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Men’s lacrosse: Statement made: No. 18 Buckeyes blast top-ranked Denver, 16-7

The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team huddles before its 8-7 win over University of Massachusetts on Feb. 18. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

The No. 18 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team didn’t just make a statement against No. 1 Denver; it annihilated the top team in the nation.

Freshman forward Tre LeClaire led the Buckeyes (8-0) with five goals as they demolished the Pioneers, 16-7, at Ohio Stadium. LeClaire is the the team’s overall leading scorer and making a case for national freshman of the year.

OSU coach Nick Myers said he saw the potential in LeClaire on the recruiting trail, and it’s not a surprise the way he is playing in his first season in Columbus.

“He’s working hard and he’s a humble kid, but he’s in a position where he knows he has to shoot the ball when his hands are free,” Myers said. “And I thought he did a nice job of that today.”

Senior attack Eric Fannell and senior midfielder Johnny Pearson each had a hat trick.

OSU redshirt senior goaltender Tom Carey was excellent in net, saving 11-of-17 shots on goal. Carey made his first save within seconds of the first faceoff by deflecting Denver junior midfielder Trevor Baptiste’s first shot of the game. After that, the Buckeyes pounced with three quick goals in the first period.

LeClaire opened the scoring for OSU, but following a goal from Denver’s senior midfielder Tyler Pace, the Buckeyes exploded on offense, refusing to let up.

With 11:50 remaining in the first period, Pearson took the 2-1 lead. Then, ten seconds later, Fannell scored a goal. Pearson scored his second of the day with 4:26 remaining in the first. Before the end of the quarter, senior midfielder J.T. Blubaugh put another on the board for an early 5-1 lead.

In the second quarter the Buckeyes continued to shutdown the Pioneers’ offense. LeClaire scored twice and junior attack Colin Chell scored once, giving OSU a stunning 8-1 lead at the half.

To open the third quarter, the Buckeyes put two more on the more to cap 10 unanswered goals and an insurmountable 11-1 lead.

Myers said he told the team to keep going at the Pioneers and not to let up.

“I told the team at halftime to stay aggressive,” he said. “We need to play another 30 minutes of Buckeye lacrosse and — versus a team like Denver — we have been in that position before and we can’t let up.”

Fannell scored twice in the quarter with assists from freshman midfielder Ryan Terefenko and Chell.

With 2:32 left in the third quarter, the Pioneers finally got on the board again when Connor Cannizzaro scored, but LeClaire answered emphatically with his fifth of the day and second in the quarter, giving OSU a 12-2 lead after three.

In the fourth, Denver outscored OSU 5-4, but little did that matter.

Terefenko, Blubaugh, Pearson and senior attack Austin Shanks all scored in the quarter, suppressing any chance of a comeback.

Sophomore attack Austin French, junior midfielder Sean Mayle, freshman attack Ethan Walker, sophomore midfielder Colin Rutan and junior attack Colton McCaffrey all scored for the Pioneers in the quarter.

Fannell said this victory should grant OSU more respect than it had been receiving.

“We know as a team that we’re good and (if) people aren’t going to give us recognition, then we’re going to keep running it down teams’ throats,” he said.

Next week OSU will travel to South Bend, Indiana, to play No. 2 Notre Dame in an attempt to extend their undefeated season and beat another top program.