LEWISBURG, Pa. – Junior attackman Will Sands was on the finishing end of a hustle play from Connor O'Hara and Quinn Collison, and the Bucknell men’s lacrosse team knocked off No. 17/18 Loyola Maryland 9-8 in double overtime on Saturday afternoon at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. Sands capped a huge day with two goals and five assists, and goalie Christian Klipstein was spectacular at the other end with 15 saves to help the Bison beat a nationally ranked team for the second straight weekend.
Now 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the Patriot League, Bucknell climbed back into the thick of the conference tournament chase with three league games still remaining. Loyola, which had won five of its last six, dropped to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the Patriot League.
This was the third time in the last four meetings that the Bison and Greyhounds needed extra time to settle the verdict. Bucknell won in OT at home in 2015, and last season Loyola prevailed 7-6 in double-OT in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals.
This time it was the Bison coming out on top, after they had rallied from a three-goal halftime deficit and came up with clutch defensive stops both at the end of regulation and in the first four-minute overtime session.
The winning goal was all about effort. After Loyola knocked down a pass and collected the ground ball, O’Hara quickly swarmed Foster Huggins and checked the ball out of his stick as he tried to break out of the zone. Collison nabbed the loose ball, changed direction and fired a pass to Sands behind the defense to the left of the crease. Sands walked in, faked a shot and then buried one low past goalie Grant Limone as the Bison bench emptied in celebration.
It was quite a battle all day between Sands and Loyola All-America attackman Pat Spencer, both of whom are on the Tewaaraton Award (national player of the year) Watch List. Spencer had two goals and four assists for the Greyhounds, while Alex McGovern and Romar Dennis scored three times each.
Sands finished with the seven points, giving him at least four in every game this season along with back-to-back five-assist games. Three of his dishes resulted in goals for O’Hara, who secured his fifth hat trick of the season and fifth straight multi-goal game.
Spencer and Sands entered the day ranked 1-2 nationally in assists before combining for nine more in this one.
As good as Spencer was, Klipstein and defenseman Matt Gilray both came up with big stops on the Loyola star in crunch time. Klipstein robbed Spencer on a point-blank shot with 1:22 left in regulation. Klipstein raced all the way to the sideline to grab one of his team-high six ground balls on the day. The Bison cleared but could not get a clean shot before the clock expired.
Then in the final 20 seconds of the first overtime, Spencer tried to come from behind the net but lost his footing with Gilray blanketing him. Gilray then checked the ball away and Klipstein grabbed the loose ball near the cage to force a second OT period.
No. 2 faceoff man Sam Hahn was also a big story for the Bison. After Loyola won the first four draws of the day, Hahn came on and went a respectable 7-for-16 the rest of the way. That included a win on the faceoff to start the second overtime, and Bucknell would score on that possession.
Loyola had the better of play early. After Reed Malas opened the scoring 3:03 into the contest, the Greyhounds potted the next four in a row. O’Hara ended Bucknell’s 26-minute scoring drought when he finished a feed from Sands to make it 4-2, but Dennis scored off a Spencer dish with 19 seconds left in the half to go up 5-2. Loyola nearly had another right off the faceoff, but Klipstein made a spectacular save on Zach Sirico to keep it a three-goal difference at the break.
Bucknell got right back in the game in the opening five minutes of the third period, when two more Sands-to-O’Hara combos made it a 5-4 game. Twice the Greyhounds were able to extend the margin back to two, the last at 7-5 on a Dennis goal early in the fourth quarter, but the Bison countered with three straight to take their first lead since it was 1-0.
Sands had a hand in all three. His unassisted tally with 6:42 to play made it 7-6, then he fed a cutting Collison for the tying tally with 5:17 remaining. Brad Dotson claimed his fifth ground ball of the day on the ensuing faceoff, and Sands found Sean O'Brien for a low-to-low rocket from 12 yards out to make it 8-7 with 4:34 on the clock.
Bucknell had two possessions up by a goal but turned it over each time, and Loyola took advantage when Dennis scored his third of the day off a Sirico feed with 2:18 to go. The Greyhounds won the next faceoff, but Klipstein saved the day with his critical stop on Spencer.
Loyola finished with a 42-34 shot advantage and a 35-31 edge in ground balls, but the Bison countered with a big edge in saves, 15-8. Bucknell did not get a single man-up opportunity in the game, while Loyola went 2-for-6.
Sands’ 2017 scoring assault keeps him moving up in the Bison record books. With seven on Saturday, he surpassed the 150-point mark in his career, and he jumped past former teammate Sean Doyle into seventh place on the all-time points list with 153. Sands also moved ahead of Todd Streelman into the No. 6 position on Bucknell’s career assists chart with 77.
His 33 assists this season are already tied for sixth-most in Bucknell history, 15 shy of David Dickson's school record set in 2013. Sands has either scored or assisted on 47 of the team's 89 goals this season after having a hand in 7 of 9 on Saturday.
Bucknell has another tough test next Saturday at home against No. 8 Army at 1 p.m. It will be Senior Day at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, and the game will air on WQMY-TV in addition to the Patriot League Network.