ERIE, Pa. – Gannon scored twice during the opening 24 minutes and held off Davis & Elkins 2-1 Sunday afternoon in the Atlantic Regional semifinals at Gannon Field.
Gannon’s first Division II tournament victory since 1993 moved the Golden Knights into the round of 16 against a familiar foe. Rivals Gannon and Mercyhurst will clash for the Atlantic Regional title and the right to play in the Division II quarterfinals on a neutral field at Southern New Hampshire.
Sunday’s contest began with some missed opportunities for Davis & Elkins, before Gannon took control by scoring on its first chances. James Pucci had the match’s first scoring opportunity uncontested from 20 yards out 5:44 into the game, but Jason Barbarino made the first of several big saves during the first half. Less than two minutes later, a turnover led to a Davis & Elkins 3 on 1. Pucci got another uncontested shot off, but Barbarino was up to the task again with a diving stop to the right.
In contrast, Gannon needed only one shot to take the lead. Tyler Hollingsworth started the run with a brilliant pass just over the last Davis & Elkins defender’s head. Robbie Bennett took the pass and lofted a shot over the goalkeeper from 15 yards out for a 1-0 lead 14:14 into the affair.
An unexpected scoring option came through 9:23 later. Junior defender Haffi Bjarnason took a throw-in from Alex Perri and rifled a shot across the box and into the right side of the net from a sharp angle. His second goal of the season gave the Golden Knights a 2-0 advantage.
Barbarino turned away three more D&E chances during the remainder of the half to send Gannon to halftime with a two-goal lead. The Senators out-shot the Golden Knights 8-5 during the first 45 minutes, but Barbarino recorded seven saves in the half.
The second half was filled with excitement, a big goal and near misses. Davis & Elkins’ first shot came in the 55th minute when Pucci ripped a shot from 30 yards out. The missile banged off the top bar and went over the net.
Davis & Elkins finally cut the deficit in half as Wyatt Hill redirected a crossing pass from Branko Dugalic into the goal for his fifth score of the season at the 67:07 mark.
It set up a frantic final 20 minutes. Gannon was able to get a 1-on-1 with the D&E goalkeeper 2:37 after the Senators’ goal, but the shot sailed wide.
Davis & Elkins’ best chance during the final moments of the game came in the 80th minute. Pucci had yet another shot from 30 yards out, but Barbarino made a spectacular diving save to his left. The junior goalkeeper made a final save on a header with 1:09 remaining to seal the deal.
The visitors out-shot Gannon 17-9, including a 9-4 edge during the second half. Both teams took five corner kicks. The Golden Knights were whistled for 19 fouls compared to the Senators’ eight.