Regional Qualification Tournament Recap 2022: Gophers Claim Top Spot
*photo credit Sam Rode
The Gophers of Gold and Maroon both trekked down to Iowa State for the Cyclone Invitational, looking to bring home regional tournament qualification spots. Starting Friday night of the 30th, the Gophers went to work in their respective groups.
Maroon: Group Play
Maroon was placed into Group A with a couple familiar faces from last season's tournament: Iowa State, who Maroon dropped a hard-fought 1-0 battle to the year prior, St. Thomas, the Gophers already familiar with after a 1-1 draw earlier this season, and Drake.
Maroon vs. Iowa State
As their tournament opened with regional power Iowa State, Maroon had to be up for a fight from the start. Maroon acclimated quickly and battled well with Iowa State in the opening, matching Iowa State's physicality and attempting to control the ball themselves. It was a back and forth affair ultimately, not dissimilar from last years bout. Both sides held firm and it was clear the two sides were an even match. The game went on in the same manner, physicality ruling the contest as a healthy number of cards were dished out to both sides. The final whistle blew with the sides locked at 0-0 and sharing the spoils. Maroon will have been decently pleased with a point to open the tournament as they simply needed to take care of business in their other two games to advance.
Maroon vs. St. Thomas
Maroon had a quick turnaround, as the next morning saw them faced up against St. Thomas in another stern test for the Gophers. Minnesota started the brighter of the two sides, probing and finding some half-chances early on. Maroon kept up their play throughout the half and it paid dividends minutes before the half-time whistle. A ball looped over the head of the Tommies backline found Freshman Elias in behind. His attempt was well saved by the opposing keeper, but he could only deflect it into the path of an oncoming Freshman Dragicchio, who anticipated the ricochet and found the bottom corner of the net with his follow-up. The second half saw the Gophers stifle the Tommies midfield, and they weren't able to muster a response as Maroon saw out a 1-0 scoreline to claim a vital 3 points.
Maroon vs. Drake
Unfortunately, Drake had to forfeit their match with Maroon, so Maroon was awarded an automatic 3-0 win. The result meant that Maroon finished their group with 7 points and a +4 goal difference.
Maroon guaranteed into the next round, they awaited the result of St. Thomas (3 points with a +3 goal difference) vs. Iowa State (4 points with a +3 goal difference) to see whether they would top the group or finish in second. Iowa State emerged with a 3-1 victory over the Tommies, so they took the top spot in group A over Maroon on goal difference. Maroon would play against Minnesota State as runners up in group B to determine a 3rd place winner.
Gold: Group Play
Gold was placed into Group B, facing them up against Northern Iowa, Minnesota - Duluth, and Minnesota State Mankato.
Gold vs. Northern Iowa
Gold got themselves off to a flyer, netting a strike from the feet of Freshman Hoyt within the first 2 minutes. Gold added two more in the next ten minutes from Hoyt and Goldstein, both assisted by Yarmulnik, to take a comfortable 3-0 lead. A miscommunication at the back let Northern Iowa back into the game at 3-1, but Versteeg calmed the Gophers with an Olympico goal just 3 minutes later to restore the 3 goal cushion. Gold came out in the second half well in control, and added 4 more tallies from Brzakala, Remington, Belisle, and Yarmulnik to claim an 8-1 victory in their tournament opener.
Gold vs. Minnesota - Duluth
The following morning, Gold faced off against Minnesota-Duluth, who had lost their opening match to Minnesota State 6-0. Gold took some time to get into the game, scoring their opening goal off an O'Rourke header 10 minutes in to the contest. The Gophers would add 2 more before half from a calm finish from Asmelash and a keeper Scheib assist, and a lovely curled strike from James. Up 3-0 at half, the Gophers knew ultimately they should be doing better, and rectified it in the second half. Yarmulnik put in his second of the tournament, and Remington followed with his second of the tournament just after. Ortwein opened his tournament account on a nice cutback from Asmelash, and Remington added two more smart finishes to cap off a hat trick. Brzakala put the finishing touches on an emphatic 9-0 win, putting the Gophers in first place on goal difference.
Gold vs. Minnesota State
A matchup that pitted 1st vs. 2nd, the winner of this game would claim top spot in Group B. Like against Duluth, Gold was firmly in control from the start but failed to make their early chances pay. They grabbed two goals in quick succession from the feet of Yarmulnik and Asmelash, and the two teams would go into half with a 2-0 lead to the Gophers. The squad knew ultimately they hadn't been as clinical as they should have, but saw out the second half with a bit more clinical edge as 3 goals were added from Brzakala, Belisle, and Remington adding his 5th of the tournament in 3 games. Gold ran out comfortable 5-0 winners, and claimed top spot in group B to set up a championship showdown with the host Iowa State the following morning.
As Gold finished top in group B with 9 points and a +21 goal difference, they would play against Iowa State as the other group winners to declare a tournament winner.
Maroon vs. Minnesota State: Third Place playoff
Maroon played out a cagey affair with Minnesota State, as they had the better of play but ultimately couldn't make the Mavericks pay. Having to be wary of Minnesota State's pace up front, Maroon stifled the Mavericks counters well throughout the whole game. The whistle blew with the two sides deadlocked at 0-0, and extra time with golden goal would have to be played to find a winner. Early in to the first half of extra time, a free kick was won by the Mavericks just into Maroon's half. The free kick was launched in to the box, catching everyone unaware as the ball carried further than anticipated and found the top corner of the goal. The Mavericks free kick would be the last kick of the game as the goal let them claim 3rd place in the tournament with a 1-0 OT victory over Maroon.
Gold vs. Iowa State: Championship Game
Gold looked up for it from the start, utterly controlling all areas of the field against the Cyclones. Hoyt in particular was terrorizing their full back, as he committed several fouls as Hoyt had the beating of him over and over. Gold didn't take long to make their play pay off, as Hoyt beat his full back once again and slotted a smart finish out of reach of the keeper. Remington continued his goalscoring streak as he found his 6th of the tournament just over halfway through the first half to put Gold firmly in control at 2-0. Ziegert would put the final touches on a sublime half by the Gophers, a mazy dribble and curled finish leaving the Gophers sitting pretty at 3-0. The Cyclones tried to come out with more physicality in the second half, but Gold took it in stride, continuing to stifle any attempt at Iowa State playing with the ball. A Gold penalty was missed as the Gophers failed to add to their lead, but Iowa State was still getting no joy. A late consolation meant the match finished at 3-1 to the Gophers, a scoreline that doesn't show quite how dominant Gold were.
A good weekend overall for the Gophers, as Maroon pulled off some good results against tough opposition and just missed out on top spot in the group by goal difference, and Gold put on several dominant displays to top their group and comfortably claimed a championship win against Iowa State. With their win, Gold claims top seed out of the Midwest for the regional tournament this month, as they set their eyes on qualifying for the national tournament. More to come soon!
Ski U Mah!