TOWSON, Md. — There was some question as to whether Goucher's game against Catholic would even be played today since it was only three days after the tragic death of sophomore midfielder Matt Gabriel (Austin, Texas/Westlake).
But the Gabriel family encouraged head coach Brian Kelly and the team to play the game as originally scheduled, believing their son, who was struck by a car while crossing Dulaney Valley Road early Sunday morning, would want his teammates "to continue to play the game that he loved."
So play they did.
"Whenever we played the game, whether it was today or we moved the game to another day, we would be taking the field without Matt, so I told our guys to not go out there and play as any type of tribute to Matt, but go out there and play the way Matt would play," Kelly said after the Gophers defeated the Cardinals, 14-5, in front of 613 sun-drenched fans, the largest crowd in the history of Gopher Stadium.
With the win, the Gophers clinched a berth in the Landmark Conference's upcoming postseason tournament. They will be the No. 1 seed if they defeat Scranton when the Royals visit Gopher Stadium on April 26.
Kelly could hardly have scripted a better beginning to today's contest. Although the Cardinals (7-6, 2-3 Landmark) won the opening faceoff, the Gophers quickly gained possession of the ball thanks to a caused turnover by Ethan Haddaway (Finksburg, Md./Mount St. Joseph), which led to an unassisted goal by Pierce Ingram (Austin, Texas/Westwood) on the first shot of the game.
While Goucher went on to score three more times in the first quarter, Catholic was limited to four shots, committed seven turnovers, failed to clear the ball one time and came up empty on the only extra-man opportunity for either team in the period.
The Cardinals got on the scoreboard for the first time on an unassisted goal by Brian Keith 4:33 into the second quarter and they closed to within 4-2 just 15 seconds later on a goal by Tim Keith. The Gophers (6-6, 4-1 Landmark), however, responded with goals by Steve Patterson (Minneapolis, Minn./Blake School) at 8:50 and Dylan Zook (Purcellville, Va./Loudoun Valley) at 6:13, and were up 6-2 after 30 minutes.
Sam Morgan (Wilmot, N.H./Kearsarge Regional), who supplied Goucher with a goal and an assist in the first quarter, stuck three goals in less than two and a half minutes early in the third period as the Gophers saw their lead balloon to 11-2. With his four-goal performance, Morgan is now the team leader in goals scored this season at 21, one ahead of Zook.
The goal Michael Morgan (Austin, Texas/Westwood) scored with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter was his second of the contest and also the ninth straight that belonged to Goucher, and it provided Kelly's squad with a commanding 13-2 lead heading into the final period.
Nick Boucher (North Wales, Pa./Germantown Academy) accounted for Goucher's final goal, an unassisted tally with 8:42 remaining in the contest.
Most of the statistics seemed to suggest a tightly contested game, not a nine-goal win by a team that is now 20-0 all-time against the opponent. Both teams got off 37 shots and both came up with 33 groundballs. The Cardinals won 12 faceoffs compared to 11 for the Gophers.
Catholic was unable to capitalize on any of its five extra-man opportunities.
Among the defensive standouts for Goucher were starting goalkeeper Karl Wiszumerski (Pottstown, Pa./The Hill School), who made seven saves and allowed only two goals while playing into the fourth quarter, Haddaway, who was credited with three caused turnovers, and Zach Wrisk (Ellicott City, Md./Howard), who finished with a team-high five ground balls and one caused turnover.