---- — By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- Just prior to the penalty-kick shootout Saturday night at Sassafras Field, Susquehanna keeper Matt Salsman stood on the goal line and threw an imaginary punch, not unlike a boxer preparing for a championship fight. In the end, Salsman helped knock Cabrini out of the NCAA tournament.
Salsman made two key stops in the shootout, and David Trank scored what turned out to be the game-winner as the Crusaders pulled out a 6-5 win on PKs in the first round of an NCAA regional.
"I came up with a couple of big saves," said Salsman, a Selinsgrove High School graduate. "It's amazing."
It's the first NCAA tournament win for the Crusaders (18-2) in program history. Susquehanna faces Rochester -- which beat Misericordia in Saturday's other semifinal on penalty kicks -- in today's second-round game back at Sassafras Field at 5 p.m.
Cabrini ends its season with a record of 11-8-3.
The Crusaders had the better part of play for the night. They outshot the Cavaliers 15-8 and had twice as many corner kicks (8-4). Susquehanna took the 1-0 lead in the 75th minute following a Samuel Tana goal after a scrum in the box. Susquehanna's John Arnold sent a corner kick into the box and teammate Sam Meister headed it toward the goal, but a Cabrini defender deflected it off the line. Tana then booted it inside the left post. It was the freshman's second career goal.
The Cavaliers nearly tied it in the 82nd minute, but Salsman made a diving save on a hard shot by Kyle Johnson. Salsman finished the night with three saves. The score remained 1-0 until the 88th minute. Johnson put a serve into the box, and Christian Martin headed it over the arm of Salsman and into the back of the net with just two minutes left in regulation.
In overtime, Cabrini's Brett Lockbaum missed wide right on a breakaway.
In the second OT, it was Susquehanna's chance to nearly end it. Ryan Donlevie, the hero of the Landmark Conference tournament, had a good look from the 12 in the run of play, but his shot was wide right by just a few inches.
The Crusaders missed two of their first three shots in the shootout. But Salsman kept them alive by stopping two of Cabrini's final three attempts. When he made a diving save on Lockbaum's attempt, the score was still 3-3 and headed for sudden-death PKs.
Both teams made their first two attempts in the sudden-death portion. After Trank scored for a 6-5 lead, Salsman was left facing Gabe Kuhn. Kuhn's shot hit the crossbar, and the Crusaders began their celebration.
"There was a lot of praying going on," Salsman said. "I was just hoping my teammates would make their kicks, and they came through."