LEWISBURG, Pa. – Jonathan Grad and Chris Thorsheim scored just over two minutes apart in the first half, and Jesse Klug iced the game with his 10th goal of the year in the final minute, lifting fourth-seeded Bucknell to a 3-1 victory over fifth-seeded American in a tense Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal affair on Tuesday night at frigid Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium. The victory buys the Bison a date with top-seeded Navy in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m.
The victory upped Bucknell’s season record to 13-5-1, tying the 2002 squad for the second-most wins in program history. The record is 17, set in a Patriot League championship year in 2009. American finishes its season at 7-8-1.
Not long after goalkeeper Mike Lansing kept the game scoreless with an outstanding kick save on Chris Kuramoto’s close-range shot, the Bison got on the board not once but twice. In the 17th minute Patrick Figgie sped through the center of the field before playing the ball out wide to Austin Lenart on the left wing. Lenart’s cross from the end line was headed home by Grad, who now has three goals on the season, all coming in the last five games.
Just 3:12 later the Bison doubled their lead on Thorsheim’s penalty kick after Klug was taken down in the box. Grad won a 50-50 ball near midfield, popping it in the air toward the American defensive third. Klug headed the high bouncing ball down to his feet and broke into the box, where he was chopped down from behind before he could get a shot launched. Thorsheim buried the penalty for his eighth goal of the season.
Bucknell outshot American 11-2 in the first half, but the Eagles pushed forward in the second half looking to make up the two-goal deficit. Their hopes took a blow when Michael Cherry received two yellow cards in a span of 16 seconds, sending them down to 10 men for the remainder of the game.
American earned seven corner kicks in the second half alone and cashed in on one of them in the 82nd minute to make things very interesting. Jake Garcia got a head on the corner kick, Mark Plaisance flicked it backwards into the goal mouth, and Dale Ludwig tapped it in to make it a 2-1 game with 8:30 to play.
In the final minutes American goalkeeper Billy Knutsen had been creeping all the way to midfield to help send Bucknell clearances back in, but the Bison made them pay when Klug took the ball around Knutsen and scored into an empty net from about 45 yards out. Klug became the first Bucknell player to record 10 goals in a season since Conor O’Brien netted 11 in 2009.
Klug attempted a game-high nine shots as the Bison outshot the Eagles 17-10 on the night. Lansing was credited with two saves, while Knutsen had one.
“We are very happy to be moving on in the tournament,” said head coach Brendan Nash afterward. “We started out a little slow and Mike Lansing made a great save. If American goes up 1-0 it’s a completely different game. Instead, we come back and get two quick goals. Letting them score late in the game was certainly not part of the gameplan, but we responded pretty well. Now we have to find a way to solve a terrific Navy team.”
Navy earned the No. 1 seed by going 9-0 in Patriot League play. One of those was a 2-1 win in Lewisburg on Oct. 19. Lenart opened the scoring with an early goal, but Navy scored twice in the second half to swipe its first win over Bucknell since 2001.
No. 3 Holy Cross blanked No. 6 Colgate 3-0 in the other quarterfinal match on Tuesday. The Crusaders will play second-seeded Army in the second semifinal game on Friday.
Both semifinals and Sunday’s championship match (1 p.m.) will be webcast live on the Patriot League Network.