Posted: November 3, 2006
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After playing to a 1-1 tie and 20 minutes of scoreless overtime action against Bucknell in the opening round of the 2006 Patriot League tournament, the No. 14 Mountain Hawks’ fate in the Patriot League Tournament came down to penalty kicks for the third straight season. While the result will go on the record books as a tie, the Bison defeated the Mountain Hawks 4-1 in penalty kicks in order to advance to the Patriot League Finals on Sunday. Lehigh, who has now gone 16 straight games without a loss, sits at 15-1-2 on the season while Bucknell's record goes to 8-8-4.
“We went a better part of the last one and a half months winning, so it is strange for us to be on this side of the result,” said head coach Dean Koski. “I am really proud of this team and what they have accomplished this season. Bucknell did a great job tonight and they deserved that result.”
Sophomore Adam Gazda gave the Mountain Hawks a 1-0 lead in the 37th minute as he found an open slot at the top of the box. Bucknell went on to score the equalizer 2:05 into the second half as Dirk Swaneveld’s shot from 25 yards out took a wicked curve towards the near post. Lehigh almost had the game-winning goal in the 49th minute when senior John O’Reilly’s free kick found classmate Joe Verdi, who headed the ball into the net. Unfortunately for the Mountain Hawks, the goal was called back due to a Lehigh foul.
With 4:14 left in the second overtime, senior Jim Morahan came up with a critical diving save as he stopped Nathan LeGrave’s point-blank shot. Morahan recorded five saves in the game, while his counterpart Joey Kuterbach made two saves.
In the shootout, Andrew Loia’s shot headed towards the lower left corner and got past freshman Kyle Grzeszczak, who came in and made his second appearance in net for the Mountain Hawks. O’Reilly had a shot to even the shootout at 1-1, but Kuterbach came up with the stop. After Corey Curnutte gave the Bison a 2-0 lead, Verdi looked to put the Mountain Hawks on the scoreboard, but was unable to as Kuterbach made the save. LaGrave put the Bison up 3-0, but freshman Kyle Evans kept Lehigh alive as he converted on his penalty kick. Chris Hennings sealed the result for the Bison by making his shot.
In the earlier semifinal game, second seeded Lafayette scored two second half goals to defeat third seeded Colgate 2-1. The Raiders carried a 1-0 lead going into halftime when Justin Burney deflected the ball into the goal n the 40th minute. The Leopards scored the equalizer in the 59th minute off a Thomas Harju corner kick that found Luke Sullivan, who shot the ball towards the near post. Scott Hawkins’ diving header in the 80th minute got past David Cappuccio to seal the win for the Leopards.
Bucknell will meet Lafayette in the championship game on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm for the Patriot League Tournament title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Live video of the match will be online at lehighsports.com with streaming provided by Yahoo! Sports. The game will also be broadcast live on Service Electric 2 Sports in the Lehigh Valley area.
For the Mountain Hawks, they will have to await their postseason fate until Monday afternoon’s NCAA Selection Show that is scheduled for 4:00 pm on ESPNEWS. With its list of accomplishments this season, including a 16-game unbeaten streak, being the first school in Patriot League history to run through the league schedule unbeaten and untied, and national rankings in every major poll, Lehigh has a very good chance of receiving an at-large bid on Monday, at which point the Mountain Hawks will shift their focus to the NCAA Tournament. Lehigh was last in the national tournament in 2002, when the Brown and White played host to Northeastern.