Thursday night’s game was truly a nail biter between Colorado State (9) and UC – Santa Barbara (15).
UCSB came into Fort Collins as hot as any team in the MCLA. The team had won six straight games, including Tuesday’s upset over Colorado (4). The high-scoring Gauchos were in for a much grittier game against the Rams. The final score of 5-4 indicates how narrow the 6′ wide goal can be some nights. However, both teams were able to find the back of the net during the most crucial moments of the game.
UCSB jumped out to a quick two-goal lead on great cuts and finishes by Michael Kerr and Andrew Ferguson. The Rams were able to recuperate and climb back into the driver’s seat with a three-goal run in the second quarter. The two teams continued to jockey for the lead through the second half, but it looked like Colorado State would be able to hold on for the win following an unassisted goal by Ashton Monheiser early in the fourth quarter.
The Rams were ready to celebrate at the end of regulation, but the Gauchos had other plans in mind. UCSB doubled the ball following a timeout with 34 seconds left in the game. They were able to force a quick turnover and get the ball to Ferguson for the game-tying goal with just 5 seconds remaining. The goal deflated the Rams, but the team quickly readied themselves for a battle in overtime.
“When that goal was scored I immediately thought, ‘Let’s get up and score a goal to finish this game on our terms. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and get a win.’”, said assistant coach, Brandon Hulett.
The Rams won the opening faceoff in overtime, but a strong ride from the Gauchos quickly earned them the possession. UCSB went on to dominate possession in the first overtime period, but the Rams defense held true. The defensive unit leaned heavily on goalie Jake Bender, who rewarded his teammates with his 13th save of the night to force a second overtime.
The CSU defense was up for the challenge of additional overtime periods. Junior Alec Gieser said it best during the break before the second OT, “I don’t care if we have to stay out here all night, we’re not letting them get to 5 goals.” Fortunately, the game was not destined to continue much longer.
Rams face-off specialist Ryan Chamberlain won the draw to start the second overtime period, and LSM John Sage controlled a critical ground ball to give the Rams the only possession they would need. Moments later, Monheiser found the stick of senior Colin Macdonald for the game-winning goal. The team was euphoric in the aftermath, as they stormed to the field to celebrate the victory.
“It’s an amazing feeling that my team has faith in me to be put in that position.”, said Macdonald. he continued, “I have to give Ashton Monheiser credit for finding me right in the middle. I was just in the right place and ready to stick it in the back of the net.”
The victory over UC-Santa Barbara was huge for Colorado State. The team was ecstatic to be on the winning side of this 2OT thriller, especially in front of their home crowd. This victory will help the Rams finally wash out the taste of defeat from losing to Oregon 9-8 (2OT) in their previous home game.
The Rams are now 5-2 on the season. They have yet to boast a dominant win, and in fact they have yet to win by more than three. Fortunately the team keeps finding ways to win, and the strength of their opponents has helped groom the Rams into a resilient unit. The team is forced to fight through adversity every time they step on the field. Their coaches hope the resiliency they’ve demonstrated so far this season will pay dividends later on.
“The talent across the nation just keeps getting better, and the teams we play each week in the MCLA are much stronger as a result. I think every team we have played this year has been great, and if the chips fell a little bit differently then our record would look much different as well.”, explained Rams head coach, Ted Fifield. “Our guys have fought hard and found ways to win this season. We’ll keep building upon that resiliency as we progress through the rest of our games.”
These close games have given the Rams the experience they will need as they head into their final six matches of the regular season. Colorado State plans to keep their current winning streak alive next week when their mettle is tested again by Utah Valley (25) and Utah State.