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Panthers Outlast Saint Leo in Conference Opener

Header pic: Zach Rozgonyi – Credit: Florida Tech Athletics

The 14th-ranked Florida Tech men’s lacrosse team opened Sunshine State Conference play on Saturday with a statement win against a very tough Saint Leo squad, winning 19-13 in the Backyard on the campus of Florida Tech.

It was the second win this week for the Panthers, who got a home win against No. 20 Colorado Mesa on Wednesday. Although Saint Leo was not ranked they came into Saturday’s game with a 5-2 record and were receiving votes in the latest poll.

“We weren’t entirely happy with our effort and execution Wednesday against a solid Mesa squad and wanted a bounce-back effort in our conference opener,” said Panthers coach Brad MacArthur in an email sent to sportslowdown after the game.

This was a team win for the Panthers who have been a determined bunch all season long. Zach Rozgonyi had a seven-point day for Tech in this one, scoring five goals and assisting on two. Bennett Duffy and Sam Sidari each added a hat trick. Sidari got half of his six goals for the season in this game. Collin Stewart, Griffin Bowie, and Justin Williams all had two goals for the home team.

SLU (5-4) had a few impressive performances as well, including hat tricks from Tyler Eames and Guy Bistrow. All of Bistrow’s goals came in the third quarter, in 23 seconds. Eames had four assists as well, putting together a seven-point game.

Reece Hrycan got the Lions on the board first, beating Panthers netminder John Hulsman. Rozgonyi answered with a wraparound goal, putting it past Steve Lauter in the net for the Lions.

Duffy put the Panthers up briefly before Eames tied it at two. Adem Tekman and Michael Flores made it 4-2 SLU, scoring seven seconds apart. The Panthers Justin Williams scored to make it 4-3 and Sidari tied the game 24 seconds later with his first of the day. Evan Wray put SLU up 5-4 with 2:42 left and that’s how the first quarter would end.

Eames made it 6-4 early in the second but the Panthers Justin Williams answered with his second of the day. It was his 74th career goal, which puts him fourth all-time in Panthers program history. Bowie’s goal would tie it up, before Sidari put home his second of the day 25 seconds later, giving Tech a 7-6 lead.

After a holding call gave Saint Leo a man-up opportunity, Brennan Banks shut that down with a goal, making it 8-6. Banks would assist on Rozgonyi’s second of the day a few minutes later, and it was 9-6.

SLU scored on the man-up thanks to a Justin Williams tally with 56.1 seconds left in the half and this game went to the break with the Panthers up 9-7.

“Saint Leo brings its own set of challenges on limited rest for both teams,” MacArthur said. “We stayed the course and cleaned up some things we let happen in the first quarter.”

Rozgonyi’s hat trick came 62 seconds into the third and put the Panthers up by three. Saint Leo’s Justin Williams answered with his second of the day, closing the gap to 10-8. Sidari’s hat trick goal came just over three minutes later, to reinstate the Panthers’ three-goal lead.

That started a four-goal run for the Panthers that included goals from Griffin Bowie, Stewart, and the second of the day for Duffy. That spurt gave the Panthers a 14-8 lead. Ryan Marek got one back for the Lions, but Duffy’s hat trick goal came 54 seconds later to make it 15-9. 

From there it was the Bistrow show, as he went to work. He scored with 2:19 left in the quarter to make it 15-10, and 13 seconds later scored on the man-up. Both assists came from Eames. It took just 10 seconds for Bistrow to do it again, with his hat trick goal. That was three goals in 23 seconds for Bistrow and all of a sudden, it was 15-12. That’s how the third quarter would end.

Duffy hit the post 20 seconds into the fourth quarter and it was defensive from there until Eames scored on an assist from Wray with 7:32 to go in regulation to make it a two-goal game.

It took eight seconds for Rozgonyi to get that goal back and the Panthers went on to get goals from Stewart, and Griffin Martin, before Rozgonyi bookended the run with his fifth of the day, coming with four minutes left, to give the Panthers the 19-13 cushion.

“We kept our emotions in check down the stretch, getting stops when we needed, forced turnovers and timely goals,” said MacArthur. “Credit to our guys for getting two tough wins in four days”.

Both goalies deserve praise in this one, as they were both under fire much of the day. Lauter made 20 saves in this one, while Hulsman had 11. The Panthers had 52 shots in this one, with 39 on goal. Saint Leo had 27 shots, 24 on goal. 

The Lions were 3-for-4 on the man-up, while the Panthers went 0-for-4. The faceoffs were eleven in this one, as each team won 17. The Lions turned it over 26 times, with 21 of those caused by the Panthers. Florida Tech had 16 turnovers, with seven of them caused by SLU.

For more info: Saint Leo @ Florida Tech Box Score 

The Panthers are now 6-3 and 1-0 in the SSC. They have now won two in a row and will have a week to focus on Lynn. They will face the Fighting Knights on April 2 at noon in Boca Raton.