Brookville, N.Y. — The NYIT men's lacrosse team is East Coast Conference postseason champions for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 2014.
Tom Hughes scored the equalizer with 4:19 remaining in regulation, then scored the winner with 20 seconds remaining in the first sudden-death overtime period as the Bears beat Mercy, 9-8, on Saturday afternoon at LIU Post.
Hughes was named MOP.
The game-tying goal from Hughes late in regulation allowed him to become the 10th player in program history to reach the 100-career-goal plateau.
Hughes scored the game's final three goals and finished with a game-high five goals, giving him 101 for his career. Teammate Will Kistinger, who reached that 100-goal milestone earlier this season, picked up assists on Hughes' final two goals of regulation as the Bears overcame a late 8-6 deficit.
NYIT has made a recent habit of late-game comebacks.
A week ago in Dobbs Ferry in the regular-season finale, the Bears completed an undefeated run through the ECC regular-season schedule and handed Mercy its first league loss by rallying from a four-goal third-quarter deficit. NYIT then needed to rally to defeat LIU Post in Thursday's ECC semifinal at President's Stadium. Hughes scored the opening two goals of the second half in that game as the Bears turned a one-goal deficit into a lead in what became a 9-7 win.
The ECC does not have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the Bears now appear in good shape for a berth when the selection show is televised on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. A loss would have made things significantly more dicey. In Wednesday's regional rankings, NYIT stood fifth. Four teams from the North Region qualify.
The Bears had lost to host LIU Post, 12-11, in the ECC final last year.
After Saturday's victory, Hughes noted his recent contributions have been more meaningful because he missed four early season games with a partially torn PCL and a bone-marrow bruise in his right knee.
"Coming off an early season injury that sat me out for four games, it couldn't have been a better closing to the season, especially winning on this field," Hughes said.
As for tallying his 100th career goal, Hughes added: "I honestly didn't know, but it was a great feeling. I got hot in that fourth quarter. And that's when you finish strong."
NYIT improved to 9-1 all time against Mercy and has won the last eight meetings.
Matt Murphy, Matthew Chanenchuk, George Schultz and LeRoy Halftown each had a goal. Kistinger finished with four assists.
"Back in '04 we were in a tournament similar to this and we won it," coach Bill Dunn said. "And then the conference went away from it. For us to lose by a goal last year, we wanted to get a game better this year. We have. And now we're hoping for the bid tomorrow so we can get a game better in the NCAAs as well."
Provided by the NYIT Sports Information Department.