By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
LEHMAN -- Eric Dempsey has scored in every postseason game for Danville, but no goal was bigger than Tuesday night's game-winner in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA Tournament.
The junior midfielder rebounded his own miss and managed to find a slim path to the left corner of the net. He made sure there would not be another extra session as he drilled the ball past Zac Daniels to carry the Ironmen (16-5) into the quarterfinal round with a 2-1 win over Tunkhannock in double-overtime at Lake-Lehman H.S.
Danville plays Pequea Valley on Saturday in the quarterfinals at a time and place to be determined.
The win was the first in the state playoffs in the Danville program's long, storied history. The Ironmen had been 0-6 in the state tournament.
Both teams managed to score once in regulation, however, the excitement for fans of both schools went berserk following an exciting first overtime in which Danville and Tunkhannock (16-4) each missed great scoring chances.
Danville took the ball in the second overtime and quickly moved downfield into scoring position where Dempsey, Derek Kirkner and Brody Mahaffy swarmed right in front of the Tigers' goal. Dempsey drilled his first shot at Daniels only to have the attempt come right back to him. He then spotted an opening to the goalie's right side and promptly rifled the ball into the goal for the winning score that set off yet another sideline celebration for the winners.
"We wanted to win it for Gage (Reber), who was given a yellow card and spent the start of the second overtime on the sideline," Dempsey said. "Derek and Brody had two nice touches to get the ball to me and my first shot was knocked back by their goalie, who was really good, but when that miss came back, I was able to spot a slim open path to his right and got the shot past him."
There almost wasn't a second session for either team thanks to a wild first overtime period.
Reber managed to get off a shot with 9:36 showing on the clock in the first overtime period but Daniels knocked it away at the last moment. The Tigers had their first opportunity when Colton Brown got behind the back line only to have his shot sail wide of the mark.
Moments later, on a rare breakdown and a touch of over-enthusiasm, Aidan Cronin slipped behind his defender and Jon Hauck came out of goal leaving the net wide open with no protection. However, outstanding hustle by Wesley Yeich saved the day for the Ironmen as he managed to get to the loose ball and kick it away preventing what surely would have been an easy goal and a season-ending shot by the Tigers.
"On defense, we always stress making sure someone is back to prevent that type of situation," Danville coach Brian Dressler said. "There was nervous momentum in overtime, and we had five or six good chances to win in the first period but give credit to their goalie; he had some outstanding saves. Defensively, we always try to get numbers back and our quickness came into play several times."
Danville scored when Reber knocked one past Daniels off an assist from Shayne Riley with 30:17 remaining in the first half. Tunkhannock answered in the second half when Brown managed to dribble one past Hauck.
"We came out too hyped up in the first half and when we scored so quickly thought we were in for a cakewalk," Dressler said. "Once we got our legs back underneath us we were OK."