EASTON, Pa. – Backed by a dominant faceoff performance by Jarett Witzal and a natural hat trick from Connor O'Hara in a seven-goal third quarter, the Bucknell men’s lacrosse team kept its postseason hopes alive with an 11-7 victory at Lafayette on Saturday at Fisher Stadium. Will Sands, Tommy O'Connor and Quinn Collison added two goals apiece for the Bison, who improved to 5-7 overall and 3-4 in the Patriot League with one game remaining in the regular season.
Bucknell was on the ropes after Lafayette (2-11, 1-6 PL) scored an extra-man goal 28 seconds into the third quarter for a 5-2 lead. But the Bison got off the deck and scored nine of the next 10 goals in the game, seven of them coming before the end of the third period.
Bucknell tied it with goals from Collison, O’Hara and Sands 1:42 apart. After Matt Close momentarily gave the Leopards the lead back, O’Hara scored back-to-back goals 53 seconds apart to make it 7-6 Bison and get O'Hara to the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Then they added two killer goals in the final minute of the period. Sands came from X, hung his defender up on the back of the net, and scored with 33 seconds left. Brad Dotson plucked a ground ball on the ensuing faceoff, came in from the right side, switched to his left hand with his long pole, and scored his second of the year to make it 9-6 Bison after 45 minutes.
The Bison finished off the run with two darts from long distance. First it was Reed Malas with a man up, firing home a lefty high-to-low shot. Not quite two minutes later, O’Connor got his hands free from his defender and in tight quarters scored from 15 yards out to make it 11-6.
Bucknell never led in a low-scoring first half. Collison scored in the first quarter off a John Reed assist, and O’Connor tallied with six minutes left in the second quarter, but the Leopards led 4-2 at the break thanks in large part to 11 saves from goalie Jonathan Anastos.
Witzal had a monster game for Bucknell at the faceoff spot. He took every draw and finished 17-for-21 with a season-high 10 ground balls. That helped the Bison to a 44-30 shot advantage, including 17-8 in the third quarter. Bucknell also won the ground ball battle 36-31.
Christian Klipstein tallied 12 saves in the Bison cage, nine of them coming in the second half. Anastos finished with 17.
The Bison defeated the Leopards for the seventh straight time and for the 23rd time in the last 24 meetings. Bucknell leads the all-time series 43-7. Saturday’s victory handed head coach Frank Fedorjaka his 150th career win.
Sands finished with two goals and an assist, the first game all year in which he did not record at least four points, but he leapfrogged three players into fourth place on Bucknell’s all-time list with 67 points this season. His 41 assists are now second-most in a season, trailing only the 48 handed out by David Dickson in 2013.
At 3-4 in conference play, the Bison are tied with Lehigh for the sixth and final Patriot League Tournament spot. Those two teams will play next Friday night in Bethlehem. Navy is a half-game ahead at 4-4 after knocking off first-place Army on Saturday, while Boston University and Holy Cross are 4-3.