DENVER – Scott Ratliff picked up the ground ball off the opening faceoff in overtime, raced down the right side of the middle of the box and sent a high-to-low shot past University of Denver goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante to lift the third-ranked Greyhounds to a 14-13 win in the ECAC Semifinals on Wednesday night.
Loyola (13-1 overall) will play third-seeded Fairfield University on Friday, May 4, in the ECAC Championship Game at 4 p.m. (Mountain)in a contest that will be televised live on ESPNU. The Stags (12-3), who are ranked 16th nationally, defeated second-seed Ohio State University,8-7, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
No. 12/11 Denver (8-6) staged a strong fourth-quarter rally, coming back from a 13-6 deficit to tie the game with 3:30 left in regulation, but Loyola did not let the Pioneers have possession after that, winning both face-offs and holding onto the ball in their offensive zone.
Ratliff scored two goals, both of Loyola faceoff wins, andhe had a game-high nine ground balls.
“We were tremendous off the ground tonight,” Loyola Head Coach Charley Toomey said. “Our transition game was spot on, led by Scott Ratliff. We felt like anytime the ball was on the ground we were going to getit, and then we tried to play very fast between the lines.”
Loyola had its 8-5 halftime lead trimmed off the third quarter’s opening face-off when Chase Carraro grabbed the ground ball andscored himself three ticks in to the period.
The Greyhounds, however, scored the game’s next five goalsto lead 13-6 when Phil Dobson took a Pat Byrnes pass and scored his second goal of the game with 13:14 left in regulation.
Denver scored seven straight from that point, capping its run when Cameron Flint found himself unmarked on the low left side and scored with 3:30 left.
J.P. Dalton won the ensuing faceoff for Loyola, and the Greyhounds took two shots, both wide, while running out the clock for the remainder of regulation, sending the game to an extra period.
Carraro initially looked to have the ball in his stick during the faceoff, but Dalton did not allow him to get the ball out cleanly and win it to himself. Carraro instead flipped the ball backwards, and Ratliff outraced Denver’s Patrick Rogers to the ground ball.
Ratliff picked it up cleanly, got out in front of Rogers, and took a high-to-low shot when no Pioneers defender slid early to him.
“They had been on a huge run, so we definitely wanted to get the first face-off of the overtime,” Ratliff said. “It is a testament to our shooters that they didn’t want to slide off Mike Sawyer or Eric Lusby to me, and I was fortunate that (the shot) fell for me.”
The Greyhounds got off to a fast start in the game, scoring four in a row before Denver could get on the scoreboard.
Davis Butts scored the game’s first goal, dodging hard down the right side and sending a high-to-high shot into the net 1:45 into thecontest.
Loyola got the ball right back when Carraro was called for a false start on the faceoff, and Josh Hawkins fed Ratliff who scored eight ticksof the clock later to make it 2-0.
The Greyhounds went on the extra man with 8:28 on the first-quarter clock after a Denver slashing call, and Kevin Ryan scored his first career goal, one-timing a Justin Ward pass from behind the net to make it 3-0.
Minutes later, Loyola took an advantage of an unsettled situation, and Eric Lusby found Pat Byrnes who dodged past his defender and stepped in for a goal from eight yards out, making Loyola’s advantage four with 4:49 to play in the first quarter.
The Pioneers came back, getting goals from Wes Berg and Jeremy Noble before the end of the first quarter to draw back within a pair.
Loyola, however, went on another run, this time 3-0, to go ahead 7-2 in the second quarter. Lusby used two spins to get his hands free and scored at 12:58, and Dobson fought off a check by a Denver defender to score unassisted at 9:33.
Ward then faked a pass to his right before feeding Chris Layne from behind, and Layne made it 7-2 with 8:38 left in the half.
Mark Matthews got one back for the Pioneers seven seconds later off the faceoff, but Nikko Pontrello scored at 5:44 to push the Greyhounds’lead back to five, 8-3.
Eric Law and Matthews, however, scored with 57 and 14seconds, left in the half to pull the Pioneers within three, 8-5 going into the locker room.
Carraro scored quickly to start the second half, winning the faceoff to himself and scoring with just three seconds off the clock to make it a two goal game for the first time since early in the third quarter.
Loyola would use yet another run to break open the game. A tripping penalty on Denver gave the Greyhounds an extra-man opportunity with 12 minutes to go in the third, but Ryan was called for being in the crease, and the ball went over to the Pioneers.
Mike Sawyer, however, caused a Denver turnover, and Ward picked up the ground ball and fed Hawkins who used a hard left-to-right dodge and scored a man-up goal at 11:17 to start the run.
Denver had an extra-man opportunity just under two minutes later, but Jack Runkel saved a Matthews shot, and the Greyhounds killed the penalty.
Sawyer added an unassisted goal, and Sean O’Sullivan let adeep rip go off a Lusby assist with 6:48 to go in the third. Lusby then wrapped around the crease from ‘X’ and slung a hard, sidearm shot past LaPlante to makeit 12-6 Loyola with 3:32 still on the third-quarter clock.
Dobson’s second gave the Greyhounds a seven-goal lead early in the fourth quarter before Denver started its comeback run.
Eleven players scored Loyola’s first 11 goals of the game. Eric Lusby, Ratliff and Dobson each finished with two, and Justin Ward had three assists.
The Greyhounds picked up 34 ground balls to Denver’s 30.Ratliff had a career-high nine, and Mike Sawyer picked up four. Dylan Grimm caused three Pioneers turnovers.
Loyola had its lowest turnover game of the season, committing just seven, while Denver had 13.