Sharks headed to NCAA College Cup
Outlast Terriers in another epic NEC Final shootout
This time, the Long Island University Sharks took a huge bite out of the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
Buoyed by the brilliant goaltending of Demetri Skoumbakis and a clutch goal in the penalty kick shootout by Michael Mollica, the Sharks edged the Terriers, 1-1 (6-5), Sunday in the Northeast Conference championship game to earn a berth in the upcoming NCAA College Cup.
Just seven months removed from their nearly identical NEC playoff match for the 2020 title, which the Terriers won 6-5 in a memorable shootout, LIU and SFC renewed their ongoing Downtown rivalry at LIU Soccer Park in Brookville, N.Y.
With 250 fans in attendance, the Sharks broke out in front on Assane Ben Fall’s tally in the 31st minute.
The Terriers answered early in the second half when Ivan Tapuskovic found the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
The teams remained deadlocked thereafter, battling for the full 110 minutes for the second straight year before five straight shooters from each team beat Skoumbakis and SFC netminder David Santiago, respectively.
After Mollica put the Sharks in front on their sixth attempt of the shootout, Skoumbakis made sure his penalty kick miss from a season ago was atoned for by stopping Seiji Mastuda’s bid for a game-tying tally.
“I feel like I owed this to my team,” said Skoumbakis, who was named NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player after making seven saves in the final and helping LIU survive a shootout in Friday’s semifinal win over Bryant.
“Last season, I missed a penalty and I let them down. I feel so happy, but our job is not finished.”
It’s certainly not.
The Terriers, who failed to win their sixth NEC crown in the past nine years, proved last season that a team from this league could play with anyone.
SFC, which beat Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-1, in the semifinal round Friday, knocked off Milwaukee in the first round of last year’s College Cup before bowing out to No. 3 Indiana in the second round via shootout.
The Sharks will meet Maryland Thursday in their first-rounder.
If LIU pulls off another NEC upset against the Terps (12-3-2), it will move on to a second-round encounter with St. Louis on Sunday.
“This feels really good,” said LIU head coach Michael Mordocco after guiding the Sharks to their third NEC championship since 2015 and first since the program relocated from Flatbush Avenue.
“My guys have put in a lot of work, my staff has put in a lot of work and it finally feels like we’ve accomplished something,”
So has SFC, which began the campaign on a three-game winless skid following its historic 2020 season.
But the Terriers responded like defending champions, rolling to a 10-5-2 overall mark and 7-2 record in NEC play, including last week’s 3-1 loss to the Sharks in the regular-season finale, which shifted the setting of this contest from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Long Island.
This is the eighth time in the past nine years that either LIU or SFC has represented the NEC in the College Cup.
The Sharks, who went 11-4-4 overall, will visit a Maryland team making its 21st consecutive appearance in the NCAAs Thursday.
LIU hasn’t been in it since 2018.
However, finding a way to get past the well-decorated Terriers should serve the Sharks well this week, and perhaps even beyond.
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