By: Dave Souza
Bucknell goalkeeper Ryan Ott stood on the goal line at Boston University’s Nickerson Field with a trip to the Patriot League semi-finals on the line. The sophomore from Woodbury, N.Y., Ott was playing in just his fourth career game for the Bison after an ACL injury sidelined him for the majority of the 2016 season.
When Felix De Bona strolled into the box to take the first BU attempt in penalty kicks, Ott was ready for him.
“As soon as De Bona lined up with the short approach, I knew he was going to [the left] side,” said Ott. “That actually worked in our favor, but props to their guys.”
Ott stymied De Bona by diving to his right and continued to silence the Terriers as BU fell to Ott and the rest of the Bucknell Bison in penalty kicks 1-1 (4-1). With the loss, the Terriers (8-6-3, 4-3-2 PL) will most likely see their season come to an end – unless they are given a surprise at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Shutting opponents out in five of their last six games coming into the contest, the Terriers found themselves in an unfamiliar situation by the end of the first half: they were trailing Bucknell 1-0. The Bison (7-10-3, 4-4-1 PL) opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Quinn Bredin headed in a corner kick that had ricocheted off of a number of different players before finding the freshman defender.
“We gave up the early goal and had to fight and had to spend a lot of energy to get the equalizer,” said head coach Neil Roberts of his team’s early setback. “But I give my guys credit. They fought hard the whole time, they kept trying to win the game. . . .the goals just didn’t fall.”
While the Terriers offense stalled against the stingy Bucknell defense, it was BU’s goalkeeper that kept them in the game. Senior Matt Gilbert turned in one of the best performances of his career, notching seven saves including a handful of jaw-dropping ones that seemed near impossible.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Gilbert recorded one of his most impressive stops of the night when he bolted out of his net to challenge a Bucknell forward charging down on a breakaway. His boldness startled the striker, forcing him to shoot early before Gilbert dove to his right to make the season-saving stop.
“[Gilbert] played the last half of the season really well,” said Roberts. “He kept us in the game when we were trying to push guys forward to try and get the goal. He’s a good goalie, and we’ll miss him for sure.”
Even Ott was in awe of Gilbert’s performance, calling it one of the best goalkeeper performances he’s ever seen.
Gaining confidence from their shutdown keeper, the Terriers were able to rally and finally tied the game in the 79th minute. After David Amirani won a contested header near the top of the box, De Bona collected it and slid a pass back to Anthony Viteri, who uncorked a laser of a shot past a helpless Ott.
“A ball just got over the top and Felix – we worked on it in practice a bunch of times where he just lays it off and I hit it on a one-time,” said Viteri. “Like I said before, big teams come up in big situations, but it’s just unfortunate that we lost in penalties.”
Both teams continued battling, with neither finding the game-winner as the contest moved into overtime. Both OTs failed to provide a winner sending the game into a best of five shootout.
The Bison took an early 1-0 lead in the opening round as Sebastian Blickman converted on his attempt before Ott stuffed De Bona. Both teams scored on their second attempts as Viteri ripped a shot in the top right corner after Austin Lenart converted for Bucknell.
Tyler Peterson next scored for Bucknell before Adam Shekali’s attempt ringed off of the crossbar, giving Bucknell a chance to win the match on their next kick. Zack Rockmore finished off the Terriers by ripping a shot past Gilbert’s right to send the Bison to the Patriot League semifinal.
The loss means the end for the Terriers’ season as well as the collegiate carriers of Gilbert, De Bona, Amirani, David Asbjornsson, Mark Wadid, Peter Brodeur, and Noah Sinkoff.
“I’m so happy that I transferred here,” said Viteri. “I have a head coach who actually cares about me as a person, not just a player. I have players who actually care if I’m doing well and we’re friends with each other, best friends. . . .I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”