WEST POINT, N.Y. – Junior attackman Garrett Thul exploded for a game-high five goals and Army outscored Navy 3-0 in the fourth quarter as the Black Knights clinched a Patriot League Tournament berth with a 9-6 victory over the visiting Midshipmen. The 91st meeting between the rivals was played in front of 10,192 fans at Michie Stadium and was watched by a national television audience on CBS Sports Network.
The triumph extended Army’s win streak to four games against Navy, the longest win streak for the Black Knights in the series. Army has won five of the last six meetings and captured the annual “Star” game on a picturesque Saturday afternoon in the Hudson Valley.
“This is a very humbling win because we have such great respect for the Navy program and all that it stands for,” said seventh-year head coach Joe Alberici. “Their kids fight so hard, so to come out on top of an emotional game of this magnitude, it’s a very humbling feeling.
“We put so much into this game year-round, so to have it come to a head in the fourth quarter and see our guys step up with big-time plays when we needed them made me proud,” he added. “For the seniors, this one will feel very special. They have left a great legacy on the Army-Navy rivalry being part of four consecutive wins. Being the competitors that they are, they’ll hold onto this one.”
Thul’s five goals matched his career high for a third time. Senior tri-captain Devin Lynch added two fourth-quarter goals, while freshman midfielder John Glesener chipped in one goal and a career-high three assists. Junior attackman Andrew Boyd also scored for the Black Knights, while junior midfielder Alex Van Krevel registered one assist.
Army outshot Navy 40-27 and held a 29-18 edge in ground balls. Senior Zach Palmieri helped anchor Army’s defense with eight saves in goal to go with five ground balls. Senior long stick midfielder Tim Henderson totaled three ground balls and a pair of caused turnovers, while senior defenseman Larry LoRusso tacked on a season-high three caused turnovers.
Senior midfielder Derek Sipperly took all 19 face-offs on the afternoon and won 11 of those efforts. He squared-off with three different Mids in the “x” and added a game-high eight ground balls.
After the teams played back-and-forth for the first 45 minutes of action, Army’s offense took over in the fourth quarter with both goals and time of possession. With the scored tied at 6-6 heading into the final 15 minutes, Lynch broke through for the eventual game winner – his second in two games – with 9:51 on the clock.
Thul’s highlight-reel, wrap-around score with 5:59 to go gave the Black Knights an 8-6 lead and brought the Michie Stadium crowd to its feet.
“The atmosphere today was incredible,” Thul said following the win. “I wasn’t rushing things today and let the game come to me. We knew today was going to be a hard-fought game from both sides and what it meant for both teams in terms of the Patriot League Tournament. Accomplishing both a win over Navy and clinching a playoff berth is an awesome feeling.”
Sipperly won the ensuing face-off and Army managed the game from there. Working with a stall warning in place, Glesener fed Lynch for the Black Knights’ ninth goal of the game at the 2:29 mark. Again, Sipperly won a timely face-off and kept the ball Army’s stick for the majority of the final two minutes of action.
The seesaw play over the first three quarters entertained four ties, but Navy never led.
Thul netted Army’s first two goals of the afternoon, creating for himself for the first goal by either team in both the first (9:29) and second quarters (10:04). Navy’s Same Jones put the Mids on the board with 30 seconds remaining in the first half, which tied the score for a short time before Thul struck again.
The Mids balanced the scoreboard again at 2-2 on an unsettled Austin Heneveld goal at the 9:56 mark, immediately following the face-off after Thul’s second goal. Glesener ripped a shot from 15 yards out past Wickham at 8:59, giving the Black Knights a 3-2 edge. Army would take its largest lead of the half, 4-2, as Boyd reeled in a Van Krevel pass and scored his first goal of the game with 6:08 remaining.
A Navy goal at 4:56 pulled the Mids within 4-3, a score that stood at halftime.
The teams combined for five goals in the third quarter with Glesener fed Thul for the first of two scores in the third for the tandem at the 12:28 mark and gave the Black Knights a 5-3 lead. Navy netted the next two in the span of 1:06 as the Mids quickly tied the game for a third time, 5-5, with 10:17 remaining.
Playing from behind the cage, Glesener found Thul for a 10-yard shot that beat Navy goalkeeper R.J. Wickam low at 5:52. The Mids won the ensuing face-off and scored the equalizer with 5:39 to play.
The Black Knights’ three-goal barrage in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the game. The Mids took five shots in the final frame, during which Palmieri also made two of his eight saves for Army.
The field is now set for the 2012 Patriot League Tournament and will include Army, Bucknell, Colgate and Lehigh. Seeding and hosting rights will be determined after next weekend’s games.
Army hosts Holy Cross on Senior Day next Saturday, April 21, in the Patriot League regular-season finale. The Black Knights will honor 12 seniors and their families prior to the noon face-off at Michie Stadium.
“We have Holy Cross coming up before the tournament and we’re not going to look past that one at home,” Alberici said. “We want to finish the Patriot League regular season strong and head into the tournament with some momentum. Judging by how all of the other teams played one another closely, ourselves included, it should be a great tournament.”
Game Notes: Army played in front of a season-high 10,192 fans … all 15 goals were scored even as both teams were 0-for-2 on man-up chances … Army improved to 8-2 all-time when wearing gray uniforms, including all five wins over Navy since debuting the look in 2008 … CBS Sports Network’s Dave Ryan and Evan Washburn had the call … junior defenseman Brendan Buckley marked Navy’s leading scorer Tucker Hull all afternoon and kept the sophomore without point … Army has scored first in nine of their 12 games this year.