DEKALB, Ill. -- Seniors Gael Rivera, James Stevenson and Sean Totsch each scored as the Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team played to a 3-3 draw on Saturday night against Buffalo.
Prior to the match, the three goal scorers, along with goalkeeper Miles Herbert (Libertyville, Ill./Libertyville) were honored as NIU celebrated senior night.
“The fact that we scored three goals today and that they were scored by our three field players was great for them,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “I told the guys, it is unfortunate because people are going to look at our record but the reality is that we are much better than that. We have a good group, a group that I enjoyed working with, but the margins are tight and we didn’t get many breaks this season.
“I thought that today was a good statement that we are still capable of doing some good things. I was disappointed that we didn’t get the three points but Buffalo is a committed group. (Buffalo head coach) Stu (Riddle) does a good job of getting his guys to work hard and it is never easy against his teams.”
NIU opened the scoring in the 21st minute as Rivera scored his first goal of the season. Junior Isaac Kannah back-heeled a pass to junior Shawn Vroom who got in behind the Buffalo defense down the left wing and played a cross through the box to the back post where Rivera fired home the opening goal.
The Huskies doubled their advantage two minutes later as Stevenson found the back of the net for the 17th time in his NIU career. Vroom was again the provider as he played in another cross that found Stevenson inside the box and the senior made no mistake, giving NIU a 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
Buffalo pulled one back in the 38th minute. Russell Cicerone made a run through the NIU defense and laid off a ball to Marcus Hanson coming down the left side. Hanson’s shot from 15 yards out beat Herbert and cut the NIU lead to 2-1.
In the 41st minute, the Bulls leveled the match on a goal from Braden Scales. Nicolai Berry cracked a long-range effort that Herbert stopped, but the rebound fell to Scales near the penalty spot and he slotted a shot past the Huskie goalkeeper to even the match at 2-2.
The Huskies had a chance to regain the lead in the second half when Stevenson fired a shot over the bar in the 67th minute off a cross from junior Andrew Palumbo. NIU had another chance in the 73rd minute as Stevenson fed a ball into the run of Kannah who took a shot that Buffalo goalkeeper Waleed Cassis did well to get low to save.
Just a minute later, Buffalo took its first lead as Cicerone hit a curling shot from the edge of the box past a diving Andrew Glaeser.
Now pressing for an equalizer, NIU nearly found it through Totsch in the 80th minute. After a foul just past the midfield line, Rivera served in a free kick that Totsch rose highest to and headed just wide of goal. In the 83rd minute, Cassis made an excellent kick save on a shot by Stevenson to keep the Bulls in front.
The Huskies pulled back even on a penalty kick from Totsch in the 86th minute. Buffalo was called for a foul on a Huskie corner kick and the senior captain stepped up to take the spot kick. Totsch made no mistake in slotting the ball past Cassis to bring NIU back level and send the match to extra time.
In the first extra session, Buffalo had the best chance as Nicolay Netskar found himself 1-on-1 with Glaeser inside the box in the 94th minute, but Netskar fired his shot high and the game remained tied going into a second overtime.
NIU had the best chance of the second extra period after good combination play from Stevenson and sophomore Kyle Crichton led to a chance in close from Rivera. Cassis was equal to the challenge in the 109th minute as the game ended in a 3-3 draw.
NIU finishes the season with a 4-13-1 record, 0-5-1 in the MAC; Buffalo closes with a 3-11-4 mark, 1-4-1 in conference play.