Hartford Captures 2016 #AEMLAX Title
ALBANY, N.Y. – Behind a 9-1 run bridging the first and second halves, Hartford captured the 2016 America East men’s lacrosse title Saturday at University at Albany’s Casey Stadium. The Hawks held off a late charge from third-seeded Vermont to post a 17-16 victory in the highest-scoring title game in conference history and captured their second-ever conference crown.
The Hawks became the first No. 4 seed to ever win the America East men’s lacrosse title. Hartford’s lone other championship came in 2011.
Faceoff man Dylan Protesto won 72 percent of the draws he took in the tournament and picked up 27 ground balls to earn the championship’s Most Outstanding Player. He was 39-of-54 in the X.
The Hawks advance to the NCAA tournament for second time with the win and will learn their NCAA draw during the selection show on Sunday night at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. Albany, the fourth-ranked team, in the country will also await a potential at-large selection. America East teams have won 11 NCAA games all-time, including a pair by the Great Danes each of the last two seasons.
Vermont (9-8) scored three of the game’s first nine goals. Ben Cox’s first goal of the season gave the Catamounts, who were making their first-ever America East title game appearance, a 3-1 lead 5:02 into the contest.
Hartford (11-6) tallied two of the next three scores, including one by conference Rookie of the Year Dylan Jinks, to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 5:02 left in the period. But the Catamounts, who had won four in a row entering the day, countered with four of the next five goals. Cam Milligan, who earned All-Championship honors, tallied two in the stretch and put his team up 8-4 1:17 into the second quarter.
The Hawks responded by scoring nine of the game’s next 10 goals, including six straight to close out the second quarter. Hartford had five different goal scorers during the 6-0 run. Alec Brown both started and capped the run, scoring with 2:10 left in the period to give Hartford its first lead, a 10-8 advantage entering halftime.
After a Vermont goal by James Barlow just 18 seconds into the second half, Hartford added three more, including a score by Griffin Feiner with 2:34 left in the quarter that gave the Hawks a 13-9 advantage.
In what was a game of runs, the Catamounts would not go away however scoring three in a row to pull within one at 13-12 early in the fourth quarter. Hartford, whose 11 wins are its most since 2011, put in the next three, including Protesto’s sixth of the year. That came with 9:55 left and staked his team to a 16-12 advantage.
The Catamounts, whose nine wins are their most since 2006, scored four the last five goals of the contest to make it interesting. Milligan and Barlow drew UVM within two midway through the period and Nick Bartlett scored with 51 seconds left to make it 17-16. After a lengthy battle for the ensuring loose ball, Hartford drew a penalty and was able to run out the clock.
Justin Huggins and Alec Brown, both All-Championship selections, had three goals along with Jinks to lead Hartford. Jaedon Henderson had five assists.
Barlow, Stafford and Milligan all had three scores for Vermont.
Ryan Vanderford made 15 saves for Hartford, including seven in the first quarter. Jon Kaplan made nine saves for UVM.
Protest, Huggins, Milligan and Stafford were joined on the All-Championship team by Feiner, Vermont’s Ian MacKay, Albany’s Connor Fields and Troy Reh and Stony Brook’s Tyler Anderson and Ryland Rees.
Hartford’s Kevin Sanna earned the conference's Elite 18 Award for men's lacrosse for having the highest GPA among participating student-athletes in the championship game. The senior carries a 3.56 GPA in marketing.