BETHLEHEM, Pa. - In one of the most exciting back-and-forth games in recent memory, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team battled back from a 5-2 halftime deficit, but it was No. 20 Penn State, who erased a late two-goal deficit to down the Mountain Hawks (6-5, 2-1 Patriot League), 8-7 in overtime, on Saturday. Lehigh’s defense stole the show, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless for 30:14 bridging the second through fourth quarters. But in the end, Penn State’s Danny Henneghan scored the game-winner just four seconds into overtime to hand Lehigh the heartbreaking defeat.
“We didn’t make enough plays,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “We had to make one or two more plays to solidify the win, but we didn’t do it. Credit Penn State; they kept playing hard and got the win.”
In a game full of runs, Lehigh scored the game’s first two goals before the Nittany Lions responded with five in a row to go up by three at the half. The Mountain Hawks came back with five unanswered to retake a 7-5 lead before Penn State responded with the final three goals to steal the victory.
“Give our guys credit for fighting back to make that third-quarter run,” said Cassese. “I think in the end, we ran out of gas. I was proud that we were able to rally, but am disappointed we relinquished the lead.”
Sophomore Dante Fantoni led the way with three goals for his ninth career hat trick. Fellow sophomore David DiMaria also had three points behind a goal and two assists while junior Cameron Lao-Gosney had two via a goal and assist. Lehigh’s other goals came from brother Roman Lao-Gosney and sophomore Alex Drake.
Sophomore goalie Dan Carr backboned a sensational defensive effort with a season-high 16 saves, falling just three shy of his career high. Six came in the third quarter, helping the Mountain Hawks erase their halftime deficit.
Senior defenseman Richard Bradley enjoyed a second straight stellar game, registering four caused turnovers and three groundballs. Freshman Ty Souders also tied a career high with four groundballs, to go with a caused turnover. It also marked Lehigh’s sixth straight game of holding its opponent scoreless for a stretch of at least 15 minutes.
DiMaria and Fantoni got a lively crowd on its feet, with goals at 11:31 and 9:43 of the first quarter, giving the Mountain Hawks a quick 2-0 advantage. But that’s when Penn State stormed back, scoring two in the first quarter and the only three of the second to take a 5-2 lead at the half.
Lehigh slowly began to chip away, breaking a 27:16 scoreless drought at 11:27 when Cameron Lao-Gosney ripped a shot past Penn State goaltender Austin Kaut off a nice feed from senior Jonathan Stumpf. Fantoni added a man-up tally at 5:04 to pull within 5-4, then Drake blasted a low shot to pull Lehigh even at 2:22.
Cameron Lao-Gosney found Fantoni at 12:04 of the fourth to help Lehigh regain a 6-5 lead. Roman fired a perfectly-placed shot into the top corner of the cage to make it 7-5 with 8:34 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks continued to have chances, including a shot off the ensuing faceoff by sophomore Ryan Snyder, but Kaut came up with big save after big save. That allowed Penn State’s offense to inch closer as goals from Tom Lacrosse and Matt Mackrides pulled the Nittany Lions even with 1:38 on the clock. Snyder won the ensuing draw, giving Lehigh a final chance in regulation, but Stump’s shot with time winding down was saved by Kaut.
In overtime, Penn State’s Henneghan won the opening draw and went all the way for the goal to stun the Lehigh faithful only four seconds into the sudden victory period.
Final shots were even at 35 while Lehigh registered 38 groundballls to 25 for Penn State. Both teams were 1-of-3 on man-up opportunities. A cleanly played game saw only 23 combined turnovers - 13 for Penn State and 10 for Lehigh. Carr finished with 16 saves in goal to Kaut’s 14.
The Mountain Hawks remain home for a crucial Patriot League showdown next Saturday (Apr. 9) vs. Colgate under the lights at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Opening faceoff is set for 7 p.m.