KEENE, NH - Lakota Denton's goal one minute and 59 seconds into the first overtime period lifted Keene State College to a 1-0 victory over rival Plymouth State College in the championship game of the first-ever Little East Conference men's soccer tournament played Sunday before 1,100 fans at a cold and windy Owl Stadium Complex.
With the victory, Keene State (16-4) earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins on Wednesday. Plymouth State (12-8) will await a possible post-season bid to the ECAC Tournament, which will be announced Monday.
Denton, who missed a couple of scoring opportunities earlier in the game, found himself alone out on the right wing minutes into the overtime period. "I thought about crossing it, but we hadn't tested their goalie the entire game," explained the junior from Bernardston, Mass. "So I hit it as hard as I could and it went through his hands." It was Denton's 14th goal of the season.
"At the end of the game I told him he was being a bit too unselfish. I need you to shoot the ball," said KSC head coach Ron Butcher. "The next thing you know he pulls the trigger and the game is over."
The top seed in the tournament, Keene State controlled play throughout the game. After a scoreless first half, Denton almost gave KSC the lead early in the second half when his header just sailed over the cross bar.
Plymouth State, the tournament's second seed, had a difficult time mounting an attack against a stingy KSC defense all afternoon.Owl goalie Matt Andrulot made just two second-half saves to record his sixth shutout of the season. Panther goalie Brad Wilby also finished the game with two saves.
With the game still scoreless following regulation play, a determined KSC team finally got the game-winner that would send them to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year.
"I can't say enough about these guys," said Butcher. "We've been up, we've been down, but today I thought we played very well. I told them these are special moments when you win a big game that gets you into a tournament."
(Courtesy of Stuart Kaufman, Keene State SID)
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