Panthers Play to Scoreless Draw in NCAA Play With Rensselaer; Edged 5-3 in Penalty Kicks

Henry Wilhelm battles for a ball during Sunday's action. (photo courtesy of Rensselaer)
Henry Wilhelm battles for a ball during Sunday's action. (photo courtesy of Rensselaer)

The Middlebury men's soccer team (9-3-8) battled with No. 12 Rensselaer to a scoreless draw for 110 minutes of NCAA Tournament action Sunday at ECAV Stadium. With one team needing to advance in postseason play, the Engineers (15-2-4) moved on by winning penalty kicks by a 5-3 tally.

Middlebury had a good scoring chance 10 minutes into play when Ben Potter sent a low cross from the left that Brendan Barry ran onto, but Engineer goalie Luke Brezek got his foot on the cross. Five minutes later, Jacob LaBranche ripped a shot straight on from 20 yards that Brezek made a diving stop to his right. The Engineers turned up their offensive pressure in the latter stages of the half, testing Panther keeper Ryan Grady with two good chances. A sharp-angled shot in the 29th minute by Austin Betterly was stopped by the Panther keeper on the right post, before Josh Gaudiano took a shot from the left that Grady saved on the left post in the 38th minute to send the match into the half scoreless.

After the break, Betterly rifled an attempt from 25 yards straight at the 65:17 mark that Grady saved chest high. Middlebury's Jacob Charles worked behind the Engineer defense in the 68th minute, but Brezek denied with his left arm a right-footed shot by Charles from 10 yards. On a Panther free kick with 8:45 left in regulation, a volley attempt by Michael McFarlane from 12 yards was saved by Brezek. The Engineers pressed late in the stanza, as a header by Trevor Bisson on a corner kick sailed just over the crossbar with two minutes remaining and sent the match to overtime.

In the first extra period, Middlebury had the lone chance in the 99th minute when Barry's shot went wide right after a scramble in the box.

The second overtime saw Barry weave his way through the Rensselaer defense, taking a left-footed shot from 12 yards that Brezek saved at 103:09. Three minutes later, McFarlane headed a ball over the crossbar on a corner kick. On the second of back-to-back corners in the final minutes, Rensselaer's Michael Hartan lifted a shot from 15 yards that was high, sending the match to penalty kicks.

During penalty kicks, Potter, Kieran Bhave and Shams Mohajerani each made their attempts for the Panthers to match the Engineers at 3-3 through three rounds. In the fourth, Brezek denied Liam Sloan's rising attempt with his right arm, as Rensselaer's Paul Silva buried the ball into the left side for the final 5-3 tally.

Rensselaer finished with a 16-9 edge in shots and a 10-3 corner kick advantage. Grady made four saves in goal for the Panthers, while Brezek was credited with five. The shutout was the 11th of the season for Middlebury.