April 14, 2012

Fantoni's Late Heroics Give Lehigh Big Win Over Bucknell

Bucknell knew Lehigh would set up a play for Dante Fantoni in the final seconds, but the junior attackman scored the winner anyway with 14 ticks left in the Mountain Hawks' key 9-8 Patriot League win over Bucknell on Saturday night.
© Kevin P. Tucker (file) 

by Michael Blouse | LaxMagazine.com

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh's Dante Fantoni stood several feet from where he scored the game-winning goal Saturday night in the Mountain Hawks' 9-8 triumph over Bucknell. His heroics came with just 14 seconds remaining in regulation.

A junior attack, Fantoni smiled and fidgeted while considering whether it was the biggest of his career.

"It's definitely up there. My freshman year, I scored two game-winners in overtime. Those were sweet," he said, "but considering what this one means and the position we're in now, I'd say this is the biggest. Yeah, that makes it a better story."

It was actually quite a story for Fantoni – and Lehigh.

On Senior Night in front of an Ulrich Sports Complex-record crowd of 2,096, the 11th-ranked Mountain Hawks rallied and re-rallied against No. 18 Bucknell, a longtime Patriot League nemesis. The action climaxed with the score tied at 8 in the final minute.

Bison coach Frank Fedorjaka called time out with 23.8 seconds remaining. Lehigh opted for the precise play that Fedorjaka prepared his players for in the timeout, but Fantoni was both too determined and too skilled. He rifled a shot over the right shoulder of Bucknell goalie Kyle Feeney, an attempt that one defender ducked to avoid.

"I put everything I had into it," said Fantoni, whose two goals against Bucknell give him 14 this season. "We just didn't want overtime. We tried that last week and it didn't work out too well [in an 11-10 loss to Colgate]. It was really the perfect setup for me."

"Dante's not a bad guy to go to in that situation," Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese said. "He's scored a lot of big goals in his playing days."

In the Bucknell huddle during the final timeout, Fedorjaka said his coaching staff prepared the players for the final thrust.

"We called their play. We wanted to force [Fantoni] to his weak hand, but we weren't able to do that," the Bison coach said. "They drew up exactly what we wanted them to."

Lehigh improved to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the league. Bucknell is 9-5 and 3-2. The Mountain Hawks and Colgate are tied for first place in the Patriot League standings with one league game remaining. Lehigh plays at archrival Lafayette on Saturday while Colgate travels to Bucknell for a Friday night game.

The Mountain Hawks, who trailed 5-3 at halftime, still trailed by a goal at the four-minute mark.

But Ryan Snyder set the stage for Fantoni's game-winner when his goal after a faceoff win tied the score at 8 with 3:52 left. Mike Noone contributed the key defensive play with a steal with three minutes remaining.

"We came up with the little plays ... ground balls, faceoffs and things like that," Cassese said. "I thought that was the difference in the second half."

Overall, Lehigh held a 13-5 advantage in faceoffs and were a plus-six in ground balls.

Fantoni and senior co-captain Roman Lao-Gosney both scored two goals to lead Lehigh's offense. Cameron Lao-Gosney, also a senior co-captain, contributed one goal and two assists. Freshman Matthew Pollion continued his strong play in goal with eight saves.

Billy Eisenreich, Peter Burke and David Dickson all had two goals for Bucknell.

Lehigh took its first lead with 1:06 remaining in the third period when Patrick Corbett skidded a low shot past Feeney.

"That goal gave us some momentum," Fantoni said.

Momentum was on the side of the Bison for one half.

Bucknell's Nick Gantsoudes scored unassisted midway through the first quarter and the surging Bison never trailed during the first 30 minutes of action. Though outplayed, Lehigh evened the score at 2 on Cameron Lao-Gasney's tally as time expired in the first period.

The second quarter was dominated by Bucknell and the Bison capped it with 1.6 seconds remaining when Chase Bailey scored off a perfectly-placed pass from Eisenreich. Lehigh committed three penalties in the second period.

If Saturday night's contest was any indication, the upcoming Patriot League playoffs should be both intense and competitive.

"I expect it'll be great," Fantoni said of the postseason. "Anyone we play is going to be a real good team. But right now, we're focused on the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry."

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