Deron Dempster ’13 played the role of hero again Friday night, whipping the ball past Brown goalkeeper Will Round in the fourth overtime period to give the Elis a thrilling 11–10 victory over the Bears.
Two weeks ago against Penn, the junior attacker scored the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs (6–4, 3–2 Ivy) with 11.9 seconds remaining in his first game back from injury. That victory snapped a four-game losing streak, and the Elis have not lost since. Friday’s win was the Bulldogs’ fourth in a row and clinched Yale a spot in the Ivy League tournament in May.
“We’ve been playing our best lacrosse of the season the last couple games,” attackman Matt Gibson ’12 said, “and we don’t want that to slip away. We have two non-league games coming up, and we’re going to try to use them to build up our momentum so we end up playing at our highest level in May.”
Earlier this season the Bulldogs played the longest game in Yale men’s lacrosse history, a heartbreaking five-overtime loss to Princeton. While Friday’s contest did not go quite as long, it lacked none of the excitement of the Princeton game. The overtime periods were riveting back-and-forth affairs, featuring 20 shots and 11 saves between the two teams. Attacker Conrad Oberbeck ’15 hit the inside of the post, and Round saved a broken clear for the Bears (4–7, 1–3 Ivy) with an incredible one-on-one stop in the second overtime period.
The Yale defense, which conceded eight goals over the second and third quarters, held the Brown offense scoreless for the final 30 minutes of the game.
“The Princeton game was such a valuable experience,” defenseman Michael McCormack ’13 said. “It taught us how to remain calm and keep our composure when the game went to overtime. [Head] coach [Andy] Shay also has a ‘one-goal drill’ that simulates a one-goal game with the clock winding down. We practice it a lot, and that helped prepare us well for overtime situations.”
Round did everything he could to keep Brown in the game and made seven of his 17 saves in overtime, but in the end, Dempster and the Bulldogs proved too much for him.
Midfielder Dylan Levings ’14 won the face-off to start the fourth overtime, and Yale quickly called time-out. Levings won all four of the face-offs in overtime and finished 18 of 28 for the game. The sophomore was helped out by huge efforts from his wing players, McCormack and captain Michael Pratt ’12. The trio combined to pick up 20 ground balls for the Elis and their dominance helped the team control possession in overtime.
After breaking from the time-out, the Bulldogs worked through their offensive sets and fired several shots past the goal before Dempster found himself on the right wing covered by a short-stick defender. Dempster backed his defender down, watching for the slide to come. It never did, and the junior stepped back and fired the ball at the net. The white rubber missile snuck its way past Round and the Eli bench erupted, converging on Dempster at one end and goalkeeper Jack Meyer ’14 at the other.
It was Dempster who won the game, but Gibson was the key for the Elis’ offense. The senior is third in the Ivy League in goals per game and tallied five against Brown to lead all scorers. The senior also scooped up six ground balls and caused two turnovers to complement his highest goal-scoring output of the season.
“They were mostly just effort plays,” Gibson said of his scoring output. “I didn’t do anything specific, I wasn’t dissecting the defense, I was just looking to work hard and make plays. We just outworked them as a team. We didn’t get anything going offensively, but we were able to score as many goals as we did because we made hustle plays and scored blue-collar goals.”
Gibson seemed to score at will in the first half, finding the net four times in the first 16 minutes of the game. His outburst helped give the Bulldogs a 7–3 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Bears came roaring back. Yale’s defense became sloppy, and the Bulldog offense struggled mightily to create open shots. Brown went on a 6–1 run to come all the way back and take a 9–8 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Gibson scored his fifth goal of the game with less than a minute remaining in the quarter to knot the score at nine. This was another effort play — he collected the ball after a broken Brown clear, stepped under two defenders and finished from five yards out. But less than a minute later Brown midfielder Rob Schlesinger put the Bears back up on a miracle shot from midfield right before the buzzer sounded.
It was the last time the Bears found the net that day. Oberbeck’s sidearm rip found the net with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 10, and Dempster sealed the deal.
Friday’s game was especially meaningful for the Bulldogs because of the passing this week of Bob McHenry, the former longtime head coach of the Yale men’s lacrosse team. McHenry was a member of both the Connecticut and Pennsylvania Lacrosse Halls of Fame and described by Shay in an email to the Yale Lacrosse Association as “truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
“I have got to think we got a little help from Coach McHenry on this one,” the coach added after the game.
The Bulldogs hit the road to take on Stony Brook tonight at 7 p.m.