SCRANTON, Pa. — Goucher earned a spot in the championship game of the Landmark Conference postseason tournament for the fifth time in the seven-year history of the conference by ambushing second-seeded Scranton, 8-4, tonight in the semifinals.
With the victory, which came just four days after the Royals downed the Gophers, 8-7, in the final game of the regular season for both teams, head coach Brian Kelly's squad advances to play top-seeded Susquehanna in the finals. The winner of that game, which is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at Sassafras Field in Selinsgrove, Pa., will represent the Landmark Conference in the NCAA Division III Championships.
The score at the end of the first quarter of tonight's game was 1-1, identical to what it was after the opening 15 minutes when the two teams clashed Saturday afternoon in Gopher Stadium. In both games, Alec Mikrut scored the goal to put the Royals up 1-0; tonight it was a goal by Dylan Zook (Purcellville, Va./Loudoun Valley) with just 35 remaining in the period that knotted the score up at 1-1.
Scranton regained the lead just 2:45 into the second quarter on a goal by Brad Elkin, but all four of the next four goals belonged to the Gophers (7-7), who departed the field after 30 minutes on top, 5-2. The four-goal run started with a pair of unassisted goals by Pierce Ingram (Austin, Texas/Westwood), included an unassisted tally by Owen Demmerly (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) and concluded with an even-strength goal by Sam Morgan (Wilmot, N.H./Kearsarge Regional) that was set up by Sam Woodruff (Glen Ridge, N.J./Kent School).
The two teams combined for 18 shots in the third quarter, but the only one that reached its destination was one by Scranton's Will Mahle, but Goucher still entered the final period ahead 5-3.
The Royals (10-7) narrowed the gap to 5-4 on a goal by Ryan Mygatt less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, but less than a minute later, the Gophers were back up by two thanks to another unassisted goal by Ingram. With his three-goal effort tonight, he became the third player for Goucher to reach the 20-goal plateau in 2014, joining Morgan and Zook, who came in with 23 and 21 goals, respectively.
Morgan stuck his team-high 25th goal of the season midway through the fourth period, extending Goucher's advantage to 7-4 and Steve Patterson (Minneapolis, Minn./Blake School) closed out the scoring with an unassisted goal in the final minute.
Goucher's defense was nearly as nasty as the weather forecast, although the only precipitation that fell during the contest was a on-and-off-again light drizzle. After the Royals closed to within 5-4 in the fourth quarter, the Gophers limited them to only eight shots over the final 13:05, five of which were stopped by starting goalkeeper Karl Wiszumerski (Pottstown, Pa./The Hill School) or blocked by a defender.
Wiszumerski finished with nine saves.
Through the first three periods, ground balls were 18 for each team, but in the final 15 minutes, Goucher came up with 12 loose balls compared to only five by Scranton.
The man-down unit killed off the only time-served penalty that was assessed against the Gophers. In the last three games, including tonight's, opponents are 0-for-10 on extra-man opportunities.