Feb. 16, 2014
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Wildcats fought back from a three-goal deficit and 20 minute scoring drought to send the game into overtime, but Villanova couldn't pull away for the win as Lehigh defeated the Wildcats, 7-6, in triple-overtime on Sunday afternoon in Bethlehem, Pa. It marked the first triple-overtime contest Villanova has played in nearly eight years: Villanova last fought a three-OT battle on April 4th, 2006 against Saint Joseph's that also ended in a 7-6 loss.
The back and forth grudge match featured plenty of scoring opportunities for both squads but neither could find the back of the goal for nearly 24 minutes from the 11:21 mark of the fourth stanza to :07 left in the third period of extra time. After committing a crease violation to give Villanova back possession with three minutes remaining in the third overtime, Lehigh's Kurtis Kaunas netted the game-winner to keep No. 17 Lehigh undefeated at 3-0 early in the 2014 season. With the loss, No. 20 Villanova falls to 0-1.
Outstanding defensive plays by both teams kept each side in the contest during extra time. Villanova freshman goalkeeper Dan Willis (Moorestown, N.J.) notched three of his 12 saves in overtime including two point-blank stops in the third overtime period to give the Wildcats a chance to win. Senior Remington Pope (Boston, Mass.) also had an excellent caused turnover to kill a Lehigh extra-man opportunity and stifle the Mountain Hawk offense, but it was Lehigh who made the most of a last-second chance after 71 minutes of action at Goodman Field on Sunday afternoon to pull away for the win.
In a low-scoring first half that was riddled with eight team penalties just in the first quarter alone, Villanova went into halftime with a 3-1 lead with scores from seniors Kevin O'Neil (Cockeysville, Md.), Jimmy Wyatt (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and Eric Gartner (Malvern, Pa.) after 30 minutes of action.
Lehigh came back fighting in the third quarter and notched five unanswered goals from Jimmy Cahill, Dan Taylor, Reid Weber and Dylan O'Shaughnessy to open up the biggest lead of the game at 6-3 with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter. Villanova freshman Austin Frederick (Baltimore, Md.) broke the Wildcat 20 minute scoring drought after connecting on an assist by fellow classmate Devin McNamara (Lutherville, Md.) with 1:25 remaining in the stanza to close the Lehigh lead 6-4, and the Wildcats responded with two more scores from Pope and Frederick with 13:25 and 11:21 remaining in regulation to tie the game at 6-6.
The Wildcats found perhaps their best chance to capture the win with 5:28 remaining in regulation when Lehigh found themselves down two men after being charged with an illegal body check and offside's call simultaneously, but Villanova was stifled by the Lehigh defense and couldn't connect for the score.
It would take another 23:53 before another goal would be seen as Lehigh netted the sudden-death score to end the contest.
Defensively, senior John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) tied a career-high nine ground balls and added another five caused turnovers and one assist in an outstanding outing for the team captain. Pope added another four ground balls and two caused turnovers while Willis posted 12 stops in his first career start in goal as a freshman.
Today's game marked the fourth-straight year Villanova has played Lehigh for their season opener. Villanova currently holds a 15-11 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools following today's game.
Next up, the Wildcats will face Philadelphia-rival Drexel after a nine-day layoff on Tuesday, February 25th for Villanova's home opener. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. in Villanova Stadium.