LEWISTON, Maine -- Senior Rob Highland scored with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bates men's lacrosse team a 7-6 NESCAC comeback victory over Hamilton on Saturday at Garcelon Field.
The Continentals (4-5, 2-5 NESCAC) had a 5-3 lead early in the fourth quarter before the Bobcats (6-4, 4-3 NESCAC) finished the game with a 4-1 run over the final 11 minutes. Bates' fourth conference win of the season represents the team's most since 2006, when the Bobcats finished 9-5 overall and 5-4 in NESCAC play.
Senior Kyle Starr (Concord, N.H.) started the comeback with an unassisted goal, shot from a very tight angle with 10:12 left to play, closing the gap to 5-4.
Sophomore Jack Strain (Montclair, N.J.) then scored back-to-back goals at the 8:16 and 7:36 marks of the quarter, allowing Bates to tie the game for the first time since it was 1-1, and assume its first lead since it was 1-0.
Hopper evened the game again for Hamilton with his second score of the period, making it 6-6 with 3:40 left, getting free on the right side and releasing a big bounce of a shot that found the upper left corner of the net.
Bates sophomore Mac Jackson (Hood River, Ore.) then won his 12th faceoff -- he finished 12-for-16 and collected 10 ground balls, six more than any other player in the game. Hamilton goalie Will Driscoll made a save on an open shot by junior Will Gilkeson (Cleveland Heights, Ohio), well set up by Starr, to return the ball to the Continentals. In Hamilton's offensive third, however, Bates senior defender Andrew Berry (Westwood, Mass.) stripped the ball away from a Continental and secured the ball, leading to a successful Bates clear with 2:40 left. With 1:29 to go in the quarter, Highland made a sweep to an alley dodge and released a right-handed shot from a high angle into to lower part of Hamilton's goal, making it 7-6.
Hamilton won the ensuing faceoff for only the fourth time in the game. A focused Bates defense held the Continentals without a shot until 19 seconds were left, and Pax Anthos unleased a shot wide of the goal. Hamilton controlled the ball but turned it over in the waning seconds of the game, before getting another attempt at a game-tying score.
Highland scored in the opening minute for a 1-0 Bates lead, but Hamilton answered with three straight -- one apiece by Joe Ricciuti, Sam Sweet and Pat Donahoe -- for a 3-1 lead, after which Hamilton led the majority of the game and effectively kept the ball away from the Bobcats. The Continentals outshot Bates 38-26 in the game, including a 13-4 difference in the second quarter and a 13-6 difference in the third. Turnovers plagued Bates for much of the game: the giveaway margin was 18-10 in Hamilton's favor after three quarters, 21-15 for the game.
But thanks to a pair of goals by Bates' first-year Charlie Hildebrand (Berwyn, Pa.), Hamilton led by only one goal at halftime, 4-3, then kept its second possession of the third quarter for 10 straight shots, only one of which was on cage and saved by Bates junior goalie Charlie Kazarian (Providence, R.I.). The entire third quarter passed without a score by either side.
Bates' only penalty of the game, a technical called with 8.7 seconds left in the third quarter, technically expired without a Hamilton goal, but Hopper's first tally of the game, fed by Luke Walsh, occurred only five seconds after the penalty was served, and Hamilton led 5-3.
After Starr closed it to 5-4 with 10:12 to go on his tight-angle shot, Gilkeson found Strain open on the weak side with a great feed over the Hamilton defense, and Strain finished off the game-tying goal in one motion. Jackson won the next draw, and 40 seconds later Strain struck again, leaning into a Hamilton defender while driving toward the goal, then unleashing a shot over his left shoulder to make it 6-5 with 7:36 left.
Kazarian made nine saves for Bates, while Hamilton's Driscoll stopped eight shots.
Bates next plays at Tufts on Tuesday, April 16 at 7pm; Hamilton will host Skidmore in a non-conference game on Wednesday at 5pm.