ERIE, Pa. — Kyle Sopko buried a feed from Brendan Hayes with 1:33 seconds left in the first overtime as Dowling defeated No. 1 Mercyhurst 7-6 at Tullio Field.
With the win, the Golden Lions (11-2) advance to the National Championship Game to take on No. 3 Limestone at 1 p.m. May 27 at Gillette Stadium for the DII National Championship. The loss for Mercyhurst is their first of the season for Lakers, who end their season 13-1.
In a hard-fought first half, the teams played to a 3-3 draw. Coming out the locker room, the Lakers scored twice in the first five minutes of play and built a two-goal cushion. After Sopko and Kyle Kallay traded goals, the Golden Lions mounted their comeback.
Sophomore Billy Richardson scored twice 2:35 apart to even the game at six. Both goals were similar as Richardson rolled from the back of the cage and beat Lakers goaltender Michael Grace low far post.
An intense 5:42 would follow with each team having multiple possessions and shots to go ahead. Mercyhurst would posses the ball with :18 remaining with Jack Mcandrew bouncing a shot wide, sending the game into overtime.
After winning the faceoff, Dowling had a fast break opportunity. Lou Riley found Michael Brennan for a shot at the 15 that was blocked. On the ensuing Lakers possession, sophomore Sheldon Burns caused a turnover to regain possession for the Golden Lions. Coming out of a timeout, Hayed executing the play perfect, drawing a double team and fining Sopko in the crease for the game winner.
Richardson and Sopko led Dowling with two goals each. Senior captain Dan Abbene added a goal and an assist.
The defense held a very potent Mercyhurst offense in check all afternoon. Ryan Dougherty had a big game between the pipes stopping 13 shots, 11 in the first half. Matt Lauria and Derek Muzio had three caused turnovers a piece with Lauria scooping up a team high five groundballs.