LEWISBURG, Pa. -- 2008 Eastern Championship Rookie of the Tournament Kyle Wertz (Jr., San Diego, Calif./Westlake), who missed much of the season only to return during the regular season against Princeton University in the closing weeks of the Southern Division campaign, made the No. 18 United States Naval Academy Midshipmen's long wait worth it recording a hat-trick in knocking out defending Eastern Champion and No. 15 ranked Princeton University 8-5 in the 2010 CWPA Eastern Championship semifinals at Bucknell University.
The victory puts Navy in a familiar position, the Eastern Championship title game, as the Midshipmen will seek to claim the program's 10th title after claiming the 1986-88, 1990, 2000, 2003 and 2006-08 crowns against either No. 13 St. Francis College or the host and No. 18 ranked Bison of Bucknell.
Overall, Navy is 9-6 in Eastern title tilts as the Mids gained an ounce of revenge for their last Eastern title game appearance, a 9-6 loss to the Tigers last season at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Against St. Francis, Navy went 0-1 this season falling 10-8. Overall, the Mids are 2-1 against the Terriers in Eastern title games taking the 2007 and 2000 meetings, while falling in the 2005 for St. Francis' only Eastern Championship to date.
Navy has never faced Southern Division rival Bucknell in the Eastern title game, and finished 2-1 against the Bison this year knocking off the Orange & Blue 10-9 and 9-4 during the regular season before dropping a 13-12 gaem in the Southern Division semifinals.
The first team since the 1981-87 Brown University Bears to reach six or more consecutive Eastern title games, as the Mids will appear in their sixth tilt (2005-10) tomorrow, Navy improved to 64-22 in 29 Eastern tournament appearances. Overall, Navy is guaranteed to record its 23rd Top Three finish as the team previously finished as the runner-up six times and in third place seven times.
Against the Tigers in their fourth meeting of the year, Navy came out of the gates fast looking for a first-period TKO.
Wertz started the scoring 22 seconds in as the Midshipmen took the opening sprint for a quick feed to the former Eastern Championship MVP at the 7:38 mark. The margin expanded to 4-0 by the end of the opening frame as Luke Baldwin (Sr., La Grange Park, Ill./Fenwick) riddled the cage with a shot at 6:49 before Stevie Ray (Jr., Baytown, Texas/Ross S. Sterling) tallied a 6-on-5 goal at 6:01 and deposited a natural marker at 4:14.
Neither team was able to find the cage in the second period as the two teams combined for four shots on cage in the eight-minute frame to keep the scoreboard locked at 4-0.
Princeton began to get its second wind in the third period as Matt Hale (Sr., Atherton, Calif./The Menlo School) converted on a five-meter penalty shot at 6:09 before tallying a man-up goal at 2:14 to cut Navy's lead in half at 4-2.
However, Wertz pulled his teammates off the ropes with his second strike of the day with 56 seconds on the clock to build the margin back to three goals at 5-2 by the end of the period.
The marker seemed to change the momentum as Conor Handley (Jr., Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) rocketed in a shot at 5:51 and Wertz completed his hat-trick at 2:11 with a penalty shot to make it a 7-2 game.
Princeton countered over the next minute as Jack Ruth (So., West Lawn, Pa./Wilson) converted on a six-on-five opportunity at 1:58 and added an even-strength score at 1:19 to move the Tigers back to within 7-4.
Erich Schwamb (So., Orange, Calif./El Modena) closed out Navy's night in the goal mouth by tacking on his team's eighth tally of the night before Hale finished a pass with 30 seconds to go for the 8-5 final score.
In goal, Anthony Gutierrez (So., Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) picked up the victory with nine saves, while Southern Division Player of the Year Mike Merlone (Sr., Atherton, Calif./The Menlo School) suffered the loss with six blocks.
Princeton will meet the loser of the other semifinal, St. Francis-Bucknell, at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon as the Tigers may have fallen to the "Curse of Uno" at the Eastern Championship.
Holding the No. 1 position in the tournament bracket due to holding the Southern Division title and representing the 2009 champion's division, Princeton joins a long line of No. 1 teams that did not take the championship. Since the 2000 season, the No. 1 seed has won only three titles: Navy (2007), Princeton (2004) and Queens College (2002).
|No. 18 United States Naval Academy||4||0||1||3||--||8|
|No. 15 Princeton University||0||0||2||3||--||5|
Matt Hale (3), Jack Ruth (2)
Navy Goals: Kyle Wertz (3), Stevie Ray (2), Luke Baldwin, Erich Schwamb, Conor Handley
Saves: Princeton - Mike Merlone (6) ; Navy - Anthony Gutierrez (9)
Exclusions: Princeton - 11 ; Navy - 6
Advantage Opportunities: Princeton - 3-for-6 ; Navy - 2-for-11
Sprints: Princeton - 0-for-4 ; Navy - 4-for-4
Cards: YC -
Princeton (Luis Nicolao, HC) ; YC - Navy (Mike Schofield,
Officials: Alex Stankevitch, Humberto Navarro
Matt Hale looks to pass
as Stevie Ray closes