MAAC Championship: Manhattan Tops St. Bonaventure, Advances to NCAA Tournament For The First Time in 20 Years

(Photo Courtesy of Manhattan Athletics)

For the first time since 2002, the Manhattan Jaspers are NCAA Tournament bound.

In the conference title game for the second consecutive season, the Jaspers defeated the top-seeded St. Bonaventure Bonnies 8-7 in a characteristically defensive-heavy MAAC battle.

Justin Malpica came into Saturday’s contest with just three goals on the season. He left the field having a career day, netting a hat trick to lead the Jaspers’ offense. Jack Shanley, Kyle Gucwa, Sean MacKinney, Quinn Bower, and Jake Nicolosi were the other five goal-scorers on the day for the champs.

Brendan Krebs made nine saves in cage while SSDM Tadhg O’Riordan had another strong performance with three caused turnovers and three ground balls.

A transition score from Aiden Macdonell at the 12:47 mark in the first quarter put St. Bonaventure up early. That would be the only score for nearly a full 15 minutes as neither side would get on the board until Kyle Gucwa put one past Brett Dobson (9 saves) to get the Jaspers on the board.

Justin Malpica and Quinn Bowler would each find the back of the net in the ensuing five minutes to extend the Manhattan run to three goals and give them their biggest lead of the 3-1 lead. Later in the frame, Sean Mackinney found the back of the net to make it a 4-2 lead at the half.

Once the Jaspers took the lead during that 4-1 second quarter they never gave it back. A pair of consecutive score from Malpica in the fourth quarter looked to be the dagger, putting Manhattan up 8-5 with 5:28 remaining and seemingly putting the game out of reach.

However, the Bonnies has a late-game effort in them as they turned a Manhattan failed clear into a successful possession with Conor Murphy finding the back of the net as the shot clock was winding down. Austin Holley (4-for-4) won the ensuing faceoff and the Bonnies got off two shots, each of which went wide.

Manhattan was able to retain possession, take it up field and call a timeout. Needing to just run the clock out, Nick Porfilio forced a turnover on Kyle Gucwa to retain possession for the Bonnies. And out of a timeout, they capitalized on that very possession with a Brett Beetow goal to make it a one-goal, 8-7, game with 40 seconds left.

Winning the ensuing faceoff, St. Bonaventure took one final timeout before putting forth one final effort to force overtime. Tadhg O’Riordan forced a bad shot from Austin Blumbergs, which bounced off a Manhattan defender and out of bounds. On the restart from up top, Conor Murphy took one final shot that sailed wide before the Jaspers took the field in celebration.

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