No. 2 seed Pacific scored twice in the final 3:19 of Saturday’s NCAA Championship semifinal to overcome a one-goal Stanford lead and end the Cardinal’s title hopes in an 11-10 decision at Avery Aquatic Center.
Stanford (22-6) will now take on St. Francis Brooklyn in Sunday’s Third-Place Game at 1 p.m.
Forrest Watkins put the Cardinal ahead 10-9 with 3:19 to play with a lob into the corner as Stanford beat Pacific in transition. But the lead would last less than a minute as Pacific equalized at even strength on a goal from Balazs Erdelyi. The teams traded possessions until Pacific earned a 6-on-5 with 54 seconds to play, and took just nine seconds to convert its seventh power-play goal of the game.
Stanford faced a tough road to tie, as top players Alex Bowen and Forrest Watkins were each out of the game with three ejections, but the Cardinal still managed to carve out two more chances. The first came when BJ Churnside hit the post from a tough angle but recovered his rebound. The Cardinal drew a kickout with 14 seconds remaining but Nick Hoversten’s one-timer went over the crossbar with just five seconds remaining.
“I’m proud of the guys, I think they did a great job, a fantastic job scoring a lot of natural goals, which we had to because we weren’t getting exclusions,” said Stanford head coach John Vargas. “This game was to our liking. I thought we had them the whole time.”
The Cardinal had battled its way back from early two-goal deficits to finally overtake the Tigers late in the third period. The Tigers five of its first six goals on the power play to get out to a 6-4 halftime lead. Stanford had pulled to within just a goal three times but struggled to draw even.
That would change in the third frame, as Conner Cleary scored 2:01 into the second half to make it 6-5, and the Cardinal defense responded with stops. Stanford went on the power play with 4:28 to go in the frame and scored two seconds later as Alex Bowen, who scored three times on the day, made it 6-6.
Kevin Oliveira put Pacific back in front just 20 seconds later, but the Cardinal would strike again on the power play, this time getting a score from Paul Rudolph at the 2:29 mark. Nearly a minute and a half later the Cardinal had its first lead of the game since scoring the game’s first goal when Churnside scored to make it 8-7.
“Once it got back to 6-6 momentum kept shifting back and forth,” Watkins said about the final period. “There’d be a goal, some down time, then a goal for the other team, then back to tied. It was just a lot of shifting momentum.”
In my opinion [Forrest] had a great game. Not to put a lot of pressure on Forrest but as he goes we go,” Vargas said. “That’s the way it’s been since he got here. He had a great game. He needed more help from the perimeter guys.
Pacific drew even 23 seconds before the end of the frame, and the teams would trade goals up until Obert’s winner in the final minute.
Each goalie, Drew Holland for Stanford and Alex Malkis for Pacific, made 12 saves in the contest.
Stanford – 1 3 4 2 = 10
Pacific – 3 3 2 3 = 11
Stanford Goal Scorers: Bowen 3, Churnside 3, Bonanni, Cleary, Rudolph, Watkins
Pacific Goal Scorers: Erdelyi 2, Obert 2, Oliveira 2, Fleming, Laczkovics, Petrovic, Szabo, Tomasevic
Goalie Saves: - Holland 12 (S); Malkis 12 (P)