MEN’S LACROSSE: Bonacci ’15 gets last word against Bears

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Photo by Ihna Mangundayao.

The No. 13 men’s lacrosse team denied Brown a thrilling comeback victory after midfielder Michael Bonacci ’16 scored with 2:49 left in overtime to give the Bulldogs their third straight win.

“A win is a win,” said attackman Brandon Mangan ’14. “We knew it was going to be a hard fought game and it’s just important we came out with a W.”

The Elis (7–3, 3–2 Ivy) jumped out to an early 6–1 lead in the second quarter but were held scoreless for 40 minutes of play as Brown (6–5, 1–3 Ivy) came all the way back to tie the game and send it to overtime Friday night in Providence.

Yale opened the scoring less than two minutes into the first period after Colin Flaherty ’15 scored his 10th goal of the season, but Brown was quick to tie the game. The Bulldogs responded by scoring five unanswered goals in a 15-minute span. Sean Shakespeare ’15 found the back of the net on a man advantage before attackman Jeff Cimbalista ’17 finished off a great passing play to give the Bulldogs a 3–1 lead going into the break after the first period. Mangan drew a slide behind the net and dished the ball back up top to midfielder Shane Thornton ’15, who drew a defender and found the freshman wide open. Cimbalista took a step and put a bounce shot past Brown goaltender Jack Kelly.

The Elis continued their run in the second quarter thanks to two further man-up scores. Shakespeare scored on a bounce shot near the net after Thornton found him wide open on the right side. Yale’s midfielders continued their scoring form after Eric Scott ’17 scored three minutes later. Shakespeare also had a hand in the next goal, drawing a flag after getting taken down while cutting towards the net. Attackman Conrad Oberbeck ’15 scored from long range on the advantage after good ball movement from the Bulldogs.

Brown was down 6–1 but was not out of the game and broke Yale’s run four minutes before halftime when Bailey Tills scored on a bounce shot after cutting around from behind Yale’s net. The Bears came out of halftime a totally different team, playing much better defensively. The Bulldogs were held scoreless for both the third and fourth quarters and were frustrated offensively. Brown scored the only goal of the third period on a tally from star midfielder Brandon Caputo, who scored from his stomach after being knocked down.

The Bears dominated the fourth quarter with 21 shots in the final 15 minutes en route to three goals to come all the way back to tie. Kelly was crucial in the comeback, stopping seven shots in the second half, while defenseman Larken Kemp frustrated the Eli attack, causing three turnovers and picking up five ground balls. All the Bears’ goals came in the final six minutes of the quarter. Tyler Landis scored while Yale was a man down, cutting the deficit to two. Caputo scored his second of the game with a great shot across his body that ended up in the top corner.

Yale won the ensuing faceoff, and Mangan had a chance to stop the bleeding, but his shot was blocked. A Brown player was closest to the ball, giving the Bears a crucial final possession and a chance to tie the game. Kylor Bellistri sent Stevenson Field into a frenzy, scoring on a bounce shot from 20 yards out with just over a minute left to play. The attackman ripped from long range to deceive Yale goaltender Eric Natale ’15. Brown had a final chance to score after a faceoff win, but the ensuing shot went wide and a crease violation gave Yale the ball. With only a few ticks left on the clock in regulation, midfielder Mark Glicini ’15 took the ball from the halfway line but saw his last minute shot saved by Kelly.

“Brown got some really good play from their goalie and they kept coming at us,” said defenseman Michael Quinn ’16. “We played a lot of defense in the second half and they were able to put a couple goals on us.”

In the four-minute overtime, the Bulldogs did not let Brown touch the ball once. Yale’s faceoff specialist Dylan Levings ’14 had a good game, winning 11 of 17 restarts. He also won the final draw of the night, giving the Elis a crucial possession. After working the ball around, Oberbeck dodged and threw the ball back to Mangan behind the cage. The senior spotted Bonacci open on the left wing, who caught the pass and loaded up to shoot. The sophomore then faked the shot, causing his defender to duck, whereupon he rolled and stepped into a low bounce shot that beat Kelly to end the game.

“Obviously scoring an overtime winner is a pretty awesome feeling, regardless of the importance of the individual game, but this one was a little better than any I’ve ever had,” Bonacci said.  “This game was very important for our Ivy League tournament hopes and had we let the game slip away we would be in a tough situation. Our defense held strong all game and, despite some second half offensive struggles, we got it done as a team and that’s what it’s going to take to achieve our ultimate goal.”

The Bulldogs had a poor second half, losing the shot and ground-ball battle. The Elis took four penalties in the final frame, which led to two goals for Brown. Yale stayed in the game thanks to the Bears’ 21 turnovers, Natales’s 10-save performance and Levings’s performance at the faceoff X.

The win pushed Yale above 0.500 in the Ivy League and into fourth place in the conference. The Elis will next play two nonconference games before ending the season with a crucial matchup against Harvard at Reese Stadium on April 26.

“Like I have said before we need to play a whole 60 minutes,” Mangan said. “We played a great first half but we need to continue that for a full game.”

The Bulldogs play Michigan in the Big House this Saturday at 4 p.m.

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