By: Dave Souza
The Boston University Men’s Soccer team will put their season on the line on Tuesday night as they host rival Bucknell University in the opening round of the Patriot League Tournament.
The fourth ranked team in the tournament, the Terriers (8-6-2, 4-3-2 PL) are winners in five of their last six games, dating back to their 1-0 win over Lafayette on October 15. Since that contest, the Terriers have allowed just one goal over six games while tallying six against all but one conference opponent.
The Bison (7-10-2, 4-4-1 PL) are the fifth ranked squad for the second time in three seasons and are just two years removed from their 2014 conference title. In that postseason, the Bison defeated then top-seeded BU 3-2 when Sebastiaan Blickman headed a shot past goalkeeper Nick Thomson in the 92nd minute to deliver the upset for Bucknell.
The two teams have a lengthy history between them as Bucknell enters the contest at 2-0-3 against the Terriers all time since BU’s arrival in the Patriot League. All five contests have gone into overtime, where the Terriers have seen their season end twice.
In 2013, BU needed a win on senior day to clinch a berth in the Patriot League tournament; however, the Bison had other plans as Bucknell ended the scarlet and white’s season with a game-winning strike in the 93rd minute.
Nine Terriers remain from that 2014 squad that fell in the title game, though only five made appearances in the championship clash. Four remain from the 2013 contest as seniors Felix De Bona, David Asbjornsson, Noah Sinkoff, and Matt Gilbert all look to notch their first win over Bucknell in their careers.
Earlier this season the two teams met in Lewisburg, Penn. where they played to a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from BU’s Anthony Viteri and Bucknell’s Patrick Mahoney. The Terriers trailed for the majority of that contests as Viteri’s goal came in the 73rd minute off of a pass from freshman Jerry Ozor.
Gilbert made a career-high ten saves in the game, allowing a lone goal in the opening minutes of the second half off of a perfectly placed header by Mahoney off of a corner kick.
That draw was the beginning of a five-game skid for BU, who went 0-3-1 following that game until they finally turned their season around with a statement win over Lafayette.
De Bona and Viteri have been spearheading the BU offense as both players are the only Terriers to record double-digit points – De Bona with 17 and Viteri with 16. In BU’s last three wins, the duo has combined for three goals and an assist.
Senior goalkeeper Matt Gilbert, who was named to the Patriot League All-Conference Second Team over the weekend, has rattled off shutouts in five of his last six games, four of which have come at Nickerson Field. The Madison, N.J. native has seen his numbers dip slightly this season after a slow start defensively for the Terriers led to a bevy of goals in the earlier part of the year.
However, Gilbert appears to have returned to the keeper that captured the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015 with his stellar play over this late-season stretch. Sporting a 1.12 goals-against average, Gilbert has made 72 stops on the season while crafting a .800 save percentage and posting five shutouts.
The Bison will again be headlined by Blickman, a senior midfielder from nearby Lincoln, Mass. Blickman is currently tied with Army’s Rex Epps for the league lead in goals with 10. And while Blickman has given the Terriers fits before, BU’s defense has shown a strong ability to stymie their opponents’ offensive weapons, including Epps, who managed just one shot against BU back on October 29.
Emmett Witmer has been in net for the majority of the Bison’s season, forging a 1.38 GAA in 11 contests to go with his .674 save percentage.
The Terriers have the opportunity to exorcise a demon that has been haunting them since the end of the 2013 season. Never besting Bucknell since becoming a member of the Patriot League, BU will get another chance to send the Bison home for the winter as the Terriers look to punch their ticket to the conference semi-finals down at American University.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Boston University’s Nickerson Field. Tune into the Patriot League Network for all the action.