In awesome fashion, the two-time defending NCAA Champion Virginia Cavaliers took care of the Brown Bears with a comfortable 17-10 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. After being unseeded and sent north to Providence to play against Lars Tiffany’s alma mater and former team, the Wahoos pumped their chest in prime time.
Mr. May Connor Shellenberger headlined the win with four goals and four assists while Payton Cormier scored five times and Matt Moore netted two and dished another pair. In the cage, freshman goalie Matthew Nunes came up absolutely huge with 16 saves for a 61.5% save rate on the night.
Shellenberger started the scoring for the Wahoos with a lefty finish after beating his guy behind the goal. He followed that up shortly thereafter with with his second tally of the night off a smart feed from Xander Dickson.
The 2-0 Virginia lead held for six minutes before Brown went on a 3-0 run with goals from Devon McLane, Griffin King, and Ryan Behrenes. UVA face-off specialist Petey LaSalla tied the game up at three with a momentum score off a draw win and a perfectly placed, long step down shot.
But, Brown pulled back ahead by the end of the first quarter with a Brian Antonelli score with 1:16 remaining in the period.
The game’s frenetic pace continued into the second quarter. Nunes carried the ‘Hoos defensively in the first quarter, bailing his guys out time after time and making eight first half saves.
Virginia took control of the game again as Shellenberger notched his hat-trick at the 9:58 mark in the second quarter on a sweet face dodge and dive across the crease. His first assist of the game put UVA up 5-4 with Payton Cormier sneaking the ball past Brown’s keeper Connor Theriault.
Long pole Scott Bower scored nine seconds after Cormier with a sweet rip of a goal that ignited the Virginia bench and squarely gave UVA the momentum with another two goal lead.
That lead was short-lived, though. Brown rattled off a three-goal run of its own to pull back ahead before Cormier’s second of the game tied the game at seven, which would hold into the halftime break.
The intermission was only that with the game of runs maintained in the final 30 minutes of action. Shellenberger caught a transition feed from Jeff Conner, faked twice on the crease, then stuck the ball past Theriault with near to no angle. Another pole goal — this time from Ben Wayer — came nine seconds later to put the ‘Hoos up two.
As Brown had all game, the Bears responded in turn with two goals in 27 seconds. But, UVA started to bend the elastic with a four goal run to close out the third stanza that was the first half of an eight goal burst from the ‘Hoos.
Xander Dickson started the run off a beautifully designed man-up play from Offensive Coordinator Sean Kirwan. Short stick defensive midfielder Jack Peele kept the action going with a nice transition score before Matt Moore made his mark on the game with a goal and an assist to Cormier.
UVA’s offense wouldn’t slow down in the fourth quarter. Cormier and Shellenberger continued to make their presences felt as the latter fed the former for a score with 14:28 left in the game and again with 10:48 remaining. That put UVA up 15-9 and firmly in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the game.
A Matt Moore low angle lefty score with 7:35 further cemented UVA’s second half dominance a minute before Xander Dickson scored his second of the night to give the ‘Hoos an unassailable eight goal lead.
Virginia wasted down the clock for the remainder of the game — allowing only one more Brown score — and clinched its spot in the NCAA quarterfinals next weekend. They’ll face the winner of tomorrow’s noon contest between top-seeded (and seemingly unbeatable) Maryland and unseeded Vermont.