The men’s lacrosse team was 54 seconds away from a comeback victory on Wednesday night at Reese Stadium but once again came up just short.

After conceding a late goal, the Bulldogs (5-6, 1-4 Ivy) fell in a 14-13 overtime heartbreaker to Ivy League foe Dartmouth.

Middie Gregory Mahony ’12 led the Elis on offense with four goals, and middie Michael Karwoski ’09 and attacker Brendan Gibson ’10 each added three goals.

Goalie Johnathan Falcone ’11, led by a strong first-half performance, finished the night with 12 saves.

Yale stormed back from a 11-6 fourth-period deficit to take back the lead at 13-12 when Mahony scored with 3:44 remaining in the game. Dartmouth tied things up with under a minute remaining, and Brian Koch scored right after a man-advantage with 2:57 left in the sudden-death overtime period to give the Big Green (4-8, 1-3) its first conference win of the season. The elation shown by the bench as they rushed to mob Koch, a testament to how much this game meant to the away squad.

Yale got out to a 4-1 by the end of the first period, with middie Mark Dobrosky ’12, Mahony, and Brendan Gibson each scoring, yet neither team was able to establish an rhythm on offense. It was a lackluster start to the game, ultimately unrepresentative of the late-game excitement.

“We did get that 4-1 lead, but I think that we came out very slow,” middie Nick Tsouris ’10 said. “We weren’t ourselves. It could have been a psychological thing. They really needed to win this game to not go defeated in the Ivy League. We had this emotional win Saturday. It was kind of a complete turnaround.”

The Big Green were finally able to take advantage of their speed and athleticism in the second quarter, scoring all six goals to finish the half with a 7-4 advantage and all the momentum. Their last goal, which ultimately proved decisive, came as time expired on a desperation set-play that worked to perfection. Dartmouth’s Koch sent the ball toward the goal area from near midfield with three seconds left, and the ball somehow found its way directly into Ian Ferrell’s stick. Ferrell turned toward the net and bounced a shot past Falcone as the buzzer sounded for a truly remarkable goal.

Yale managed two goals in the third, but the period once again belonged to the visitors. The Big Green scored four times and seemed poised for a comfortable win unless the Elis turned things around. During the two middle periods, the Bulldogs were unable to give their potent offense a chance to do much, as continual turnovers meant that Dartmouth dominated possession. Despite ultimately being outshot 38-35, Dartmouth had an 18-11 advantage in shots on goal during those two periods.

“The guys showed heart to come back, but I wish we didn’t get put in that position,” head coach Andy Shay said. “Dartmouth did a great job possessing the ball. It really put us in a tough position because every time they got long possessions, they scored, and our defense got more tired. It just ended up being a slippery slope.”

He added, “We couldn’t clear the ball — the story of our season. [If] we can’t clear the ball, we can’t score. Every time we fail to clear, we seem to give up a goal.”

A Matt Gibson ’12 goal only 26 seconds into the final frame got things off to a promising start, and as the Bulldogs scored, their momentum increased and the home crowd got more enthusiastic. The Elis scored four more times in the next 4:27 to tie things up with about 10 minutes left in the period. Middie Kevin Discepolo’s ’09 impressive face-off win percentage in the fourth period played a major role in his team’s comeback. Discepolo won eight of nine faceoffs, finally enabling his team to possess the ball on offense and outshoot its opponents 17-5.

The Bulldogs were once again in the game.

The teams traded goals over the next six minutes of play, before Mahony re-gave his team the lead with a long-distance shot from the left side of the field.

The Bulldogs attempted to run out the rest of the clock, but Dartmouth was given a new life when defender Tim McVeigh forced a turnover deep in his team’s zone with about 90 seconds. The Big Green capitalized on this opportunity when New Haven native Ari Sussman scored his second goal of the night with 54 seconds remaining in the game. Sussman, who had seen a shot bounced right over an open net midway through the period, bounced a shot that deflected off the crossbar before ricocheting near the goal line and into the net. As so often happens in sports, a mere matter of inches would have likely changed the outcome of the game.

Koch’s game-winning goal was scored following the end of a man-advantage. After the ball changed hands a few times on the right side of the field, Kip Dooley switched the field to find a wide-open Koch on the other side of the net. After blasting his shot past Falcone, Koch’s calm expression of exultation hid how much his team desperately needed this game.

“It was a pretty devastating loss for us; we didn’t expect it to turn out that way,” Karwoski said. “We had the momentum coming back and the lead, and it just got stolen from us with the penalty.”

The Bulldogs finish off their Ivy League season in two weeks when they travel to face Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25.