(4) Furman v. (1) Richmond
Richmond survived a valiant upset attempt from Furman in a heart-stopping 8-7 victory over the visiting Paladins. Benny Pugh achieved hero status against Furman, coming up huge late in the game for his team when he made two saves on attempts from the Paladins to knot the scoreboard with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Pugh would finish the day with 10 stops and a 58.82 save percentage, yet it was his 100 save percentage in the game's closing seconds -- including the last possible millisecond -- that will remain in the minds of Spiders fans at Robins Stadium. Pugh's pressure-fueled moments, though, were somewhat unexpected given how Furman and Richmond started their Southern Conference Tournament meeting.
Deadlocked at one after the first period, the Spiders exercised their strength in the second 15 minutes, pulling out to a 5-2 advantage at halftime. Richmond took 10 shots in the second stanza and canned four of the them, finding the kind of efficiency that the Paladins' lacked in their eight-shot, one-goal performance over the same stretch of play. The Spiders had built a seemingly concrete cushion and that theory would find establish itself for the next 20 minutes or so. A 2-1 third quarter in favor of Furman brought the Paladins within three, but more importantly, Furman was creating potentially crippling circumstances: The Paladins took only only four shots in the third quarter and withstood 14 shots from the Spiders in the same period, exacerbating their issues with five turnovers -- three of which were unforced -- in the penultimate period. Richmond then opened the first 3:17 of the final stanza with two goals to build an 8-4 lead with under 12 minutes to play. Furman barely maintained a heartbeat, but the team would receive a jolt of adrenaline to its heart.
Scoring the game's next three goals, the Paladins found themselves down one with 1:40 to play. Richmond won the draw following Furman's seventh tally of the contest, but Mikey Hofmeister was stripped by Lincoln Liesemeyer to give the Paladins possession with 60 seconds left on the clock. Pugh then put on his cape: Turning away a Scott Primeau attempt led to a blown clear from the Spiders and, with essentially no time left on the clock, Pugh stopped a shot from Robbie Betchley to seal the victory for the Spiders.
(3) High Point v. (2) Mercer
Michael Leclair contributed High Point's game-winning goal with 4:11 remaining in regulation to propel the Panthers to the Southern Conference Tournament final. High Point's 7-6 nailbiter against Mercer marks the second time this season that the two teams have played a one-goal game with each side earning a victory in the season series. High Point received four points from its primary offense duo -- Dan Lomas had a goal on three shots while Matt Thistle chipped in a goal and two assists -- and four Mercer weapons -- Tim Geran, Chris Baxa, Bryan Gibson, and James Fromert -- contributed two points each in the Bears' effort.
The game was as tight as the final score indicated, although the Panthers did not trail Mercer for the final 46:24 of the game. No team held more than a two-goal advantage throughout the full 60 minutes. The game focused in the second half: Trailing 3-5 at the break, Mercer registered consecutive goals to knot the scoreboard at five with just under six minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter; High Point would tally the first goal of the final stanza on Lomas' lone marker to give High Point a temporary one-goal advantage, but the Bears responded less than two minutes later with a Chris Rahill bucket earned from a Baxa helper. With 12:57 remaining in regulation the teams delved into a defensive struggle with both Austin Geisler and Mike Nugent limiting looks behind two field defenses infused with a desire to suffocate the life out of their opponents. Leclair was able to break through, though, with his second goal of the game to give High Point its final lead of the game.
Mercer ends its season at 5-8 while High Point will attempt to do to Richmond what the Spiders accomplished against the Panthers last season -- steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament.