LEWISBURG, Pa. | Navy defenseman Andy Tormey still remembers the taut details of the final week of last year’s regular season.
The stressful scoreboard watching. The day-to-day nervousness. The looming uncertainty as the team gathered for the selection show.
“There’s nothing like sitting there with your team and knowing your name is going to be called and having that comfort level,” Tormey said.
Especially since the No. 13 Midshipmen secured it Sunday, upending No. 16 Bucknell 9-8 at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium to clinch their fifth Patriot League title in six seasons.
Brendan Connors scored three goals for Navy (11-4), which overcame a plethora of mistakes to collect a victory that turned bizarre in the final minutes.
A tied or one-goal game almost the entire way, the Mids assumed an 8-7 lead on Evan Sullivan’s extra-man goal with 3:00 left - an opportunity created when Bucknell committed a rare penalty for having too many men on the field.
On the next faceoff, Navy’s Robby Battle and Matt Bitter helped keep a scrum for possession alive even as the ball squirted downfield. In the chase, Bucknell’s John Scally nearly collected the groundball, but the Mids’ pressure forced him to push the ball past Bison goalie Nick Sciubba with 2:51 remaining.
“It was just a hustle goal,” Connors said.
The Bison (9-7), seeking their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001, halved the deficit with 1:10 remaining and turned to freshman Charlie Streep to tie it. Streep, who scored the winner against Navy on the same field Feb. 28, was stuffed when his shot went off the thumb and helmet of tournament MVP Tommy Phelan (10 saves) with 23 seconds left.
Bucknell reassumed possession with 10 seconds left after a timeout, but its attempt to take a slightly errant shot from midfield was denied when a stick check sent defenseman Tom Izard’s heave out of the stadium. Tormey then sailed a pass the length of the field, and time expired as Navy secured its sixth straight NCAA tournament berth.
“We’ve won five Patriot League championships, and all of them are very special,” coach Richie Meade said. “This one is very meaningful because we lost last year and these teams in the Patriot League are very good.”
That essentially wasn’t the case when Navy joined in 2004 and rolled to four straight titles. But the Mids gradually became more vulnerable, losing both in the regular season and the tournament a year ago.
This season, Navy fell to Bucknell and Colgate, which lost to the Mids in triple overtime in Friday’s semifinals, and was mired at 6-3 with the most grueling portion of its schedule remaining. With the aid of switching to Phelan in goal, Navy plowed through Georgetown, Maryland, Army and - after a hiccup at Johns Hopkins - the two league opponents who nipped the Mids to earn some coveted postseason security and a laid-back Selection Sunday.
“Not a lot of people believed we could be 12-3,” Meade said. “We didn’t get to 12-3. We got to 11-4, and we have a future. We’re in a very fortunate position because I think we’re the only team with a future that’s known - and that feels pretty good.”
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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