Irvine, CA – The 5th seeded Colorado State Rams saw their two-year reign as kings of the MCLA come to an end on Tuesday evening as the 4th seeded Chapman Panthers pulled away for an 8-2 victory in the quarterfinal round of the national tournament. The Rams fell behind early and were unable to find the necessary offensive rhythm to muster a comeback attempt as Chapman slowly mounted its lead.
Colorado State’s defense did its part, led by goaltenders Jack Regan (Sunset HS; Portland, OR) and Koltin Fatzinger (Wheat Ridge HS; Thornton, CO), who combined for 15 saves. But Chapman’s defense was even better, holding the Rams scoreless for long stretches of game time and thwarting any momentum CSU threatened to generate.
The Panthers struck early on a rebound goal by attackman Regan Kelly less than a minute into the contest. They notched another halfway through the period and took a 2-0 lead into the quarter break. CSU finally found pay-dirt when seniors Kacy Carter (Rock Canyon HS; Castle Rock, CO) and Sean Smith (Amherst HS; Amherst, NY) teamed up to get the Rams on the board.
Chapman tallied again in the second to take a 3-1 halftime lead and then scored the game’s next five goals to run away with the contest down the stretch. Smith got a goal with 2:00 remaining to close the scoring, narrowing the final margin to 8-2 for the hometown Panthers.
The teams were relatively even on shots and groundballs, but the difference in the game was Chapman goaltender Warren Nielsen, who made 14 saves – several of which were of the spectacular variety.
The loss closes Colorado State’s season with a 12-6 overall record and ends a two-year stretch of dominance for the Rams, who won national titles in 2012 and 2013.
Chapman moves on to the MCLA semifinals where they will face off against SLC rival Arizona State, who survived a one-goal scare from Boston College on Tuesday evening. The University of Colorado and UC-Santa Barbara will meet on the other side of the bracket for the right to play for the MCLA national championship on Saturday evening. UCSB played a thrilling six overtime game against Virginia Tech while Colorado took care of Michigan State to move to the semis.
The Rams graduate a host of seniors, including the goaltending tandem of Regan and Fatzinger, who have shared time in the nets for each of the last three years. Smith and Carter will also move on, leaving considerable shoes to fill at attack. But the future looks bright for a CSU team who featured a completely rebuilt defense and many new faces on the offensive end this season. Young faces peppered the line-up throughout the season and will be leaned on again as the Rams embark on a quest for their seventh national championship in 2015.