Can Bucknell Rebound in 2022?

(Photo Courtesy of Bucknell Athletics)

In the Frank Fedorjaka era, the Bucknell Bison have reached the NCAA tournament once. That trip came in 2011. Since then the Bison’s best season was in 2018 when they went 11-4 and were upset by Boston U. in the Patriot League quarterfinals.

Despite dropping off and missing the postseason all together in 2019, the Bison looked like they could very well get back to the Patriot League Tournament and possibly pull off a surprise or two in 2020. However, the season was shut down in mid-March and the Bison ended with a 5-1 record and a litany of questions about what could have been. Bucknell followed up that lost season with a rather distasteful campaign in 2021.

Bucknell had three contests cancelled, including two that bookended the season. On top of that, they went 2-6 to mark their lowest win total in program history.

However, despite the unfavorable direction the 2021 season went for the Bison there were some positive signs in the final month of the year. After getting beat 18-6 by Lehigh and 24-10 by Loyola in back-to-back contests, the Bison turned around and gave a top-20 Navy team a run for their money, ending the game on a 4-2 run before falling by just three goals (13-10). They put up a similar performance against Colgate a week later, losing 10-9 in a late-game heartbreaker. Bucknell fell to Robert Morris, 8-7, and Lehigh, 18-12, to end the season.

Coming into the 2022 season, especially after a season like the Bison just went through, it is hard to gauge exactly where this team will be come February and what their ceiling is, especially when you consider the key losses they suffer on both ends of the field.

Offensively, the Bison graduate their leading scorer for the second consecutive season. In 2020 it was Will York, in 2021 its Tommy Sopko. However, the Bison do return four of their other top five scorers from a year ago, including starting attackman Alston Tarry. The Bronxville, N.Y. native has started the last 26 games for the Bison at attack and has been a game-changer as both a scorer and a feeder. He put up 24 points (13G/11A) during the 2021 campaign, which includes hat tricks in each of the Bisons’ final three contests. Additionally, attackman Dutch Furlong played in all eight contests with four starts as a freshman and thrived, tallying 12 points on seven goals and five assists as Bucknell’s third-leading scorer, and Brendan Lundy started five of the eight contests and ended the season as the Bisons’ fourth-leading scorer with 10 goals and one assist for 11 points.

Whether Furlong and Lundy move to full-time starters alongside Tarry, or junior Jack Feda – who started the final three games at attack and tallied seven points (6G/2A) during those contests – gets the nod, this Bucknell attack is a unit that if they can find the cohesion had the ability to be a pretty solid unit in the Patriot League.

Harry Wellford started all six games he appeared in at the midfield spot for the Bison during the 2021 season while Tanner Germain played in all eight games with five starts. Both ended the season with 11 points off seven goals and four assists. The now-junior Wellford and senior Germain are the top two returners of the Bisons’ midfield unit with the graduation of Summer Brumbaugh, who started the final 11 games of his Bucknell career at midfield after beginning his career as an attackman.

While the Bison showed some clear bright spots on the offensive end last season in which they should continue to build this coming spring, the story was much different on the defensive end. Even with a season that was shorter than usual, Bucknell gave up more goals on average (13.25) than any season over the past half-decade. However, there was one bright spot: man-down defense. The Bison ranked 12th nationally in man-down defense, going 9-for-29 on the penalty kill.

Bucknell has graduated their two top players on the defensive end in goalie Ben Clark, who started and played in seven games and posted a 46% save percentage on the season, and defenseman Bryant Boswell, who led the team with 14 caused turnovers while also scooping up 16 ground balls as a full-time starter. Their top SSDM Matt Fedorjaka is also gone, having taken his talents to Notre Dame for his final year of college lacrosse.

Travis Talarico has started every game for the past two seasons and will be the leader of this Bison defense as a senior in 2022. The New Jersey native was second on the team in ground balls (28) and caused turnovers (11) this past spring. As the top returning defenseman, he’ll look to lead a defense that will be fairly mature. Seniors D/LSM Reid Delanois (16GB/6CT) and Drew Wellington (9GB/5CT) will also be back in 2022. The pair started three games each at close defense last season and could very well make the move to start full-time this coming spring.

In cage, the Bison return just one goalie with an inkling of starting experience: Daniel Parson. The junior saw action in five games and made his first career start in the Bisons’ season finale against Lehigh. He made 13 saves in the contest. Senior Jack Van Slyke is the only other returning goalie and has never started. The Bison also bring in two freshmen at the position in Rich O’Halloran out of Taft (Conn.) and Max Dolan from Bergen Catholic (N.J.).

Another area where Coach Fedorjaka and his staff may have some questions coming into the 2022 season is at the faceoff dot, where they went 43% as a team last season. Nick Crovatto served as the Bisons’ primary option at the dot last season, going 64-for-144 (44%). Conor McKuster served as the backup and went 24-for-48 (50%), which included a career-high 66% (8-for-12) outing against Loyola.

The Bison have found success before and they can certainly do it again. The question is, can they get it done in 2022? While they lose some crucial pieces, they do return a good amount of proven talent that, if they find that cohesion, could lead them to a pretty solid season this spring.

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