BYU’s second meeting this year with Colorado University started out much like the first, but it ended very differently. The Cougars came from a two-goal deficit after one quarter to shutting down the CU offense in the fourth quarter. BYU was victorious, winning 12 to 8, securing the RMLC tournament championship and a number five seed in the MCLA tournament scheduled to begin May 9th.
Colorado secured the first draw of the game, and wasted no time getting on the board with an unassisted goal from Jake Gonzalez. BYU enabled them further with an early penalty, but were able to defend the man-down with a save from goalie Matt Brandenburg. The Cougars tied the game on a shot from attackman Chris Severson, assisted by midfielder Jack Fabrizio. BYU was blessed with a man-up midway through the quarter and Jayden Haws made good, assisted by Severson to take the lead, 2 to 1. The Buffaloes won the next face, and Carter Esquada scored on a broken play behind his back. Momentum swung the Buff’s way, and despite excellent face-off work from Cougar specialist Jack Vassau, CU managed to score twice more in the quarter, once by Gonzalez and again by Hunter Molnar with .01 left in the quarter. The Buffs had a 4 to 2 lead at the end of one, and it seemed they were in the driver’s seat.
Colorado secured the first face of the second quarter, but BYU’s defensive middie Connor Williams deftly took the ball away, returning it to attackman Winston Farley who ripped twine, tying the game. Brandenburg saved the next CU shot, followed by a save from Buffalo goalie Jensen Makarov. Stepped-up defense from Cougar LSM Brady Tengberg gave the ball back to BYU, and Farley grabbed a rebound on an errant shot, putting it back in the net and giving the Cougars their first lead. Vassau snatched up the next draw and after a save, CU called timeout. BYU defensive middie Max Neser took the ball away, quashing the Buff’s designed play. Colorado forced a turnover and then took another time out. Brandenburg made the save on the play, but BYU committed a foul, which allowed Ben Wharton to score on the extra-man and regain the lead for CU. The Cougars gained possession, and in the closing minute of the half Farley scored again with an assist from Severson, bringing BYU back to all even. The half ended in a 5 to 5 tie.
BYU started the third by winning the draw and then pummeling CU’s goalie with multiple shots. Markarov made several great saves, and CU was advantaged by a Cougar penalty, but Brandenburg played inspired, saving all of the Buff’s man-up attempts. Frustration mounted for CU and they committed a foul with 4:57 remaining in the quarter. BYU didn’t waste their opportunity, and Tanner Johnson scored as he was being cross-checked. The Cougars remained in man-up, and Severson cranked one in, high-to-mid-hip, assisted by Johnson, giving BYU a two-goal lead. Colorado took the next draw, but BYU defenders took it away again, which resulted in another extra-man opportunity. Severson pitched it from X to Fabrizio, who burned the net, putting the Cougs up by three. The Buffalos did not want to let the game get away, grabbing the face and scoring quickly on a broken-play put-back by Esquada. They secured the next draw as well, and Trevor DeBaere scored with 1:57 left in the quarter, pulling the Buffaloes to within one. BYU grabbed the last face, but were held. The score was BYU 8 and CU 7 at the end of three.
The Cougars came out in the fourth determined to hold their lead. Vassau secured the initial draw and BYU was also advantaged by a two man-up situation, but were unable to capitalize when CU forced a turnover. After the penalty time expired, the Buffaloes tied it up with a goal from Ben Wharton, assisted by Esquada. It seemed CU had regained momentum, but BYU wanted this game too badly. Vassau seized the next draw, and Severson wasted no time firing the ball in to Farley, who ran through center crease, scoring and giving the Cougars their lead back. BYU gained possession and called a timeout with 5:50 left in the game. The Cougs scored on the designed play with a net-scorching shot from Fabrizio assisted by Johnson. CU secured the next draw, but exhilarated Cougar fans chanting, “Defense, defense” assisted Harrison Wardle in stripping the ball. Back on offense, Fabrizio scored again with help from Zach Labrum. Vassau, feeding on the adrenaline of frenzied Cougar fans, secured the next draw, and BYU used their last timeout with 2:42 left on the clock. The Buffaloes played hard, taking the ball away, but Max Neser stole the ball back. The Cougars would not be denied. They put the final nail in the coffin with one last goal from Johnson, assisted by Severson, securing the RMLC Tournament Championship and a fifth seed in the MCLA National tournament.
The difference between this game and the last one with Colorado was stepped-up defense from BYU. The Cougars controlled the pace of play and did not allow the Buffs to get into their fast break offense. BYU also controlled the defensive net play, denying CU goals from behind X on the crease. Cougar defensive middies Max Ash and Connor Williams prevented outside shots, while long poles Boston Handley, Devin Needs, and Arty Walters defended the crease. Brandenburg guarded the net like a momma bear. Coach Scheck stated, “We are very excited to have won the championship. We feel like the RMLC is one of the best in the country, so this is a meaningful victory. It was a great weekend with two very tough teams, and our team did what they needed to do to win. It was definitely a team effort. It’s on to nationals!”
BYU will play Oregon State University on Monday, May 9th at 7:00 pm at UC Irvine in Orange County, California.