Rising to the top: Figueroa's hat-trick boosts Lancers to win, into first place

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Eduardo Figueroa recorded his first hat-trick of the season to boost the Rochester Lancers to an 8-5 triumph over the Muskegon Risers and into first place in the North Division.

Joey Tavernese added a goal and three assists and Taner Bay, Frankie Ciliberto, August Finn and Vadim Cojocov also found the net for the Lancers, who won their fourth consecutive Major Arena Soccer League 2 match, at the Unique Boutique Arena at the Total Sports Experience on Saturday night.

The win gave the Lancers (7-1-0, 20 points) a sweep of the weekend series with the Risers (2-10-0, 5), who completed their 12-game regular season schedule. The Lancers have two games in hand on the second-place Iowa Demon Hawks (6-3-1, 18).

Rochester has allowed only nine goals in its last three games. Goalkeeper Daniel Maddock backstopped the victory after Jakeb Mitchell was in the net for the 8-2 result on Friday night.

For the first time at home this season, the Lancers found themselves trailing a visiting team.

Cesar Alayo made sure of that, striking from the right flank only 73 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Muskegon lead.

Rochester answered back at 6:58 when Bay scored his fourth goal of the campaign. Player-head coach Jake Schindler started the scoring sequence on a free kick that Tavernese set up Bay for a shot from the left side past goalkeeper Aiden Hanchett for a 1-1 tie.

The Lancers, however, suffered a tough loss at 7:13 when Schindler was tackled and suffered a left ankle injury. He remained on the bench for the rest of the game.

"Its going to be a bit before I can get on the field," he said during a post-game interview.

The see-saw battle continued in the second quarter.

Figueroa lifted the Lancers into the lead at 3:18 as he latched onto a long ball from Cojovoc. Figueroa had just got off the bench and raced in on Hanchett and scored from the right side.

Miguel Flores, who was held scoreless on Friday night, equalized at 7:32, scoring off a pass from Alex Gomez for a 2-2 deadlock.

Finn boosted the Lancers into the lead as he converted a backheel pass from Andriy Demydiv from close range for a 3-2 edge at 12:35.

With only 19 seconds left in the half, Colin O'Keefe, off a Steve Merker assist, tallied from the right side for a 3-3 halftime tie.

An alert Ciliberto intercepted a Muskegon pass from the right corner and the Rochester forward slotted the ball past Hanchett for a 4-3 lead the hosts never relinquished.

With 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Figueroa struck for his second goal of the night off a Tavernese feed for a 5-3 advantage.

Compared to the rest of the game, the fourth period was a goalfest with five tallies.

Cojovoc scored a power-play goal for a three-goal margin at 2:44 before Figueroa got his hat-trick off a Tavernese steal at 4:05 for a 7-3 lead.

Alayo sliced the lead to 7-4 at 9:04, but Tavernese got his name on the scoresheet at 12:40.

Goalkeeper Alastair Farmer made his first appearance for Rochester with 2:10 remaining in the match before Merker scored the final goal off a header with 43 seconds left.

The Lancers will play their final two road matches next weekend. They visit the Iowa Raptors on Saturday night, March 18 before meeting the Demon Hawks for a Sunday matinee on March 19.

Rochester returns home to TSE to finish up its 12-game regular season against the Raptors on Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25. Both games kick off at 7:45 p.m.