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Panthers Win Top-20 Shootout with CMU

Header pic: Justin Williams – Credit: Lou Marinacci – Pictures of Motion

In a game that had a bit of everything, the No 14 Florida Tech Panthers (5-3) outlasted No. 20 Colorado Mesa (5-3) 16-15 on Wednesday, in a regional men’s lacrosse classic at the Backyard in Melbourne.

Not only did the Panthers get the win, but midfielder Justin Williams made history with his third assist of the day, which was the 46th of his career. It came with 4:29 left in the third quarter and set a new program record, eclipsing Nick Wynn’s previous record of 45 which Williams tied earlier in this contest. 

The Panthers (5-3) scored their last goal of the game with 7:52 left in the contest. It was the fourth of the day for Zach Rozgonyi and gave the Panthers a 16-12 lead with 7:52 left. The Mavericks scored three in a row from there, closing the gap to 16-15, but Panthers goalie John Hulsman made a save with 1:11 left in the game and the Panthers were able to possess from there, killing the clock and winning the game. 

Rozgonyi had a six-point day with four goals and two assists. Williams finished with three goals and three assists and Bennett Duffy had five assists on the day. Collin Stewart and Chandler Hake added two goals each.

Braden Lowe and Alex Blatt each had a hat trick for the Mavericks and AJ Switzer had two goals and an assist. Goalie Reece Sullivan made 12 saves.

Things did not start well for Hulsman and the Panthers with CMU getting on the board seven seconds in with Dylan Checketts scoring off the faceoff. They would make it 2-0 with a goal from Blatt. Andrew Walenty got the Panthers on the board 24 seconds later. A man-up goal from James Steinke made it 3-1 with 9:05 left in the quarter.

William’s first goal made it 3-2 but was answered by Blatt with 3:47 left. A late Panthers penalty forced Hulsman to make his sixth save of the quarter.

Williams scored on the man-up 3:37 into the second quarter to get the Panthers within one. Hulsman then had to make two saves 14 seconds apart and he was rewarded moments later as  Hake took a feed from Duffy to tie the game at four. James Steinke scored just over two minutes later to give the visitors a 5-4 lead.

Stewart tied the game with a goal coming with 4:43 left in the half, coming off an assist from Williams. That pushed him into second place at the time in all-time assists and made it 5-5 with 4:43 left.

Jakob Terpak scored just over a minute later to give the Panthers a 6-5 lead, but it was short-lived, as Blatt tied it 6-6. Williams scored with 2:23 left in the half, giving him a first-half hat trick and giving Florida Tech a 7-6 lead at the break.

CMU scored 1:32 into the third to tie the game, before Hake’s second of the day made it 8-7. Steinke’s hat trick goal made it 8-8 before the Panthers seemingly broke the tie on a ball that went bar down and in before bouncing out. It was never acknowledged by the officiating crew, and at that point, you worried that may come back to haunt the Panthers, especially because Lowe scored soon after to give the Mavericks a 9-8 lead.

Williams would find Stewart with 5:34 left in the third to earn his 45th career assist and tie Wynne for the program record and tie the game 9-9. Williams wasted little time putting himself on the top of the list alone as he assisted on Rozgonyi’s goal 1:05 later, giving him the magic number of 45 and putting the Panthers on top 10-9.

Colorado Mesa scored twice in 13 seconds including a man-up goal to take an 11-10 lead before Rozgonyi struck again off a Duffy assist with two-tenths of a second left in the third quarter, tying the game at 11, heading into the final 15 minutes.

Griffin Bowie scored his only goal of the day 44 seconds into the final stanza with Bennett Duffy on the assist. Rozgonyi got one 28 seconds later from Terpak, giving the Panthers a 13-11 lead. 

After Trent Pernell and Patrick Stewart traded goals to make it 14-12, Brennan Banks scored his first of the season with 8:58 left, making it 15-12. Rozgonyi then scored his fourth of the day on a wraparound, 1:08 later giving the Panthers that 16-12 cushion.

They would need every bit of it to withstand the three-goal run by the Mavericks, cutting the deficit to one. That save by Hulsman with 1:11 left, was his 18th of the day and ended up being the biggest. The 18 saves for Hulsman were good for fifth in Panther’s history in a single game. The record is 23, held by Daniel Flock.

For more info: Colorado Mesa @ Florida Tech Box Score

Colorado Mesa fired 52 shots in this one, with 33 on goal. Florida Tech had 35 shots, 28 on goal. The Mavericks dominated at the X, winning 26 faceoffs to the Panthers nine. The Panthers were 21-for-25 on clears, with CMU going 13-for-15.

Turnovers saw CMU with 18 and the Panthers with 15. Caused turnovers were in favor of Florida Tech 14-10.

Florida Tech will jump into conference play on Saturday with an 11:00 a.m. home game against Saint Leo.

Please note –  Some statistical information contained in this article is courtesy of Panthers play-by-play voice Jerry Durney