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Cougars Fall in Overtime in RMLC D-I Championship

BYU Midfielder Jake Arbon
BYU Midfielder Jake Arbon

After beating the No. 6 Westminster Griffins in the semifinals, the No. 8 BYU Cougars brought an overall record of 14-4 into the RMLC Div-I championship game, and all four of those losses came by just a single goal each (including a regular-season loss to their championship opponent No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes). History looked dismally down on the Cougars as, with under a minute to play and Colorado up 14-13, the Buffaloes got possession of the ball and looked to run down the clock. But with the Cougar goalie out of the goal and covering a man, the Buffs decided not to go for the throat and instead tried to simply pass the ball around, giving Cougar sophomore defenseman  Harrison Wardle a chance to beautifully snag a pass from the air and regain possession for BYU. The Cougars had several good looks at the cage, but all shots went wide. With just six seconds left on the clock, BYU senior middie Zach Jordan caught the ball on the high wing and sent high heat between the wickets to put the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, the Buffs got the first possession and were able to get several good shots on cage, but BYU’s junior goalie Matt Brandenburg practically stood on his head to send them all away. After the Cougars finally nabbed a possession, a controversial offsides call gave the ball back to the Buffs, and Colorado’s John Clayton ended things with a top shelf shot from the top of the box, handing the Cougars yet another one-goal loss, 15-14.

BYU Midfielder Jake Arbon
BYU Midfielder Jake Arbon
“It was a great back-and-forth game,” said BYU head coach Matt Schneck, “the guys played well and it could have gone either way. This is our fifth one-goal loss this year, so the fact that these guys have been through this multiple times and have been able to bounce back, I think is good.”
Cougars Jake Arbon and Mike Fabrizio each netted a hat trick on the afternoon and Dustin Skousen and Josh Tunick played well at the faceoff X to give BYU a first crack at possessions.
The game started in BYU’s favor with an early from junior middie Nick Stevens at the 14:04 mark. But a stifling 10-man ride from Colorado gave the Cougars trouble and the next three goals were all from the Buffs. At the 5:33 mark the Cougars seemed to get things figured out as they were able to settle the ball on offense a couple times, resulting in goals from Fabrizio and a nice low-to-low worm burner from Arbon. An unnecessary roughness call at 3:02 to go halted BYU’s momentum and Colorado was able to capitalize with a Jace Gan man-up goal, ending the quarter with the Buffs leading 4-3.
The Cougars started the second quarter strong with an early three-goal run that was capped off by junior LSM Max Neser grabbing the ball in the defensive end and taking it coast-to-coast for the score with 10:15 left to play in the half. Things evened up through the end of the half with each team scoring two more, including a nice Fabrizio quick-stick as he tiptoed the crease and a Buffalo goal from Colin MacIlvennie on a question-mark dodge with just 31 seconds to play. And the teams hit the break with BYU now leading 8-6.
Early in the third, it looked as if the Cougars might run away with the game. After a quick Colorado goal, BYU again went on a three-goal run that included a goal when the Cougars swung the ball quickly backside to an uncovered Jayden Haws for the tally, putting the Cougs up by four. But the Buffs battled back and went on a run of their own, narrowing the gap to one at the quarter, 11-10.
An early slash allowed Colorado to even things up early in the fourth, with Gan scoring on a one-on-one with the keeper. At 12:00 left the play, the Cougars again took the lead when Zach Jordan caught the rebound of a shot that hit pipe and ripped it past the keeper from the top of the box. But the Buffaloes began to break down the Cougar zone and they scored three unanswered goals to take a two-goal lead with just 7:34 left in regulation. After three minutes ran painfully off the clock, the Cougars again found the back of the net when Haws used his defender as a screen, shooting right over his shoulder, and burying the shot. This would set up Wardle and Jordan’s last-minute heroics to send the game to overtime, but would ultimately not be enough to earn BYU its first RMLC championship since 2009.
“I think that we played two of the toughest teams in the country over the last two days,” stated Coach Schneck, “I feel like we can compete. You take care of your own destiny by winning the games you need to win and we didn’t do that tonight, so we’ll wait and see what happens. I’m proud of the way the guys played. Coming into the tournament and being able to play at a high level against great teams is always a positive, and now we just have to see what we can do to take care of business as we prepare for nationals.”
The Cougars will learn their fate today as the MCLA announces national match-ups via Twitter.

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