NEWARK, Del. — In a game of streaks, it was the University of Delaware that finally won out.
Blue Hen junior attackman Eric Smith scored the game-winner with just 53 seconds left in overtime as No. 16 Delaware let a late four-goal lead slip away but came back at the right time to post a 12-11 victory against Bellarmine at Delaware Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Smith, Delaware’s leading scorer on the season with 19 points, finished off a five-point day as he took a feed from Garrett Johnson off the break and rifled a shot past Bellarmine goalkeeper Dillon Ward from 10 yards out on the right side to make a winner out of the Blue Hens.
Delaware (4-1), which bounced back from a tough 18-5 loss to No. 9 Johns Hopkins Tuesday night to win for the seventh time in the last eight home games, got three goals from Anthony Ruiz for his second career hat trick while Smith contributed two goals and three assists, Grant Kaleikau scored twice, and Johnson dished out two assists. Blue Hen goalkeeper Noah Fossner was clutch in the nets, collecting 14 saves.
“It felt really good,” said Smith, of his game-winning goal, his first game-winner since high school when he attended Boy’s Latin High School in Maryland. “It was good to get out of here of with a win. Every team in Division I is a good team and we knew Bellarmine would be. It was important for us to get back on track today.”
Bellarmine (2-1), which lost for the first time in three outings this season, got two goals each from Austin Bright and Cameron Gardner and a big effort in goal from Ward (12 saves) before coming up short. Karsen Leung and Colton Clark each added a goal and an assist on the day.
The Knights had rallied from an 11-7 deficit by scoring four unanswered goals in the final 5:16 of regulation, including a goal by Leung with 1:39 left that sent the game into an extra session.
After Bellarmine won the faceoff to start overtime, both teams traded turnovers twice before either got off a shot. Gardner’s shot with 1:56 left was saved by Fossner and a second attempt by Ted Avendt seconds later went wide.
Bellarmine maintained possession but Delaware’s Pat Dowling stripped Bright and the Hens’ Connor Fitzgerald picked up the groundball. Fitzgerald found Johnson alone in the middle of the field and the sophomore sprinted untouched to the BU goal, dishing off to Smith who deposited his shot past Ward for the game-winner to set off a wild celebration.
“The good news is that we won and we got an overtime game under out belts,” Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw said, who improved to 14-11 all-time in overtime games at the helm of the Blue Hens. “No question it’s good to get the win, but we have to work through some things and improve our fundamentals and chemistry. The bottom line is that we have to play better.”