The Shutout: Marquette 11, St. John's 10 (2OT)

Sophomore Kyle Whitlow had a hat trick to lead Marquette in scoring against St. John's. - Maggie Casey/MarquetteImages.com

I know, you're asking "hey, whaddya mean shutout? There were 21 goals scored!"

But as I pointed out in the preview for this game, there was an offensive explosion brewing. Two of the best individual scorers in the country were facing off with Kieran McArdle from St. John's and Marquette's Tyler Melnyk. McArdle was the Big East's preseason Offensive Player of the Year this season after being the postseason award winner last year, and Melnyk has asserted himself as the second best scorer in the conference after being left off the preseason all-Big East team for no other reason than just New Guy Bias.

So, while an offensive game was expected, it didn't look like it through the first 15 minutes. Marquette led 2-1 on goals from Kyle Whitlow and Conor Gately, and it wasn't a shutout quarter for the Golden Eagles only because Colin Keegan snuck one past Jimmy Danaher with just 32 seconds left in the period.

The two teams traded goals in the second quarter, leading to a 4-3 halftime advantage for Marquette. We had watched 30 minutes of Division 1 lacrosse, and there had been a grand total of one point tallied by either McArdle or Melnyk, with McArdle getting a helper on St. John's first goal of the game. I'll admit, the skill of the players involved and the coaching stratgies of Kevin Miller and Joe Amplo had me feeling like I had jinxed the game.

But, that only lasted through intermission, as Marquette made getting Melnyk a goal priority #1, as he scored just a minute and 14 seconds into the second half and again before five minutes had wound off the clock. His goals were two of three quick strikes by the Golden Eagles, with Keegan mixing in his third goal of the game for the Red Storm in there as well. Both offenses went quiet for nearly six minutes before freshman Ryan McNamara got one past Joseph Danaher to give MU an 8-4 lead with just over 19 minutes left in regulation.

Anyone who watched Marquette's contest against Rutgers wasn't comfortable with even a four goal lead, however, and that sensation was justified. Keegan made it 8-5 before the quarter was over and James Bonnano's first goal of the game on the first possession of the fourth quarter cut the score to 8-6. Marquette responded and ended up trading goals again with the Red Storm, leaving it at 10-7 in favor of the Golden Eagles with 6:28 remaining after Noah Joseph spun away from a defender and ripped a huge overhand shot past Danaher for the freshman's first goal in blue and gold.

Then, in succession, three Red Stormers - Bonnano, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Kevin Cernuto - all tallied their second goals of the game, all within two minutes of each other. That locked the score at 10 with just over three minutes left, and after no one found the net again, we were headed to overtime and sudden victory rules.

In the first four minute extra session, Marquette outshot St. John's 5-1, but missed the cage completely on four of those shots. The unrelated Danahers made stops on the other two shots of the frame, and we headed to another set of four extra minutes. Paul Riportella snagged his second face off win of the extra sessions and his 15th of the game and Marquette got the first crack of the second half. Following a time out, Marquette worked the ball into Andy DeMichiei in the middle of the zone and the freshman ripped his only goal of the game into the upper left corner of the net for the first game winner of his career. He's going to have a hard time topping that one, as it was also the first goal of his collegiate career.

Back to that title, then. You'll notice I've talked about most of those 10 goals from St. John's. Yet, somehow, SOMEHOW, not one of them was scored by Kieran McArdle. 65+ minutes of lacrosse, including about 9 minutes of intense foreboding from my side of things, and Marquette kept St. John's all time leading scorer out of the net. That is an impressive, if not amazing accomplishment in game planning by Marquette's coaching staff and in execution by the MU defenders and midfielders.

Marquette moves to 4-7 overall, but they're 2-1 in the Big East standings, and at the halfway point of the conference schedule, things are looking up for them. Marquette currently sits tied for second place in the Big East standings with Villanova, so that means that the Golden Eagles lose the tiebreaker and control the third of the four Big East tournament slots. MU still has home games against Providence (3-9, 0-3 Big East) and Georgetown (4-7, 1-3 Big East) left to go along with a road trip to face the league favorite and current #5 team in the country Denver Pioneers. Feel free to insert your favorite cliche about the control of destiny here.

STAT WATCH: I mentioned that Paul Riportella won both face offs in overtime and that he had 15 in the game. With 26 tries at the X in the game, that has Marquette winning 57.7% of them. All we want to see is better than last year's 42.9% rate, and anything above 50% is just bonus fun at this point. The other statistic that we keep our eyes on unforced turnovers. While Marquette did have a very noticeable unforced error with less than four minutes to go in regulation, that was just one of three unforced turnovers for the entire game for Marquette. With 34 offensive chances for Marquette here, that's a rate of just 8.82 per 100 chances. Last year, Marquette had 27.5 unforced turnovers per 100 offensive opportunities. I'm just going to let you sit there and stare at that for a while.

Up Next: Well, look. No one ever said every day was going to be a picnic. Tomorrow, Marquette hosts #9 Notre Dame up at Uihlein Park. The Irish are 4-4 on the season, but it's probably important to point out that Notre Dame is 2-4 against ranked opponents this season. Marquette lost to Notre Dame by a final score of 17-5 last year down at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois.

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