BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Andrew Pettit scored four goals and Ian Strain added three to lead Lehigh to a 9-6 verdict over Bucknell on Friday night at Ulrich Sports Complex. The two teams entered the night tied for the sixth and final Patriot League Tournament berth, and it was the Mountain Hawks grabbing the spot thanks in large part to a 6-0 run spanning most of the second and third quarters.
Bucknell finishes the season 5-8 overall and 3-5 in the Patriot League, and it will fall one game short of an 11th straight postseason appearance. Lehigh improved to 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the PL, and will be the No. 6 seed in the Patriot League Tournament.
Bucknell outshot Lehigh 31-24, but many of those attempts came from the perimeter as Lehigh left Sands – the No. 2 assist man in the nation – alone behind the cage and clogged up the crease area. Lehigh goalie Donny Stires finished with 11 saves, six coming in the first quarter.
After Pettit scored twice to give Lehigh a 2-0 lead, the Bison got the next two. O'Hara scored from the slot off an O’Brien feed from the left flank with 5:25 left in the first quarter. Not quite two minutes into the second period, O’Brien scored with a low skimmer from long distance to tie it up.
The Bison might have had more, but the 6’5” Stires stood tall and made seven first-half saves. One of those led to a Tristan Rai goal the other way, which ignited a four-goal run for the Mountain Hawks. Strain and Pettit made it three goals on three shots, and then Strain scored again with 7:22 left to help Lehigh take a 6-2 lead into the halftime break.
Bucknell won the second-half faceoff but turned it over, and Lehigh’s Pettit cashed in at the other end. Strain’s third of the night made it 8-2 at the 7:32 mark before O’Brien ended Lehigh’s 6-0 run and Bucknell’s 24:38 scoreless drought.
Trailing 8-3 after three, the Bison made things interesting when Collison and O’Hara each got loose on the crease just 1:22 apart to reduce the margin to three. Bucknell had two long possessions with a chance to draw even closer but could not find the net, and then an flag for a late check led to a backbreaking extra-man goal by Rai with 4:43 left.
Sands added a goal with 45 seconds to play, but the Bison ran out of time.
Bucknell won 10 of the 19 faceoffs, with Sam Hahn going 6-for-10 and Jarett Witzal 4-for-9. Matt Gilray had a huge night defensively, finishing with seven ground balls and three caused turnovers. Christian Klipstein finished with six saves.
Sands finished his junior season with 20 goals and 42 assists for 62 points. His assist total ranks second in school history, behind David Dickson’s record 48 in 2013. The 62 points are eighth-most in a season at Bucknell, one spot behind Sands’ 64 points from 2016. He will enter his senior year fifth on the Bucknell career assists chart with 86 and seventh in total points with 168.
Witzal also hit a milestone, becoming the third Bison ever to record 300 career faceoff wins. The sophomore moved past Ryan Goodman into second place on Bucknell’s career list, trailing only Jake Clarke with 422.O’Hara and O’Brien concluded breakout junior years, with 32 and 28 goals, respectively, to rank 2-3 in the Patriot League.