cage.
Winning the battles in front of the net, the Keene State defense was superb, denying the passing lanes, collapsing the crease and making sure nothing came in from the inside. "They played unbelievable," said Leser about his defense. "We talked about what we were going to do and we executed it."
The offense, led by junior Ian Hart's (Richmond, N.H.) career high five goal performance, wasn't bad either. The Owls didn't waste any time getting on the board, scoring three quick goals in the first four minutes of the game. "We wanted to jump on them quickly, create some momentum and try to get them to buckle," said Theriault. "Things started to roll after that."
Keene State led 4-0 after the first quarter. Finishing the game with four goals and three assists, senior Matt Schairer (Wrentham, Mass.), and juniors J.T. Galloway (Simsbury, Conn.) and Taylor Jette (Simsbury, Conn.) each netted two goals in the second quarter, helping Keene State take a commanding 10-0 halftime lead.
"When we get into a rhythm we're a great offense – no one can hang with us," said Schairer.
"We wanted to come out and stick to our game plan," said Jette, who had three goals and three assists. "We were all just clicking and feeling it today."
After scoring just one goal in the third quarter, the Owls offense put the finishing touches on the game by scoring 10 more times in the fourth quarter.
The prettiest goal of the game came courtesy of Hart. Racing in from the right side, he let go a behind-the-back shot that found the top corner of the net. "I was just hoping to catch them off guard," he said. "That's the first time I did that in college. I just closed my eyes and let it go."
Hart's younger brother Ryan Hart (Richmond, N.H.), who set up two of his brother's goals, also had two goals and three assists in the game.
Senior Jack Tyo (East Sandwich, Mass.) played the first 55 minutes in goal for PSU and finished with seven saves. Sophomore Jesse Kutz (Hopkinton, Mass.) played the final five minutes and didn't record a save.
Keene State outshot the Panthers 50-25 and had one of its better days in the circle, winning 15 of the 25 face-offs.
If Keene State plays Eastern Conn in the finals, the Owls will have a score to settle after falling to the Warriors earlier in the season 14-11. "Saturday is a completely different game, but at the same time we can take some confidence from today's win," said Schairer. "We're starting to hit our stride right now, but we understand it's going to be a dogfight on Saturday."
The loss to Eastern still stings a little," said Leser. "The last time they came out tough and they caught us sleeping. We're looking to take it to them next time and win our third championship."
"We have another crack at them," said Jette. "We lost to them once and we're not going to let that happen again."