Walk-off wins are always a thrill in baseball. Mason Benz showed they can happen in soccer, too.
The Monsignor Martin Athletic Association boys soccer championship game came down to the fifth-round of penalty kicks. St. Joe’s had the last at-bat and Benz was up with the score tied – and he delivered with the biggest goal of his life, a goal that gave St. Joe’s a 2-1 win over arch-rival Canisius at the Demske Complex and its 21st league title.
“It’s a dream scenario,” Benz said. “It was like the bottom of the ninth in baseball. It’s the best moment of my soccer career. We went over the order in practice. I knew I was shooting fifth if it came down to it. I was hoping it wouldn’t but luckily we got it done.”
The goal rewarded goalkeeper Chris Collins for an epic shootout performance. Heading into the shootout, St. Joe’s coach Mike Thoin figured one save out of standout goalkeeper Chris Collins would be enough. He got four – and needed them all.
I asked him to get one,” Tholin said of Collins. “Get one and we should be able to take care of our business. Both goalies were great in the shootout. Chris came up huge. Making four saves is crazy. They left it to Mason and Mason said, ‘Thanks for coming.'”
Each team scored once in the first four rounds of the five-round shootout, both tallies coming in the third round. John Uba scored for Canisius and Tom Stankowski replied for St. Joe’s. Both teams missed in the fourth and in the fifth Canisius sent its goalie Zach Cox out to take a shot and he ripped a low shot that was stopped by a diving Collins. That sent Benz out for his walk-off moment.
“We went through the five shooters, both goalies were making a lot of saves,” Benz said.
“It came down to me. I was just trying to stay calm. My legs were shaking but I was just trying to stay focused. We’ve been practicing PKs in practice every day for the last two weeks. I just shot my shot and I got lucky and it went in.”
After the teams played to 0-0 and 1-1 draws in the regular season, it seemed likely that this game was going down to the wire.
That’s the way it’s going to be, it was a coin flip in the end,” Canisius coach Chris Stuff said. “My guys gave it all that they possibly could give. When it comes down to PKs it’s just who finishes.”
Derek Bartlo opened the scoring in the first half for Canisius and Thomas Dunia tied it shortly thereafter for St. Joe’s. From there it was a defensive battle that left things even through 80 exciting minutes of regulation and two 15-minute golden goal overtimes.
That led to a shootout, which usually means a lot of goals but not this season in this rivalry with these two goalies. Instead, he witnessed a goaltending display between Collins and Canisius counterpart Cox.
“I just had to stay confident in my abilities,” Collins said. “I just stayed true to what I know, read the players like I should and went with my gut. It was tough because their goalie was awesome. Stopping three out of five is still really great.”