Morning Jac: Thoughts on the MCLA Finals
The MCLA semifinal Friday is one of the longest days of the year, with four games piled on top of each other. As a result, I was fried when I posted my last story around 11 p.m. local.
With a decent night's sleep, I'm rejuvenated and ready for a great day of finals.
As I was waiting by the elevator at the hotel last night, I bumped in Dan Morris, the long-time tournament director for the MCLA (who does a really nice job). He looked haggard, and I mentioned that there was just one more day left. His response: "It's kind of too bad. Today had some great games."
No kidding. Three one-goal games, including a game decided in a fourth overtime, and a fourth contest that was back-and-forth for most of the time. Exciting contests definitely makes the length of the day not quite as daunting.
Still, there is one more evening remaining featuring the biggest games in each division.
The Division II championship, which begins at 3 p.m. local (5 p.m. EDT) and will be broadcast live on Fox College Sports, will feature Davenport and St. Thomas. The Panthers ended top-seeded Grand Valley State's run at an undefeated season with a four-overtime victory, 16-15, while the Tommies solved Dayton in the second half to take a 12-11 win.
If history is any indication between these teams, I could probably write the game story now. In the last three meetings – the 2009 and 2010 national semifinals and the regular season game this spring – Davenport has raced out to a substantial lead, only to have the Tommies rally for the victory.
"Coach Clarkson said we should just spot them five goals to start the game and get it over with," joked St. Thomas head coach Pete Moosbrugger in between the Division I semifinals. "I told him, 'We can't do that because then we'd be down by 10 goals."
Bob Clarkson, Davenport's head coach, has his team peaking at just the right time. After struggling earlier in the season with chemistry issues, Davenport has turned this year's tourney into a revenge tour. They housed Briarcliffe, a team that beat the Panthers 10-7 in late March, 23-10 in the quarterfinals and then followed that up with the win over GVSU, which avenged a pair of losses to the Lakers. Now the Tommies are on the docket.
It will be a difficult assignment for Davenport. Not just because St. Thomas is playing very well and has the best player in the division in Joe Costello, but due to the impact that a four-overtime game is going to have on a team playing the next day. Conditioning will be a key factor to keep an eye on in this game.
If the Panthers have a lead after three quarters, it's time to think upset. If they're leading after one? Well, history tells us to let it play out a little more.
The Division I championship game, which will be at 6 p.m. local (8 p.m. EDT) and also broadcast on Fox College Sports, will feature Brigham Young and Arizona State. Feels kind of weird just writing that after three years of Michigan madness, but the Sun Devils ended the Wolverines run with a 7-6 victory to advance while the Cougars dispatched conference rival Colorado State, 14-11.
If Arizona State is going to win the championship this year, they'll have to follow a similar path as the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. It sometimes gets lost to history, but the Miracle on Ice came in the semifinals, and TeamUSA still had defeat a good Finland team in the championship game. If the U.S. doesn't win that game, the win over the Soviets is just a footnote. The fact they wore gold at the end is what makes the story.
Same with the Sun Devils. They've vanquished the unbeatable, three-time defending champions, but if they fall short against BYU for the title, their win over the Wolverines is simply a sidebar.
It certainly won't be easy. The Cougars are playing excellent lacrosse and have an offense with more dynamic players than Michigan possesses (outside of Trevor Yealy). However, Arizona State has only allowed 17 goals in three games, which includes match-ups against the Nos. 4 and 1 seeds.
If BYU wants to win this game, they'll have to do it on the defensive end. They should be able to get some goals, but not a lot, so they'll have to find a way to slow down Eric Nelson and Ryan Westfall.
I expect both games today to follow the mold of the semifinal games, which means another exciting day.