Baltimore, Md. - Freshman netminder Matt Bukovac (Ashburn, Va. / Briar Woods) tallied 16 saves in his collegiate debut while fellow classmate Jacob Ruest (Cornwall, Ontario / The Hill Academy) made his first-collegiate point count as he netted the game-winning score near the middle of the fourth quarter to push the Robert Morris University men's lacrosse team past UMBC, 10-8, Saturday afternoon at UMBC Stadium.
With the victory, the Colonials opened a season 2-0 for the third time in the young history of their program. Additionally, RMU has not trailed in either of its first two contests which marks the first time it has led from wire-to-wire in consecutive games to begin a season.
Bukovac finished just outside of the top 10 single-game save marks in school history and also came through when it mattered most. In the final 12 minutes of action, with a lead of no more than two goals, Bukovac stopped six of the final seven shots on goal by the Retrievers to help RMU claim victory.
Robert Morris' offensive production was due to a relatively well-balanced effort as the squad's 10 goals came out of the sticks of eight distinct Colonials.
A trio of Colonials led the offensive charge by tying for game-high honors with three points apiece. Senior Casey Abbott (San Jose, Calif. / Bellarmine Prep.) and redshirt sophomore Taylor Graves (Carlsbad, Calif. / Carlsbad) both tallied two goals and an assist, with Graves' helper coming on the GWG, to each register the first three-point efforts of their respective careers. It also marked the second multi-goal game of Graves' career and the first such outing in Abbott's time at RMU.
Junior Jake Hayes (Calgary, Alberta / Central Memorial) collected a goal and two assists to notch at least three points for the fifth time in his last eight appearances. It also marked the first multi-assist outing of Hayes' career.
Sophomore Tyler Rankel (Downingtown, Pa. / Downingtown West) joined Ruest in snagging the first goal of his career as the long-stick midfielder netted the final tally of the opening half.
Robert Morris' success was also due in part to the strong work from its man-down unit as the Colonials killed off 6-of-8 UMBC extra-man opportunities on the afternoon, including five in the second half. The man-down corps provided an especially effective effort in the fourth quarter. While clinging to a 9-8 lead with under seven minutes to go, two Colonials were sent off simultaneously, including one for a 1:00 infraction, but Robert Morris came through, keeping the Retrievers off the board, to maintain its lead.
RMU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes with goals from Graves and redshirt junior Mike Keegan (Commack, N.Y. / Commack). UMBC tied the contest with a goal late in the first frame and one early in the second quarter.
Robert Morris responded immediately, though, as it took less than a minute for the Colonials to retake the lead as Hayes scored courtesy of redshirt senior Kevin Brownell (Burlington, Ontario / Central). The helper moved Brownell into a tie for eighth in career points at RMU with 59 as he matched the total from his current assistant coach Carlo Sunseri.
RMU found another quick goal as senior Teddy Finnegan (West Islip, N.Y. / West Islip) scored just 27 seconds after Hayes to make it 4-2 in favor of the visitors.
UMBC would cut it to one for about four minutes, but Abbot and Rankel scored about three minutes apart to give the Colonials a 6-3 lead at the half. Robert Morris' six first-half goals came courtesy of six distinct student-athletes.
Each squad scored twice in the third quarter as the Retrievers cut the lead to one twice only to have the Colonials push it back to two each time. Redshirt junior Dave Morton (Orangeville, Ontario / Hill School) put home a key tally as he found the twine with just one second remaining in the third to put up RMU up, 8-5, going into the fourth.
UMBC came out on fire to begin the fourth quarter as it scored three goals, including both of its man-up tallies, within the first five minutes to suddenly knot the game, 8-8, for the first time since early in the second quarter.
With the momentum clearly in the hands of the hosts, Robert Morris showed great resolve and determination to retake command of the affair.
Senior midfielder Mike Grosz (St. Louis, Mo. / Parkway West) won the ensuing faceoff and Graves found Ruest just 31 seconds later to once again put Robert Morris on top while putting the freshman on the scoring sheet for the first time in his career.
The Colonials were then soon placed in the unenviable position of being two men down, but they amazingly came through with the lead still in check. Not long after RMU returned to even strength, the Colonials scored their 10th tally of the day courtesy of Abbott.
RMU was able to keep UMBC from having too many chances down the stretch as Bukovac notched saves on the only two Retriever shot attempts during the final six minutes.
Freshman defenseman Luc Magnan (Pine Falls, Manitoba / The Hill Academy) tallied a team-high five ground balls and leads the team with nine thus far this season.
Long-stick midfielder Mike Meagher (Chesterfield, Mo. / St. Louis University) moved into the top five in career caused turnovers Saturday against UMBC.
Robert Morris will continue its stretch of four-consecutive games away from home to start the season next weekend as it competes in the DU Face-Off Classic hosted by Denver. The Colonials will meet Air Force Saturday, Feb. 25, at 1:00 p.m. ET before facing the host Pioneers, a 2011 Final Four participant, the following afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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