Last season, Siena cruised through the MAAC, finishing the regular season unbeaten in conference play and holding a plus-43 goal differential in the regular season. When it came time for the MAAC Tournament, though, the Saints seemed to put the wrong kind of Gatorade in the bucket: Siena slipped past Marist 11-9 (the Saints hammered the Red Foxes 20-8 earlier in the year) and then lost to Canisius (the regular season meeting between the two schools merited a 14-2 win for Siena) in the tournament final 10-9 (a game that saw the Saints enter the intermission with a 9-6 halftime and go scoreless over the final 30 minutes of play).
This year, Siena looked to have put its disasterous 2012 MAAC Tournament performance behind them, fox trotting their way to the championship game following a relatively easy 11-8 victory over Jacksonville in their semifinal game. Against Detroit -- a team that started its season with six consecutive losses and needed an 11-6 victory over VMI to pull itself out of Reverse Survivor -- Siena looked as if it was in a preferable position to earn its fourth NCAA Tournament invitation in five seasons: The Saints were the stronger team and the Titans entered the game playing above their head (regression to Detroit's season-long performance values seemed reasonable in these circumstances). The first 30 minutes of the MAAC final played out as anticipated: Siena entered the break with an 8-4 lead, were eating up A.J. Levell, and weren't giving Detroit extra possessions (the Saints entered the half with a plus-one possession advantage). The final 30 minutes would be a different story than the first half-hour, however, and those last two periods became a recapitulation of Siena's effort last year with an NCAA Tournament invitatio on the line: Impotence from the Saints and the underdog making a charge when it mattered most.
The Saints would open the scoring in the second half -- a goal from Richie Hurley at the 12:52 mark to push Siena's lead to five -- but the Titans would own the remainder of the period: A five-goal run over almost six minutes of play would knot the score at nine, an impressive run from Detroit that saw Scott Drummond start the stretch with two unassisted goals, Mike Birney getting the next two goals on helpers from Tom Masterson, and Alex Maini ending the stretch with an unassisted tally at the 2:43 mark of the third quarter. Siena would get an unassisted Conor Prunty tally with 44 seconds remaining in the penultimate stanza to give the Saints the lead but that goal -- with 15:44 remaining in regulation -- would be the last that Siena would get on the day despite squeezing off seven more shots in the final period (two of which Levell turned away (the most impressive coming with just a few ticks remaining on the clock on a Colin Clive attempt)).
Maini's goal with under four minutes left to play would tie the score at 10, but it was Birney's winner just a minute into the extra period that crushed the Saints' soul -- dead in the middle of the field, Birney beat Matt Sharp to send (1) Siena home with bruised feelings and (2) the Titans to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its short history as a Division I participant.
Here's a truncated tempo-free box score:
|Offensive Efficiency (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||33.33||32.26|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.45||0.87|
|Offensive Shooting Percentage||22.92%||37.04%||Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||33.33||58.06|
|Team Save Percentage||44.44%||56.00%|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||25.81||42.42|