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Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Beats Johns Hopkins 18-17 in Overtime, Clinches First-Ever Big Ten Tournament Title

The Nittany Lions blew a two-goal lead in the final minute of regulation, but Mac O’Keefe’s goal in OT put PSU over the top.

Heather Weikel

Two weeks ago, when Penn State manhandled Johns Hopkins by a score of 20-9, the Blue Jays swore they would not allow themselves to be embarrassed like that again. Sure enough, they carried that chip on their shoulder throughout what was a wild, frenetic, goal-laden Big Ten championship game.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they did not have Mac O’Keefe on their team. PSU’s scoring ace led the way with six goals, including the game-winner in the sudden death overtime period to give the Nittany Lions an 18-17 victory and their first Big Ten Tournament title in program history.

The game started out with Hopkins drawing first blood with a goal in the opening minute. This was then followed up by four consecutive PSU goals in the next few minutes to take a commanding 4-1 lead in the early-going. The Blue Jays however, would go on a 5-0 run of their own to take a 6-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. In a sign of what was to come however, PSU would rally back and tie the game twice in the second quarter, although Hopkins would create for themselves, a three-goal cushion going into halftime at 11-8.

The second half saw the Lions’ patented offensive juggernaut spring into immediate action, garnering a quick 5-0 run of their own to take back the lead. Throughout the rest of the second half, the game continually fluctuated between a one and two-goal PSU lead, as Hopkins refused to go away. With PSU hanging on to a 17-15 lead in the final minute-and-a-half with a chance to run down the clock, the Lions turned it over with a little less than a minute to play, giving Hopkins an opening for which they took full advantage of, scoring a goal to cut the lead to one with 31 seconds left.

This was followed by Hopkins winning the ensuing face-off and sprinting down the field for another quick goal to tie the game at 17. Hopkins would win the face-off again, and had a clear shot at a goal that would have stolen the game from PSU in regulation. Thankfully, Colby Kneese came up with arugably the biggest save of his career, deflecting the shot away, and ultimately forcing overtime.

After missing the net immediately after winning the overtime face-off, PSU retained possession and methodically worked the ball around the Hopkins net, with O’Keefe slinging the championship-clinching goal from the left side of the field just 20 seconds into the period, as the PSU bench erupted onto the field in jubilation.

With the historic championship, Jeff Tambroni’s squad preserved the nation’s longest winning streak, now at 11 games and counting. More importantly, it secured the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and a first round game at the friendly confines of Panzer Stadium. The Nittany Lions will learn of their opponent during tomorrow night’s selection show, which will be televised at 9:00 PM ET on ESPNU.

In the meantime, soak this moment in and appreciate what these young laxers have accomplished thus far, and will continue to accomplish. Here’s to this magical season ending in Philadelphia at the end of the month with the team hoisting their first-ever NCAA championship trophy!