KEENE, N.H. -- Eastern Connecticut State University's first victory over Keene State College in 15 years couldn't have come at a better time – as the Warriors are in the midst of a battle to secure a first-round home game in the Little East Conference playoffs.
With its fourth straight victory – equaling its longest ever in the regular season – Eastern (7-6, 6-4 LEC) moves to within 2 ½ games of leader Worcester State University, which moved a half-game ahead of Keene State (10-6,8-2 LEC). With one LEC regular-season match remaining, the Warriors have guaranteed themselves their second winning LEC regular season in three years and a berth in the eight-team LEC tournament, which gets underway with first-round matches Oct. 28.
Eastern trails Westfield State University (6-3 LEC) by a half-game for fourth place in the standings, and would earn fourth place and a home game for the second time in three seasons with a win over visiting Bridgewater State University Saturday, coupled with Westfield State losses to Worcester State Tuesday and Plymouth State University Saturday. Plymouth (8-2 LEC) shares second place with Keene.
The five goals are the most allowed by Keene in an LEC match since it sustained a 5-1 setback at Plymouth State in the fifth conference match of the 2005 season.
In the match against Keene where Eastern led by three goals 16 minutes into play and by 4-1 at halftime, senior forwards Alex Kallgren (Dudley, MA) and Tia LaFrance Boyce (Pawcatuck) combined for all five Eastern goals. LaFrance Boyce's sixth and seven goals of the year staked Eastern to a 2-0 lead after ten minutes, and the first of three goals by Kallgren pushed the advantage to 3-0 midway through the period. After Keene got one back, Kallgren restored the three-goal advantage with less than six minutes left in the first half.
Leading 4-1 at half, the Warriors withstood Keene's second-half assault that created a 15-2 advantage in shots and three goals. Kallgren's third goal of the match – eighth of the season – proved to be vital as it proved the Warriors with a two-goal cushion heading into the final 15 minutes.
Keene sophomore defender Kelsey Roberts made it a one-goal game with eight minutes left, but the Owls came up empty on a penalty corner and two shots the rest of the way. Senior goalie Maddie LaRusso's (Enfield) eighth save of the match with six minutes left denied Keene's final scoring bid.
The hat trick was the second in the career of Kallgren, who also assisted on LaFrance Boyce's first goal in the sixth minute of the match.
Keene, the four-time defending LEC regular-season and playoff champion, outshot Eastern, 21-8, and compiled a 15-1 advantage in penalty corners. Keene goalies Rachel Loseby and Paige Noble, both freshman, combined for only two saves.
Eastern hosts Connecticut College in a non-conference match Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.