Greenville, SC – In an emotional and hard-fought defensive struggle, the 2nd seeded Colorado State Rams advanced to the MCLA semifinals with a 6-3 victory over the #7 UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos on Tuesday evening in Greenville, SC. The Rams leaned on terrific defense and goaltending and were opportunistic on offense to snag a gritty quarterfinal victory over their long-time rivals from California.
UCSB jumped ahead 2-1 after one quarter, but the Rams hung tough and tied the score at 2-2 at the end of the first half. From there, CSU outscored the Gauchos 4-1 in the second half, including two key fourth quarter goals from junior attackman Austin Fisher (Rock Canyon HS / Castle Rock, CO) in just under two minutes to put things away.
The Rams got on the scoreboard first when junior midfielder Alex Devlin (Langley HS / Langley, VA) sprinted down the alley and stuck a shot with 12:14 remaining in the first quarter. But the Gauchos answered back with a diving effort followed up by a man-up goal to take a 2-1 lead after one.
From there, the story was again CSU’s defense, which held UCSB off the scoreboard for over 30 minutes of game time before finally allowing a goal with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter. Junior Patrick Sullivan (Heritage HS / Littleton, CO) was masterful, shutting out UCSB’s vaunted attackman Jamie Bridgman on the evening while juniors Tyler Zabor (Rock Canyon HS / Highlands Ranch, CO) and Hayden Porter (Heritage HS / Littleton, CO) made things tough on the other Gauchos.
The Rams were outshot 28-23 on the game, but got stellar goaltending from Jack Regan (Sunset HS / Beaverton, OR), who played well in the first half before needing to come back in off the bench for an injured Koltin Fatzinger (Wheat Ridge HS / Thornton, CO) in the second. Regan finished with 12 saves and Fatzinger had two before he was forced to leave the game with injury.
While CSU’s defense was holding down the fort on the back end, the offense finally found some life in the second half. UCSB’s defense was tough for much of the contest, but Devlin found a nice connection with Fisher on two goals in the final thirty minutes to help stretch the lead.
In addition to being outshot on the afternoon, the Rams lost the groundball battle 25-20 as well. Face-offs were a dead heat as the Gauchos edged the category with 7 of 13 wins. Both teams cleared the ball well and limited turnovers. In the end, CSU’s defense and the great goaltending by Regan proved to be the difference.
The win for CSU (16-2 overall) pushes them into the MCLA semifinals for the second consecutive year and the 11th overall in team history. They will face off against 3rd seeded Brigham Young at Sirrine Stadium in Greenville on Thursday evening at 7:00pm EST. The Cougars defeated Chapman 15-12 to set up the third match-up of the year between the two squads.
BYU got the best of CSU 8-6 in April while the Rams evened up the season series with a 14-7 win in the RMLC championship game the first weekend of May. The game between the two rivals will also be a rematch of last year’s MCLA semifinal contest which was won by BYU 14-11 and will be the seventh time in league history that its two most storied programs meet in the national tournament. The all-time post-season series is tied at 3-3 going into Thursday’s game.
On the other side of the bracket, #4 Arizona State pounded Buffalo 12-6 and #1 seed Cal Poly edged Michigan State 10-9 to advance to semifinal Thursday. ASU and Cal Poly will meet at 4:00pm EST on Thursday with the winner of the two semifinals facing off on Saturday night at 9:30pm EST. Both games can be viewed on Fox Sports College. Check your local listings for more information.