Behind 14 saves from senior goalie Scott Spencer, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team defeated Air Force, 8-6, Saturday in front of 2,386 fans on a beautiful day in Ohio Stadium. The win moves the Buckeyes to 3-0 in the ECAC Lacrosse League, clinching at least a share of the conference title for Ohio State (6-6), which has now won four games in a row and five of its last six. Air Force had its six-game winning streak ended and is 8-4 overall, finishing league play 3-1.
“That was an extremely hard fought game,” Nick Myers, Ohio State head coach, said. “Air Force is a very good lacrosse team. Our men stayed the course and made some key plays down the stretch to ultimately give us the win. We are excited to be able to celebrate our 10 seniors and get a big win at home. Scott led the way in the cage for us and was truly a difference maker today.”
The Buckeyes will travel to Fairfield for the final regular season game Saturday, with a win giving Ohio State the outright league title. The Buckeyes will then host the ECAC Tournament May 1 and 3 in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Ohio State, Air Force, Fairfield and Michigan will compete for the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
The game between the Buckeyes and Falcons was tied five times but a late goal from sophomore Ryan Hunter – his fourth of the game – lifted the Buckeyes to the win. The Buckeye defense held Air Force, which came into the game averaging 12.55 goals per game, to just six tallies and kept the team’s two leading scorers, who had 58 goals entering the game combined, to just one goal.
Ohio State and Air Force were tied at one after the first quarter and the Buckeyes carried a 3-2 lead into halftime. Ohio State scored early in the third quarter for its first two-goal advantage of the day but Air Force scored the next two goals for a 4-4 game with 8:26 left and the teams traded goals to close the third quarter deadlocked at five. A man-up goal from Jesse King put Ohio State ahead 6-5 early in the fourth quarter but the Falcons tied the game with 4:16 left in regulation. Just over a minute later Turner Evans set up Hunter for the eventual gamewinner and sophomore Carter Brown sealed the win with a goal at 1:46 with the goalie out of the crease.
Spencer had a career-high 14 saves in the cage for the Buckeyes. Hunter had his second four-goal game in a row while Brown had two goals and an assist for three points. Evans and Reegan Comeault both had two assists and King had a goal and an assist. Freshman Jake Withers won 10-of-17 faceoffs in the game and had seven groundballs.
Each team scored once in the first quarter. Freshman J.T. Blubaugh drove to the net and scored unassisted at 13:50 before the Falcons’ Kyle Cassady tied the game at 1:30 later. Shots were 9-4 Air Force in the first quarter, with Spencer making five saves in the cage for the Buckeyes.
The teams again traded goals in the second quarter. Ohio State went ahead, 2-1, on a goal from Hunter, assisted by Evans, at 9:13 but Christopher Allen tied the game at 2 with a goal at 4:15. At 2:53, Comeault set up Brown for a goal, giving Ohio State the lead for the third time and the teams went into halftime with the Buckeyes ahead, 3-2. The Falcons had eight shots in the stanza, with Spencer making four saves, while Ohio State had seven shots in the quarter.
Ohio State scored 1:01 into the third quarter, the first two-goal run for a team in the game, as Brown set up Hunter for a score. Air Force responded with back-to-back goals of its own to tie the game at four, as Keith Dreyer set up Tommy McKee at 12:54 and Allen at 8:26. Each team scored once more for a 5-5 game entering the fourth quarter. Hunter scored for the Buckeyes at 5:15, picking up the rebound after a save. After a potential Buckeye goal that would have given Ohio State a two-goal lead was waved off for having a player in the crease, Erik Smith scored unassisted for Air Force at 4:11 to tie the game for the fourth time. Shots were again 8-7 in favor of the Falcons, with each goalie making two saves in the quarter.
Air Force was assessed a three-minute, non-releasable unsportsmanlike penalty at the start of the fourth quarter and Ohio State then had a two-man advantage after a delay of game call at 13:47 and it was able to convert, as Comeault found King outside the crease and he was able to turn and score. Ohio State held the lead for more than nine minutes, until Air Force answered for the fifth time, when Allen scored unassisted at 4:16. Evans set up Hunter for the gamewinner at 3:04, putting Ohio State ahead, 7-6. With the goalie out of the crease, King was able to get out of the double team and find Brown all alone in front for a goal and two-goal Buckeye lead at 1:46. The Buckeye defense held the rest of the way, including a caused turnover by senior Joe Meurer with just over a minute remaining on a Falcon clearing attempt. Ohio State had nine shots in the quarter, while Spencer had three saves on eight Air Force attempts.
Air Force outshot the Buckeyes, 33-27, in the game. Spencer played all 60 minutes for the Buckeyes and made a career-high 14 saves, passing the 12 he had against Hobart last April. He is now 4-1 on the year, with a 7.42 goals-against average and .568 save percentage. Air Force starter Brett Dadiego played the first half and had five saves, allowing three goals, while Doug Gouchoe took the loss, playing the second half and giving up five goals on eight shots.
Withers took all 17 faceoffs for the Buckeyes, winning 10, and had a team-high seven groundballs. Ohio State had the edge in groundballs in the game, 28-26. Junior Evan Mulchrone caused two turnovers and had three groundballs, while junior David Planning had four groundballs and sophomore Chris Mahoney picked up three.
Ohio State converted 1-of-6 man-up chances in the game and held Air Force scoreless on its one chance.