Panthers Stun Rollins With Comeback Win

Ryan Land won a conference (and school) record 28 faceoffs in Saturday’s upset of Rollins. Lou Marinacci - Pictures of Motion

The Florida Tech Panthers (5-1, 1-0 SSC) overcame a slow start on Saturday, scoring 10 second half goals en route to a 17-16 come-from-behind victory over 20th-ranked Rollins (6-2, 0-1) in the Sunshine State Conference opener for both teams. It was the biggest comeback for the Panthers in program history.

Reid Chaconas was the Panthers leading scorer with four goals and an assist. Logan Sweeney, Justin Williams, and Brett Pohlmeyer had two goals each, to go along with an assist for all three.

Ryan Land was a beast in at the faceoff dot for the Panthers, setting a Sunshine State Conference single-game record with 28 faceoff wins. He was three faceoff wins from setting the NCAA record, and he now sits in eighth place in the Division II record books. He also tied a school record, scooping up 14 ground balls.

“He’s the player of the game, and he set a school record for faceoff wins,” said Panthers head coach Mark Penn. “Without him out there today, this could have gotten ugly. Hats off to him, he came back from that ACL tear last year and he’s waited his turn. He was behind Travis Wunder and then he was behind Lance Pavlina and now here he is winning the game for us.”

Land was winning faceoffs all game long, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize early, as they turned the ball over and had just one sustained possession during the first quarter. Rollins, on the other hand, came out firing, as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead, led by a hat-trick from Tommy Keane, who scored his third goal with less than two seconds on the first quarter clock.

“Hats off to Rollins, that’s a very good team, well coached, and they came in with a very good gameplan,” said Penn. “We were not expecting to see zone from them out of the gate, it’s the first time they’ve ever run zone against us, and seeing that zone definitely threw us off.”

“I think it caused our kids a little bit of mental hiccups,” he continued, “and that showed with our play. Rollins is a good team, if you give them a little bit of a lead, they’re gonna build off it.”

Panthers starting goaltender Daniel Flock certainly was not at his best early on, but he did make a few key saves for the Panthers, that kept Rollins from taking a double-digit lead.

“Early in the game he was cold, which hurt us,” said Penn. “Once he started saving the ball, I think the confidence grew.”

Jackson Colling and Greg Taicher prolonged the Panthers misery, scoring in the second quarter, and boosting Rollins lead to 8-0. Brad Schillinger finally got the Panthers on the board, ripping one by Tars’ netminder Will Eckert with 8:51 to go in the second quarter.

Flock would pick up a rare penalty with 7:38 to go in the quarter when he was bowled over in the crease by Kyle Portera of Rollins. When Flock got up, he gave Portera a shot to the back of the neck and picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct call. Portera got one as well, but for Flock, it meant giving up the cage to Matt Young, and it took 11 seconds for Rollins to make the Panthers pay, as Joey Cinque scored his second of the game, giving Rollins a 9-1 lead.

Chaconas scored his first of the game with 6:10 to go, making it 9-2 and giving Flock the opportunity to re-enter after 1:28 on the sideline.

Lou Marinacci - Pictures of Motion

That goal by Chaconas felt so good, he did it again 2:19 later, making it 9-3. Goals by Bryce Johnson, Pohlmeyer and Tyler Oblong followed, and just like that, it was a 9-6 game. Taicher would spoil the run, scoring with 25 seconds left in the quarter. Sweeney would answer with less than five seconds remaining, and the Panthers found themselves within striking distance at 10-7, as the halftime siren sounded.

“This is a team that has so much heart and buy-in, and they know they can win,” said Penn. “All it took was breaking the ice and realizing that we had it and they were fine. At Halftime we were down, and there wasn’t a downed head in the entire room, they knew we were gonna win and that’s what I appreciate about this group is that they know how good they are.”

Goals by Schillinger and Pohlmeyer came 17 seconds apart to start the scoring in the third quarter, and with 8:42 to go, it was a one-goal game. Colling and Ryan Dunn answered for Rollins, stretching the lead to 12-9.

Williams made it 12-10 just 15 seconds after the Dunn goal, and that touched off another Florida Tech rally, as he bookended a goal by Addison Abramson, and it was a brand new game, 12-12, headed into the fourth quarter.

Land not only did his job in the middle of the field, but he also contributed offensively, scoring off a scramble for the faceoff. He picked up the ground ball and sent a rocket past Eckert, giving the Panthers their first lead of the day, 18 seconds into the final stanza.

Tommy Bowser and Chaconas would follow, giving the Panthers a 15-12 lead with 9:50 to go. Cinque scored 25 seconds later, and Keane got his fourth of the day to make it 15-14. Sweeney would get another to make it a two-goal game again before Colling closed the gap to 16-15 with 5:42 to go.

Chaconas would score the eventual game-winner with  Portera getting his team back within one, with 1:34 left in regulation. The Panthers defense clamped down late, not allowing Rollins to get the equalizer.

“A good team (Rollins) started scrappin’,” said Penn. “cause they saw that game was slipping out of their hands, and we had to match that intensity. They scored a couple goals, and hats off to their players, those were huge plays. The big thing was that our kids didn’t let it bother them and once again Dan Flock came through in the cage when it mattered.”

Rollins took 53 shots, 31 on goal, and Flock ended up making 15 saves. Florida Tech took 51 shots, 32 were on cage. The Panthers overcame 25 turnovers, many of them coming in the early going when the Tars built that big lead.

The Panthers held a massive advantage on ground balls, 66-44, and as noted above, 28-9 on faceoffs.

For more info: Rollins @ Florida Tech Box Score

Florida Tech hits the road on Wednesday night for a showdown against the Tampa Spartans, who will have revenge on their mind. The Panthers handed Tampa their first-ever Sunshine State Conference loss last year, with a 7-6 home win. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday.