Merlone Saves Princeton Season, No. 18 Tigers Advance to Eastern Title Game with 7-6 Win Over Bucknell
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Mike Merlone (Jr., Atherton, Calif./The Menlo School) made eight saves to earn Player of the Game honors as No. 18 Princeton University outlasted Bucknell University 7-6 in the semifinals of the 2009 Men's Eastern Championship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Tigers will face No. 12 Navy in the title game at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 22, while Bucknell will meet No. 20 Johns Hopkins University at 1:00 p.m. in the third place game as the Top Four teams at the 2009 Eastern Championship are all from the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Southern Division.
In a rewind to two weeks ago, the championship and third place games will be rematches of the same contests at the Southern Championship as Navy defeated Princeton 10-5 for the Southern Division title and the No. 1 seed at the Eastern Championship, while Bucknell fell to Hopkins 9-8 OT in the third place game.
Overall, the Tigers will have a pattern on their side as the top seed at the Eastern Championship has struggled since the 2000 season as the No. 1 seed has captured only three titles: Navy (2007), Princeton (2004) and Queens College (2002).
Against the Bison of Bucknell, Princeton jumped out to a lead and never looked back until the final 1:15 of the fourth period.
David de L'Arbre (Sr., Santa Barbara, Calif./Santa Barbara) put the Tigers on the board 1:02 into the first period as he beat the Bison defense for a score at the 6:58 mark. The lead ballooned to 3-1 by the end of the period as Douglas Wigley (Sr., Portola Valley, Calif./Sacred Heart) and Mike Helou (So., Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall) popped in goals at 3:41 and 1:04 to sandwich a score by Bucknell's Spencer Richley (So., Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor) at the 1:51 mark.
Bucknell pulled to within a goal on a shot by Richie Hyden (Jr., Melbourne, Australia/Greenwich (Conn.)) with 3:54 left in the second period, but Wigley whipped in shots at 2:20 and 24 seconds to make it 5-2. Richley closed out the first half scoring with a man-up goal at the six seconds mark as the Tigers went to their bench leading 5-3 at halftime.
The teams traded scores in the third as Mark Zalewski (Sr., St. Louis, Mo./Kirkwood) and Matt Hale (Jr., Atheron, Calif./The Menlo School) finished on point blank chances at 5:27 and 2:43, respectively, to surround a man-up goal by Howie Kalter (Jr., Durham, N.H./Phillips Academy Andover) with 4:44 left in the period to make it 7-4 through 24 minutes.
However, the Bison refused to surrender as Sean Coghlan (Jr., Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice) netted a natural goal with 2:05 to play and Kalter cracked a shot past Merlone at 1:15 on a man-up opportunity to pull Bucknell to within one at 7-6.
Needing a final goal to even the scoreboard and bring on overtime, the Bison came up empty as the Princeton defense locked down and forced Bucknell to launch a desperation heave with seven seconds left on the game clock and the shot clock expiring to hang on for the victory.
In goal, Nick Donahue (Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y./Lawrenceville) stopped five shots for Bucknell as the Bison are guaranteed to record their 11th consecutive fourth or better finish at the Eastern Championship.
|No. 18 Princeton University||3||2||2||0||--||7|
Bucknell Goals: Howie Kalter (2); Spencer Richley (2); Sean Coghlan; Richie Hyden
Princeton Goals: Douglas Wigley (3); David de L'Arbre; Matt Hale; Mike Helou; Mark Zalewski
Saves: Bucknell - Nick Donahue (5) ; Princeton - Mike Merlone (8)
Exclusions: Bucknell - 4 ; Princeton - 10
Sprints: Bucknell - 1-for-4 ; Princeton- 3-for-4
Referees: Michael Goldenberg, Mark Koganov