The 92nd meeting between No. 4 Denison and Ohio Wesleyan in men's lacrosse was another instant classic. The Big Red held the Battling Bishops scoreless in the fourth quarter and put two tallies on the board to complete a thrilling 10-9 win over their rivals from Delaware.
The win avenged a 10-9 loss to the Bishops in last year's North Coast Athletic Conference Championship game. It also clinched at least a share of this year's NCAC Championship while bumping the Big Red's record to 14-0.
With Denison trailing 9-7 with less than one minute to play in the third quarter, senior Austin Campbell connected with Luke Walsh for his first goal of the game. That would send DU into the fourth quarter trailing OWU, 9-8.
Three minutes into the period, Denison defenseman Drew Newman would force a turnover on Ohio Wesleyan's Kyle Foster. Brian Miller was there to snag the ground ball and quickly clear the ball into his team's offensive zone. Miller would zero in on Walsh who zipped a shot past OWU goalie, Ryan McMahon, tying the game at 9-9.
The next seven minutes contained plenty of hold your breath moments as Ohio Wesleyan's Brendan Bouchard sent one shot wide of the goal and another clanged off the right post, only to be gathered by Denison. Bouchard was sniping shots from the midfield all night for the Battling Bishops. The junior entered the contest with only eight goals this season, but would go on to score five times in addition to his two assists.
Tension mounted with six minutes to play as the Big Red came close on back-to-back shot attempts by James Meager and Chapin Speidel. Seconds after Speidel's shot went high, Meager gathered and dodged his way inside, maneuvering a spectacular shot past McMahon that gave Denison its first lead since the 9:19 to play in the second quarter. For Meager it marked his second goal of the contest and his 24th of the season.
DU would win the pivotal ensuing faceoff, and would maintain possession for the next two minutes. With 3:16 to play in the game, OWU's Sam Gioseffi was flagged for a cross-checking penalty. That would bring Denison's man-up unit on to the field for the next minute. OWU would kill the penalty, but Denison maintained possession until a clock violation with 1:27 to play gave the ball back to the Bishops for one last chance at tying the game.
Despite gaining possession on two separate occasions, OWU never could advance the ball into its offensive zone, and a turnover with 52 seconds left that resulted in a ground ball by Benjie Colberg also put the Big Red back in man-up for the remainder of the game. With an extra man on the field, Denison successfully ran out the clock to remain undefeated at 14-0.
Denison outshot Ohio Wesleyan 40-19, but the Bishops were shooting with pinpoint accuracy for much of the night. In the first half they scored five goals on just 11 shots. They were even better in the third quarter, taking only five shots and scoring four times. In the decisive fourth quarter, the Bishops took only three shots as Denison dominated possession over the final 15 minutes of play.
The Big Red was paced by two goals from Walsh, Meager, and Eddie Vita. Speidel, Teddy Powell, Connor Carroll, and Justin DeMarchi accounted for Denison's remaining four goals. Walsh also chipped in two assists.
Eric Baumgardner edged Gioseffi, winning 12-of-23 faceoff attempts. He led the way with six ground balls. Meager came up with five ground balls from his midfield position, while Austin Campbell led all players with three caused turnovers. Denison committed three penalties that resulted in three minutes while Ohio Wesleyan was flagged six times for 4:30 of extra-man time for DU.
Chris Thomas played 41 minutes in goal for Denison and posted two saves. Clark Bullington entered the game late in the third quarter and closed out the final 19 minutes of play. He turned in one save while allowing one goal. On the other side, McMahon finished with 11 saves in 60 minutes of action.
Ohio Wesleyan drops to 10-3 overall and 5-1 in the NCAC. In the all-time series versus OWU, Denison improves to 48-43-1. The Big Red returns to action on Saturday when they travel to Hiram for a 4:30 p.m. faceoff against the Terriers.