In No. 2 men’s lacrosse’s return to action against the University at Albany, the stars showed up. On offense, junior attacker CJ Kirst led the way, picking up from where he left off last year with six goals. On the back end, it was senior goalkeeper Chayse Ierlan anchoring Cornell’s defense with 10 saves. In a game that had lead changes throughout, it was clutch play down the stretch in the fourth quarter that ultimately put the Red ahead for good, as it beat the Great Danes, 12-10.
The Red came out of the gate fast, looking to strike on its first possession of the game. After senior faceoff specialist Angelo Petrakis won the opening battle at the x, it was senior midfielder JJ Lombardi capitalizing on the offensive end to give Cornell its first goal of the season.
The Red added on to its lead at the midway point of the first quarter, and again it was Lombardi. Working in front of the goal, Lombardi got his defender to jump on a stick fake before burying it in the back of the net, putting Cornell up, 2-0.
Despite the early lead, it did not take long for Albany to get right back into the game. The Red won the ensuing faceoff, but a turnover from senior midfielder Aiden Blake set up the Great Danes’ transition offense. Graduate defenseman Elijah Gash forced the turnover and went coast-to-coast, scoring on the other end to cut the lead to 2-1.
Gash’s goal was the first of four for Albany, putting Cornell in a 4-2 hole heading to the end of the quarter. However, a key over-and-back turnover by the Great Danes’ with less than a minute left set up Kirst’s first goal of the season. The first quarter ended with the Red trailing, 4-3.
Kirst kept the momentum going into the second quarter, racking up two quick goals in the first four minutes. His third goal of the game came on a delayed penalty, allowing him to turn the corner from behind the net and fire into the bottom left corner. The Red quickly regained a 5-4 lead.
Turnovers proved to be a problem for Cornell in the first half, as the team committed nine in the opening 30 minutes. Albany’s defense was successful in smothering the Red’s attack for the final 11 minutes of the second quarter.
The Great Danes, however, continued to score, tying the game up at five with just under seven minutes remaining. Senior attacker Graydon Hogg was able to find the near 90 from the left side of the field for the equalizer.
With under a minute left in the half, the Red had an opportunity to take the lead, but senior attacker Spencer Wirtheim had his shot saved. The Great Danes moved the ball into Cornell’s defensive end, and with five seconds on the game clock, took the lead. The Red went into the locker room trailing, 6-5.
The Red came out firing in the second half, as Kirst knotted the game up at six less than two minutes into the third quarter. The junior found space just inside the right pipe for his fourth of the day.
Cornell took the lead a minute later behind a blast from junior midfielder Hugh Kelleher. Using his size and agility, Kelleher forced the defender off with a hitch-and-go before overpowering the Great Danes’ goalie to put the Red ahead.
It was a big third period for Ierlan, recording five saves to keep the Red in front. Albany was able to score on him once, but Cornell responded with Kirst’s fifth goal of the day.
With just over nine minutes left in the quarter, Kirst dove low towards the crease, shooting high past the Great Danes’ goalkeeper to put the Red backup, 8-7. The majority of the third period was a defensive battle, and Cornell took a one goal lead into the final 15.
It took less than a minute into the fourth quarter for Kirst to lock up a double hat trick. Wirtheim found Kirst cutting into open space in front of the net, who flicked it back across his body to put the Red up by two.
With just under 10 minutes left, the Great Danes took the momentum right back, scoring a goal and drawing a penalty. Working with a man-up advantage on the ensuing possession, Albany was able to tie the game back up at nine.
The teams went back-and-forth throughout the fourth quarter. Cornell was able to regain the lead at the halfway mark behind senior attacker Billy Coyle’s first of the season.
Cornell kept up the pressure late in the game, as junior midfielder Andrew Dalton recovered a shot by junior midfielder Ryan Sheehan, shoveling the ball into an open net. The Red struck again just seven seconds later, as junior faceoff specialist Marc Psyllos won the faceoff and took it to the house to put Cornell up by three.
Tensions rose in the final two minutes of the game, with a skirmish breaking out in front of the Great Danes’ crease and penalties being given to both teams. With 90 seconds remaining, Albany was able to refocus and score, cutting Cornell’s lead to two.
The Great Danes won the following faceoff, but a forced turnover by senior attacker Brian Piatelli clinched the game for the Red. Cornell ran out the clock, winning the contest, 12-10.
The Red will play at home for the first time next Saturday, Feb. 25, when it hosts Lehigh (1-0). The game will be available on ESPN+.