April 25, 2010

Courtesy of Lafayette

EASTON, Pa. - Freshman Dante Fantoni took a pass from senior Brian Bienemann and found the back of the net at the 1:29 mark of overtime to lift Lehigh to a dramatic 10-9 victory over archrival Lafayette at Fisher Stadium on Saturday evening. With the win the Mountain Hawks finish the season at 8-7 as sophomore Adam Johnston led the way with five goals on the night. Steve Serling scored four times for the No. 19 Leopards as they fall to 8-5 overall and 3-3 in the Patriot League.

Mountain Hawks head coach Kevin Cassese shared his thoughts afterwards. "I'm proud of our guys, they played very hard, they stuck to the game plan and they kept fighting until they got the win. The seniors played real well, you could tell how much they wanted it and how important this one was to them. Our guys were playing on their toes and not on their heels and they put in a lot of good minutes tonight."

He continued, "I think our guys really wanted it this week. Following the Bucknell loss we collected our thoughts and discussed about finishing our season the right way. We wanted to leave it all out there, and it feels great to finish it off with back-to-back overtime wins over ranked opponents. But at the same time we did not accomplish one of our goals of making it to the Patriot League Tournament and so that leaves us with something to shoot for."

Lehigh had the upper-hand over Lafayette in every statistical category as the Mountain Hawks outshot the Leopards 37-30, scooped up 30 ground balls to Lafayette's 27 and won 14 face-offs out of 22 attempts. Lehigh was also 14-of-19 on clears and caused 14 Leopard turnovers. Will Scudder took every face-off for Lehigh and also led the Mountain Hawks with seven ground balls. Rich Bradley picked up five GBs and caused three turnovers while David DiMaria led the Mountain Hawks with three assists. Freshman Dan Carr stopped nine shots in goal. "I thought Adam Johnston was great," Cassese explained. "We knew coming in that he had a chance to be the recipient of unselfish plays and it played out that way. They tried to shut him down but give him credit, he really made the most of his opportunities."

Cesar Munoz scooped up six ground balls and won seven face-offs for Lafayette, while Stewart Inman caused a team-high three turnovers. Stefan Bauer handed out six assists and Vinny DePasquale stopped 13 shots in net.

After Lafayette took an early 1-0 lead Johnston scored two straight to put Lehigh ahead 2-1, but Tyler Silvey netted a score before the end of the quarter to tie things at two. Johnston began the second quarter with his third goal of the night, but Serling answered back for Lafayette to tie the game at three. The Mountain Hawks closed the half with two straight goals in the final 4:32 by DiMaria and Johnston and took a 5-3 lead into halftime.

Johnston netted goal number four midway through the third as Lehigh opened up a 6-3 lead and Jonathan Stumpf added to the Mountain Hawks lead when he scored with under two minutes to play in the quarter. Matt Mersky found the back of the net with 37 seconds to go however and Lehigh's lead was down to 7-4 as the teams entered the final quarter.

Tom Perini brought the Leopards within 7-5 with his goal early in the fourth, but goals by Fantoni and Stumpf gave the Mountain Hawks a 9-5 advantage with 7:39 to play. Lafayette refused to go away and eventually pulled even on Mersky's goal with 2:15 to play. Neither team scored for the remainder of regulation and so they headed for an extra session.

In the overtime period Lehigh won the opening face-off but turned the ball over. The ball then exchanged hands four more times until it wound up in the hands of Bienemann who fed Dantoni for the game-winner as Lehigh earned its eighth win of the season.

Cassese spoke about how Lehigh will use the momentum it gained this week to springboard into the offseason. "We had 11 team goals that we set before the season began and with this win we accomplished six of those goals marking the first time in my tenure that we've done that so I think it's a sign of things to come."