With only the pool winners advancing to Monday’s semifinals, Saturday and Sunday played out in a similar fashion to how Saturday and Sunday at a PGA tournament might play out. Saturday was moving day, while Sunday served to lock up the victory for those in control.
Of course, advancing out of pool play is just one step in the journey to a National Championship, but every team was in the hunt at the start of the weekend only to see the landscape drastically shift by the start of play on Sunday.
Two teams that punched their ticket early were UMBC and Penn State. Each finished pool play with a perfect 3-0 record and will play in Monday’s semifinals.
UMBC cruised past San Jose State 5-1 on Saturday on the strength of two goals each from Zac Stacy and Ryan Atkinson. The win put the Retrievers in the driver’s seat entering their Sunday showdown with William Paterson. The Pioneers only chance to advance would be to take the head-to-head matchup.
Things started well for WPU as they scored a trio of goals to enter the first intermission with a 3-2 lead. Ryan Mara, Trey Peacock and Pat Walsh each scored in the opening frame, but a pair of goals from Matt Bloom and Ryan Atkinson kept UMBC within striking distance despite WPU’s offensive outburst.
Bloom and Atkinson would strike again in the second period to put UMBC ahead for good. Brandon Fritz added an insurance tally in the third to lock up Pool B and send UMBC on to the next round.
Penn State faced a similar scenario in their third pool play game as they faced Missouri State to determine the Pool C winner. While PSU could have been considered the favorite, Missouri State came into the game fresh off an 8-0 drubbing of Northeastern on the strength of Jack Ryan’s hat trick and a three-point night (1+2) from Derek Bartsch.
Missouri State would need a win over Penn State to tie them with four points after three games and to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker that would push them through to the next round. PSU didn’t waste any time establishing their will on Missouri State as they jumped to a 2-0 lead after the first period and added three more goals in the second.
Missouri State had played a penalty-filled third period against Northeastern the day before and their tempers appeared to be short once again as they racked up 43 minutes in penalties as the game wore on. By the time the Ice Bears were on the board, PSU had built their lead to six goals and third period tallies from Jack Ryan and Eric Aldag cut the difference to four goals but didn’t affect the winner as PSU locked up their semi final berth with a 6-2 win.
The final two pools ended with ties atop the standings as Pool D came down to Sunday’s final game between New Hampshire and Liberty while Pool A ended with a three-way tie for first and the tiebreakers needed to be consulted again.
New Hampshire’s Pool D crown was earned with a 6-2 win over Liberty as the Flames entered the game with a 4-2 points lead in the pool. Liberty dispatched Northern Arizona on Saturday to build their lead after a narrow 3-2 win over Grand Valley on Friday.
After scoring five unanswered goals to come back from two down against NAU, Liberty was given a taste of their own medicine on Sunday. Cody Nizolek, Zack Mourad and Max Turcotte each scored in the final 6:01 of the first period for UNH and the Wildcats answered each of Liberty’s second period goals to enter the third period with a 5-2 lead. Mourad’s second of the game pushed the score to 6-2 and give UNH the come-from-behind win in their pool.
Pool A was perhaps the most interesting of the four races as NYU, FGCU and Lindenwood all finished with four points after three games. However, the race for the spot in the semis came down to Sunday’s game between FGCU and Lindenwood.
While NYU would finish with the same number of points as the eventual winner, their previous loss to Lindenwood meant they needed FGCU to win just to ensure the tie in the points column. It would be FGCU’s goal differential that pushed them through to the semis.
Even the Eagles’ deciding win wasn’t without drama. Bryan Valancy opened the scoring with a first period power play goal with just seven minutes gone. However, Lindenwood would storm back to score a pair and carry a 2-1 lead into the third period. Everything changed in 50 seconds as Kurt Williams scored to tie the game at 9:19 and Dillon Duprey scored what would be the game winner just 50 seconds later.
The 3-2 win sealed FGCU’s ticket to the semis where they will faceoff against Penn State. UMBC and New Hampshire play in the second of the two semi finals on Monday.
Click here for a full rundown of the weekend’s games