LEWISBURG, Pa. – Junior attackman Connor O'Hara netted three of his career-high four goals in Bucknell’s game-ending 4-0 run, the last coming in dramatic fashion with just 11 seconds remaining in the game, lifting the Bison to a 9-8 victory over Bryant on Saturday afternoon at sunny Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Bucknell is now 2-0 on the season, with both victories requiring major rallies. Last week at Delaware, the Bison stormed back from five goals down in the third quarter to win 14-13. This time, they trailed 8-5 late in the third quarter, only to score the final four goals of the day.
Will Sands assisted on all three of Bucknell’s fourth-quarter goals, and he had four helpers on the day despite being blanketed by multiple Bryant defenders. Tommy O'Connor added three assists, and Reed Malas and Sean O'Brien scored two goals apiece.
The Bison struggled with turnovers early in the game – they had eight in the first quarter alone and 12 by halftime – and then when they did start taking care of the ball, Bryant goalie James Werner stood tall in the crease with eight of his 11 saves coming in the second half.
While Bucknell was working to solve its offensive difficulties, Bryant’s Tucker James scored on an unsettled play after a Bison turnover on a clear, giving the Bulldogs an 8-5 lead with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
That would be the last goal conceded by Christian Klipstein (11 saves) and the Bison defense, however. Bucknell snuck in a big goal with just 19 seconds left in the third quarter, with O’Connor picking out O’Hara on the crease on a fastbreak, to make the deficit a manageable 8-6 heading into the final period.
The Bison closed within one on a restart from X with 6:13 left, with Sands finding a cutting O’Hara on the crease. Bucknell tied it 1:17 later when Malas ripped a lefty shot from the right flank.
Bucknell took the ensuing faceoff – Jarret Witzal had an outstanding day, winning 13 of 19 draws – but turned the ball over trying to thread a pass into traffic. With 1:50 remaining, Klipstein made his biggest stop of the day, using his right shin to deny Ryan Sharpe on a low drive.
The Bison cleared, and then O’Brien fired wide with 16 seconds left. Bucknell again caught the Bulldogs on a restart, as Sands rolled to his right and then passed back to his left, where he found O’Hara seven yards out. O’Hara got his hands free in tight quarters and rippled the back of the net with 11 ticks left.
Witzal tied up Kenny Massa on the draw, and time expired before either team could gain possession.
Bucknell finished with a 35-25 shot advantage and a 36-26 edge in ground balls. A key to the game for the Bison was not taking any penalties, which kept Bryant’s excellent EMO unit out of service.
Bryant jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Bison had even attempted a shot. Bucknell won the first three faceoffs but quickly turned it over each time, and the Bulldogs took advantage, scoring three times in the first 4:57 of the game.
Bucknell rallied with its own 3-0 run, the last of those a spectacular goal from defenseman Brad Dotson, the first of the senior’s career. Dotson went coast-to-coast after a takeaway in his own end early in the second quarter.
James and Tom Kennedy responded with back-to-back goals for Bryant before O’Hara collected the game’s only extra-man goal. Jake Buoniauto scored off a Cam Ziegler feed with 1:01 left in the half to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead at the break.
But that only set up another big comeback for the Bison, who are now 2-0 for the second year in a row. The Bison have now outscored opponents 7-1 in the fourth quarter this season.
Next up for Bucknell is a home test against Fairfield next Saturday at 11:30 a.m.