On Friday September 24th, Maroon and Gold piled into cars and took the drive down to Ames, Iowa to play in their first tournament of the year. With 2 Regional Tournament berths up for grabs, it was all to play for as they kicked off on Friday.
Maroon: Group Play
Maroon was placed in Group A, drawing them up against some very difficult opponents in Iowa State, University of St. Thomas, and University of Minnesota Duluth.
Maroon opened their tournament play Friday evening against a strong University of St. Thomas side making their debut in this tournament. Maroon started hot, finding goals from Assem Elsayad and a fantastic solo effort from Nathan Keller within the first 10 minutes. The balance of play through the game was relatively equal, with both sides finding intermittent chances, but Maroon held strong to their 2-0 advantage throughout the game as St. Thomas failed to capitalize on any chance. A fantastic result saw Maroon grab a vital 3 points towards making it out of the group.
The following morning, Maroon played another pre-tournament favorite in Iowa State. Iowa State had beaten Minnesota-Duluth 4-1 the previous night so this matchup would determine who would go top of group A. Iowa State started the more dangerous of the two sides, grabbing a goal midway through the first half from a set-play. It became a cagey affair, as Iowa state held on to their lead and Maroon couldn’t break down a stubborn Iowa State defence. Upon full time, Maroon left with a result that would be disappointing as they failed to claim top spot in group A, but still were left with a very good chance to advance providing they took care of business in their third group game.
Later in the day, Maroon closed their group play against Minnesota-Duluth. Maroon went into this game knowing a win would likely secure their place in the knockout rounds, with an outside shot at claiming first if other results went their way. They took some time to warm into the game, but eventually put 2 goals in to ease their nerves. Duluth pulled one back but that only served to spur Maroon on. Will Collins led the attack with a hat trick as Maroon pulled away to claim a 6-1 victory, and guarantee a spot in the knockout rounds. Iowa State ended up defeating St. Thomas in a close match so Maroon ended group play in second place.
Gold: Group Play
Gold was placed in group B, which would see them face Minnesota State University Mankato, Drake University, and University of Northern Iowa.
Gold kicked off their tournament late Friday night against Minnesota State Mankato. The team got off to a blinding start, netting 4 goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game starting with a Logan Rohloff strike, a Jasper Goldstein brace, and Sam Yarmulnik capped off the blitz. Carter Belisle added a late tally to take Gold into the half up 5-0. The second half was played out with relative ease, each side adding a goal as Yarmulnik secured a brace to give a final of 6-1.
Gold followed up the next day facing off against Drake university, who had also secured 3 points in their first match against UNI. Gold took control from the start, dictating play in the opposition half. The sustained pressure paid off early again as Rohloff finished from close range. He added another shortly after to take his tally to 3 goals in 2 games, and take Gold into half with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Gold saw off the second half in routine fashion, adding four goals from Avery Larsson, Owen Antonoplos, and a Belisle brace to run out dominant 6-0 winners.
The third and final match of the group pitted Gold against UNI. Despite losing both of their other group games, UNI proved to be a stubborn team early on, sitting back well and stifling Gold’s space in the offensive third. The breakthrough finally came from Yarmulnik finding a bit of space in the box to break the deadlock. Gold went up 2-0 minutes later, as Conor O’Rourke curled in a lovely left-footed effort into the far post. A dangerous cross was redirected by a UNI defender into their own net to put Gold up 3-0 into the break. With a solid lead, Gold exploited the space in behind UNI in the second half as the Panthers pushed forward in search of a goal. 2 second half goals were scored as Yarmulnik added a tally, and Gutu Regassa finished a penalty won by Cole Brzakala to leave Gold top of the group.
SEMI FINALS: Gold vs. Maroon
It was an all-Gopher affair in the semifinal, as Maroon’s second place finish in group A pitted them against Gold as the winners of group B with a qualification spot in the regional tournament up for grabs.
The match started strongly for Gold, generally pushing high and penning Maroon in their own half. A number of half-chances were created but nothing overly threatened Maroon early on. Gold broke the deadlock at 25 minutes, Yarmulnik placing a header directly from a Goldstein long throw into the bottom corner. O’Rourke doubled the lead minutes later, heading home from a corner. Maroon won a penalty in the final minute of the half, but was subsequently whistled off for an early entry into the box by Maroon’s players. With a solid lead but a scare at the end of the half, Gold regrouped at halftime and came out blazing in the second half. A 3 goal burst within the opening 10 minutes of the second half put Gold well and truly in control. Yarmulnik converted a penalty, and completed his hat-trick minutes later from a gorgeous cross and first-time finish. Belisle capped off the scoring with a simple finish. Maroon kept pushing and found a late goal, and the whistle blew shortly after to end the game at a 5-1 scoreline in favor of Gold.
Gold and Iowa State decided not to play the final on account of tired legs and a couple mounting injuries, and take the qualification spots won in the respective semi-finals. Overall, a successful tournament for both Gopher squads, as Maroon put together some impressive performances to get out of a challenging group, and Gold staked their claim as one of the strongest teams in the region. Gold now looks forward to the regional tournament in Colorado, as they look to move on to the National Championship Tournament. Stay tuned for more updates soon!
Ski-U-Mah and Go Gophers!