When Roy Lang scored a goal for Cornell to put the Big Red up 9-6 over Syracuse with 5:31 left in the game, it appeared that Cornell would soon win its third national championship in lacrosse.
The Cornell fans that made it to Foxboro, Massachusetts felt it too. In the stands, one could see references to the number 21, the number worn by George Boiardi, the most revered player in Cornell history. Boiardi died in 2004 during a game against Binghamton.
On the field, Syracuse never gave up. Goals by Stephen Keogh and Cody Jamieson reduced the deficit to one with 2:46 left.
Syracuse won the ensuing face-off. Seconds later, Cornell's goalkeeper, Jake Myers made a save on a shot by Dan Hardy. However, a loose-ball push was called on Cornell, and Syracuse regained possession.
Seconds later, possession went back to Cornell when the the referee ruled Jamieson entered Cornell's crease. Cornell failed to clear the ball, and Syracuse regained control of the ball with 90 seconds left.
A shot by Stephen Keogh soared wide of the goal. Syracuse kept control of the ball, but when Kenny Nims tried to pass it back to Keogh, the ball went over his head and out of bounds with 27 seconds remaining in the game.
It seemed obvious that Syracuse's comeback would fall one goal short. Cornell controlled the ball for most of the game. Holding it for just 27 more seconds appeared to be a piece of cake.
In trying to clear the ball, Cornell's Pierce Derkac was stripped of possession by Joel White. Keogh gained control of the ball a threw a behind-the-back pass to Matt Abbott. He was quickly double teamed by Cornell.
The only play Abbott had was to try an over-the-shoulder pass and hope a teammate would catch it. The pass went off the stick of Roy Lang and went right to Kenny Nims who was standing by the crease. Nims scored from point-blank range, and miraculously the game was tied with four seconds left.
Up to that point, Nims was having a miserable game. It was the only point he had the entire day, but it was the most important point of his career.
The game was headed for overtime tied at nine. Cornell's fans were stunned, but the players stayed composed.
Cornell won the face-off and moved quickly into Syracuse territory. However, Orange defenseman Sid Smith stripped Ryan Hurley of the ball.
After the Orange retained possession from a missed shot, Dan Hardy found Cody Jamieson open by the crease. Jamieson buried the game-winner with 2:40 left in overtime and ran to other end of the field to celebrate with his best friend on the team, Sid Smith.
In just a matter of minutes, Syracuse went from facing a bitter defeat to celebrating its 11th NCAA Championship overall and second in a row under the most unlikely set of circumstances.
Cornell jumped to an early lead when John Glynn scored two consecutive goals to start the game. Still in the first quarter, the Orange tied the contest with goals by Chris Daniello and Greg Niewieroski.
Ryan Hurley scored off a tremendous pass by Glynn with 21 seconds left in the quarter to give the Big Red a 3-2 lead. That lead represented only the third time all season Syracuse was behind after the first quarter.
Syracuse scored two of first three goals in the second quarter to tie the game at four with 10:15 left in the half. Rob Pannell and Max Seibald scored for Cornell to give the Big Red a 6-4 lead at intermission.
The third quarter was characterized by strong defense as only two goals were scored. Josh Amidon tallied his 14th goal of the season for Syracuse. Cornell answered when John Glynn recorded his third goal of the game.
Cornell players were confident. Cornell had won 39 straight games leading after three quarters, and they were up 7-5.
Dan Hardy gave Syracuse some confidence early in the fourth when he scored with 13:51 left in the game. Cornell took their two-goal lead back when Seibald tallied his second goal of the game with 7:20 left.
When Lang scored a little less than two minutes later, the game seemed to be all but over.
As a result of Syracuse scoring the last four goals of the game including one that defied reality, this game will go down as the one of the greatest championship games ever in any sport.
It seems only appropriate that Syracuse survived one of its closest shaves ever in Gillette Stadium.
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