Schuylkill Haven, Pa. - Cold and wet remained the trend in eastern Pennsylvania on Saturday as the Nittany Lions (6-4, 5-1 PSUAC) took on Penn State Schuylkill (6-7, 3-4 PSUAC) on the home turf of their local Penn State University Athletic Conference rival. Knowing the stakes of such games, Hazleton's trio of captains took full command of the pitch, accounting for all the Lion's offense. Sophomore Ben Pasukinis (Benton, Pa.) gave Hazleton 1-0 lead at the break, then a combination of sophomore Tyler Wyllie (Benton, Pa.) and senior Kyle Venditti (Berwick, Pa.) tacked on three goals in the second half to edge Schuylkill by the final score of 4-0, carrying the squad ever closer to the program's third straight playoff berth.
Hazleton controlled the pace of play throughout the half and the offense didn't waste any time to advance the ball into opponent territory. Just six minutes into the action, Hazleton earned their first of seven first half corner kicks. Freshman Moussa Diouf (Carteret, Nj.) drilled a low bullet from the right corner skipping off the wet turf. Tyler Wyllie crashed the box, but let the ball pass allowing Pasukinis to sneak in behind his hometown teammate, for the open look on net. Pasukinis neatly tucked the ball in goal for the game's first score and a 1-0 lead for Hazleton. The Lions continued to pummel shots at the Schuylkill keeper, tallying 15 first half shot to just three for the home squad, but Schuylkill packed in the defense and kept the Lions off the board for the remainder of the half.
With the game's outcome still in question, Schuylkill pressed to start the second half and nearly knotted the score with a shot off the post early in the final half, but the Lion's remained determined not to give their opponent any room to breathe. In the 59th minute, Venditti broke into the open field and dribbled past one defender pounding a shot to the low right corner of the goal, besting the keeper and expanding Hazleton's lead to 2-0.
Fifteen minutes later, the Venditti sent a corner kick to Pasukinis who fielded the ball directly in front of the Schuylkill netminder. The keeper deflected the ball but Pasukinis regained control and attempted to chip the ball around the attacking netminder finding Tyler Wyllie who came charging in from the top of 18 for the open net score.
As the half progressed, Venditti again found himself on the attack. The senior collected a lead pass from freshman Sohail Ahmedshaker (Brooklyn, Ny.) and broke towards the net. Venditti fought off a hard tackle from a Schuylkill defender, regained possession and fired off a shot for his second score of the half. As the final horn drew near, Schuylkill found themselves the recipient of a late penalty kick, but freshman keeper Brandon Yocum (Bloomsburg, Pa.) made a brilliant diving stop to preserve the shut-out and the 4-0 victory for Hazleton.
Schuylkill was led by Cole Schwalm and Ahmed Abdelmuti who each garnered two shots on goal, one coming on the penalty kick late in the game. Schuylkill keeper Brad Fryer faced 13 shots on target, saving nine in the losing effort.
All three Hazleton captains netted scores on the afternoon, with Venditti leading the way with two scores on seven shots on goal. Pasukinis ended the day with one tally assisted by Moussa Diouf and one assist to teammate Tyler Wyllie who was a perfect one for one shooting in the victory. Hazleton keeper Brandon Yocum wasn't tested often on Saturday, but earned his fourth shut-out saving four of four shot attempts.
The Lions earn a respite from conference play for their next outing before heading into their final four-game stretch before the PSUAC postsesaon. Hazleton next takes the pitch on Tuesday, October 4th when they head to Lackawanna College. Kickoff scheduled for 4:00 p.m.