The Rhode Island Rams showed why they are ranked number one in the MCLA Division II New Balance Weekly Coaches Poll as they beat number seven ranked Grand Valley State 15-9 Friday night at Meade Stadium.
The cold temperatures never seemed to bother the Rams as they never trailed in the entire game. With their potent offense firing that was led by midfielder Keegan Reilly and great showing by Hunter Billings in goal, URI gave problems to the Lakers all evening.
The first quarter opened up with Reilly ripping a goal to put his team up 1-0 just three minutes into the game. The Lakers responded however, with a rocket by Stephen Koenigsknecht to knot the game at one apiece. From then on the Rams would score five unanswered as Adrian "Midfield Mountain" Rutkowski kicked off the scoring spree that saw Kennedy Heath put two home alongside one from Reilly and Wyatt O'Brien to close out the quarter.
Facing a 6-1 deficit now at the start of the second quarter, GVSU came out with a little more purpose which Griffin Jacques took advantage of with a goal at the 12 minute mark to close the gap 6-2. Just as quickly as the Lakers seemed to gain some momentum, Reilly was there to snuff it out. 55 seconds later, he found the upstairs of the net, buzzing past GVSU goalie Keegan Greene, to make the score 7-2 Rams. The Lakers then showed that they can have an even quicker response with Caleb Lowell unloading on the high stick side to make the score 7-3.
With six and half left to play in the second quarter, Reilly continued his impressive performance by notching another one to increase the Rams lead back to five at 8-3. URI kept this momentum going by cashing in on a 4 on 3 transition opportunity that saw the man they call the "Italian Stallion," Anthony Guarino, put the Rams ahead 9-3. The Lakers would then respond with two quick goals by Koenigsknecht and Luke Tardich to cut URI's lead to 9-5 at the end of the first half.
The second half saw a goalie change for the Lakers as TJ Koop replaced Greene in hopes of potentially slowing down URI's efficient offensive attack. These efforts quickly proved to be futile. Patrick Grover introduced himself to the new keeper as he opened up the scoring for URI off of another transition opportunity for the Rams. Looking to increase their now five goal lead, Reilly kept showing how dominant he can be when he's on. With just a little over eleven minutes to play in the third quarter, the junior put on the moves to get to his spot and put home a whistling bounce-shot to make the score 11-5 in favor of the Rams.
Now facing a six goal deficit, GVSU showed that they weren't going down without a fight as Niko Raptis put the first points on the board for the Lakers in the second half. URI came back again however, this time catching the Lakers asleep on defense with a Reilly pass that found Grover on the doorstep of the net to make the score 12-6 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. GVSU then closed out the third with a Jacob Rodgers goal that gave a little momentum to the Lakers ending the third quarter.
In what was a quiet first six minutes in which both teams had no goals between them, GVSU was able to crack open the scoring in the final quarter with Jacques slicing through the Rams defense to cash in on his second goal of the night to bring the Lakers within four goals. The man that had all the answers tonight for the Rams stepped up again as Reilly drilled another top corner shot to increase his squad's lead to 13-8 with six minutes left to go in the game. In desperation mode now, the Lakers were able to cut the lead to four again with another Koenigsknecht goal with a little over five minutes left to play. From then on, the Rams simply were adding insurance as Rutkowski found the "Italian Stallion" in Guarino, cutting backdoor for an easy one. Capping off his spectacular night, Reilly put in his seventh goal of the night, ending the game with a final of 15-9.
The Rams showed just how deep their offense really is and definitely lived up to their number one ranking against a tough GVSU squad. They improve to 6-1 overall and will be back at home again on March 23rd, 7:30 p.m. to face off against Stonehill. On the other side, the Lakers drop to 1-1 overall and will look to bounce back as they have a very quick turnaround to Massachusetts to take on Bridgewater State on Saturday, March 11th at 6:00 p.m.
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