TOWSON, Md. — Goucher spent a lot of time and expended a lot of energy this afternoon trying to battle back after spotting the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy a 5-0 advantage. But it was well worth it, because the Gophers caught the Mariners in the third quarter when Sam Woodruff (Glen Ridge, N.J./Kent School) tallied his second extra-man goal of the contest with :08.9 showing on the clock.
Unfortunately, all the momentum that Goucher generated in the third period didn't carry over to the final stanza. In fact, the 7-7 tie created by Woodruff's goal held up until, with 9.2 seconds remaining, Troy Smith stuck an unassisted even-strength goal that allowed the Mariners to depart Beldon Field with an 8-7 victory.
It was the first Landmark Conference game of the season for both teams.
For most of the first half, there was no reason to think this one might go down to the wire like it did. The Mariners (2-2, 1-0 Landmark) got on the scoreboard first with an unassisted goal by Chris Whitenack just 1:16 into the contest and then nursed their 1-0 lead for nearly 10 minutes before adding three more goals in the final four minutes of the period.
Before Owen Demmerly (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) produced Goucher's first goal midway through the second quarter, Merchant Marine went up 5-0 thanks to a goal by Tucker Dodson. The Gophers (5-3, 0-1 Landmark) closed to within 5-2 on a goal by Sam Morgan (Wilmot, N.H./Kearsarge Regional) with 5:32 remaining before halftime, but the Mariners got that one back in the form of a Nick Treon goal with under three seconds left in the period.
Troy Smith restored Merchant Marine's lead to five goals when he opened the scoring in the second half with an unassisted tally. Still stuck on two goals midway through the third quarter, Goucher closed out the period with its run of five straight goals to tie the score at 7-all. The run began with an unassisted goal by Jake Ziegler (Buffalo, N.Y./Nichols School), then Morgan followed with his team-high 16th goal of the season and Connor Annunziato (West Chester, Pa./Bayerd Rustin) got into the scoring act with 2:29 remaining with an unassisted goal.
With a Merchant Marine defenseman serving one minute in the penalty box for unnecessary roughness, Woodruff cashed in the first of his two man-up goals with 1:53 left to play in the third quarter to make the score 7-6. The senior midfielder duplicated that feat, this time with a Mariner off for 30 seconds for offsides, in the closing seconds of the period to cap the comeback.
Gavin Wilson (Charlestown, Pa./Great Valley) assisted both of Woodruff's extra-man goals.
The Gophers had several scoring opportunities early in the fourth quarter. They got off three shots during a 30-second extra-man opportunity and two more before their possession ended, but all five were wide. On their next possession, a laser shot by Wilson hit the post.
Later in the period, Goucher successfully killed two penalties, leaving Merchant Marine with an 0-for-6 performance on man-up situations.
The Gophers were unable to get off a shot on either of their final two possessions while the score was still tied. Although they successfully cleared the ball on the first possession and held it for more than a minute, they turned it over prior to a shot; on the second, which began with Blake Russell (Pasadena, Md./Northeast) forcing a turnover, the clear attempt failed.
Russell finished with four caused turnovers.
Even though this is Merchant Marine's third straight win over Goucher, which includes a 6-5 triumph in the 2013 Landmark Conference semifinals, the Gophers still enjoy a healthy 9-4 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools.
Goucher doesn't play again until next Saturday when it travels to Washington, Pa., for a Landmark Conference encounter with Washington & Jefferson. The opening faceoff it scheduled for 1 p.m.