Panthers magical run ends in OT loss
HEPBURNVILLE - Everything was starting to stack against the Northeast Bradford Panthers.
Down a goal, without their leading scorer, in the final 20 minutes of a District 4, Class A semifinal game. The Panthers easily could have folded.
Instead, they fought back, forcing overtime and keeping their hopes alive for a trip to the district finals.
However, Benton had other ideas, scoring just 1:03 into the first overtime period for a 2-1 victory to hand the Panthers their first loss and end their dream season.
"They played hard, they all went hard," Northeast Bradford coach Neal Snyder said. "These kids have been together a long time. It's tough to lose like that. It's hard, but they fought that's for sure."
The game was scoreless in the first half, but early in the second half Benton took the lead as Ben Pasukinis took a feed from Brad Hess and slipped the ball just inside the left post at 33:02 of the second half to make it 1-0.
The game stayed that way for the next 20 minutes, until with 14:36 left Colton Snyder took the ball, cut through the Benton defense and fired a hard shot just through Benton goalie Garrett Watson's fingertips and into the top of the net to tie the game.
A minute later the Panthers had a chance to take the lead as Justin Beaudoin fired a shot that was saved by Watson.
In the overtime period Garrett Karschner fired a shot from just inside the 18. Northeast Bradford goalie James Zajac made the save, but the ball came back out to Pasukinis who buried the shot to give Benton the win and a spot in the district final.
"He was waiting there," Snyder said of Pasukinis. "They are well coached. They are a well disciplined team."
In the quarterfinals Colton Snyder and the Panthers' wings had some room to operate, on Wednesday the Tigers weren't giving up that kind of space to Snyder.
"They are definitely well coached," Neal Snyder said. "They didn't give us many openings."
One thing that made it a little tougher for the Panthers to operate offensively on Wednesday was missing Isaiah McPherson. The Panthers leading scorer was out after getting two yellow cards against Southern Columbia.
"Absolutely, we definitely missed Isaiah up front," Snyder said. "He demands a lot of respect. It's tough, but those were the cards we were dealt."
In the first half neither team could generate a lot offensively as the midfield controlled the game.
Six minutes into the game Benton had a shot that went high from outside the 18 and two minutes later Snyder had a shot go wide.
Midway through the first half Benton had a shot go wide, but drew a corner kick. However, the Northeast Bradford defense shut down the threat.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, the Panthers had the best scoring chance of the half. Alan Vough made a great pass from the defense to Todd Bonin, who cut through the Benton defense, however his shot went wide.
A minute later, Beaudoin fired a cross in that Watson had to save and with seven minutes left in the half Beaudoin cut through the Benton defense and fired a difficult angle shot right on target, forcing Watson to make a diving stop.
Down 1-0 in the second half, the Panthers best chance before Snyder's tying goal came midway through the half.
Bonin got a shot in front of the net. Watson made the save, however the ball came free and sat a foot away from the goal line. However, the Benton defense was able to come in and clear the ball before the Panthers could get to it.
Despite the loss, the Panthers are proud of what they accomplished this year.
"These guys did a great job," Snyder said. "We were fortunate to have nine senior leaders. We went further than any Northeast Bradford team ever went. We were hoping to go even further by a game or two, but it was a very successful year."
Snyder knows that this group set the bar high for future Panthers teams.
"They sure have, this is a great group of kids," he said. "They played as a team all year, that's all I could ask of them."
Northeast Bradford had eight shots in the game and Benton finished with seven shots.
Zajac had five saves for the Panthers and Watson had seven saves for Benton in the game.
The Panthers had one corner kick in the game and Benton finished with three corner kicks.