Louisville, Ky. – Senior Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek, Ontario / Saltfleet) and junior Jake Hayes (Calgary, Alberta / Central Memorial) both tallied hat tricks to help first-year mentor Andrew McMinn earn a win in his collegiate head-coaching debut as the Robert Morris University men’s lacrosse team held off a late Bellarmine charge to claim a 9-8 victory in each squad’s 2012 regular-season opener Saturday afternoon at a very cold and windy O.B. Frazier Stadium.
McMinn, who was promoted from associate head coach this past offseason, notched his first victory the hard way as the Colonials won a nail-biter by blocking a shot from the Knights as time expired to claim their third win in their past four tries against Bellarmine. While the score was tight, Robert Morris led the contest from wire-to-wire and had statistical advantages in shots, ground balls, faceoffs and clear percentage.
Matisz posted a game-high five points with three scores and two assists. It was the fourth such effort of his career in which he tallied at least five points in a game with all of those contests haivng come on the road. Matisz registered his eighth career hat-trick and also moved into sole possession of third place in career assists at RMU (50). Dating back to the end of last season, the veteran has now had at least five points in four straight games and at least three points in six-consecutive contests.
While Matisz still managed to put forth a notable offensive effort, the senior may have actually been slightly unfortunate as he had an amazing four shots clang off the crossbar during the course of the game.
Hayes tallied three goals and an assist to collect the second four-point game of his career and first in non-conference play. He notched his fifth career hat-trick, and the fourth in his last seven outings, while continuing to display remarkable efficiency. Hayes put home his trio of scores on five shots and has now recorded his 24 career goals on just 33 shots to post an amazing .727 career shooting percentage.
Senior Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ontario / John McCrae) also contributed significantly on the offensive end as he added one goal and two assists to become the sixth Colonial in school history to reach 90 career points. Buchanan, who moved within nine helpers of tying RMU’s all-time assist mark, collected his fourth straight multi-point game and the 25th such outing of his career.
Redshirt junior Charles Ruppert (Long Island, N.Y. / Massapequa) contributed a game-high 11 saves for RMU to notch his 10th career effort with a double-digit save total. Ruppert, who allowed only five even-strength scores, made four stops during the crucial fourth quarter and finished with a .579 save percentage for the game.
Senior midfielder Mike Grosz (St. Louis, Mo. / Parkway West) took all of the Colonials’ faceoffs and produced a 12-for-19 line. Grosz also tallied six ground balls on the afternoon to move into second place all-time in RMU in career GB with 150.
Robert Morris broke out the gates quickly to begin 2012 as six distinct Colonials combined on three goals in the first 6:15 to give RMU a quick 3-0 edge. Buchanan opened the scoring, and he was followed by goals from Hayes and junior Connor Martin (Maumee, Ohio / St. John’s Jesuit).
Redshirt senior Kevin Brownell (Burlington, Ontario / Central) and senior Casey Abbott (San Jose, Calif. (Bellarmine Prep.) assisted on the second and third scores, respectively, as the former now has points in eight straight contests.
The Knights pulled within one with a score later in the first quarter and a man-up goal early in the second, but the Colonials then shut down Bellarmine, allowing only one goal in the next 28:15, to take control.
RMU used a 5-1 run, featuring three goals from Matisz, including one with just two seconds remaining in the first half, to open up an 8-3 lead late in the third quarter.
The Knights struck once each in the final minute of the third and the opening minute of the fourth to cut the deficit to 8-5, a score which held for nearly nine minutes.
Hayes provided what proved to be the game-winner with just over five minutes to go before Bellarmine mounted a furious rally. The Knights scored three goals in just over three minutes to cut the lead to a single tally, 9-8. However, the Colonials were able to keep the hosts from getting a shot on goal for the remainder of the contest to clinch the victory.
Senior Teddy Finnegan (West Islip, N.Y. / West Islip) also added a goal for RMU.
Defenseman Luc Magnan (Pine Falls, Manitoba / The Hill Academy), attackman Jacob Ruest (Cornwall, Ontario / The Hill Academy) and defenseman Joseph Scenna (Collegeville, Pa. / Perkiomen Valley) all saw their first collegiate action Saturday as members of the starting lineup. Magnan, who tallied four ground balls, and Ruest are true freshmen while Scenna is a redshirt freshman.
Robert Morris will continue its stretch of four-consecutive games away from home to start the season next Saturday, Feb. 18, as it travels to Maryland for its inaugural meeting with UMBC. The Colonials and the Retrievers, who have reached four of the past six NCAA Tournaments, will square off at 1:00 p.m.