plural momenta play \-ˈmen-tə\ or momentums
- The wagon gained momentum as it rolled down the hill.
That’s a fairly simplistic example and the word itself is probably overused in sports these days, but if you’ve ever witnessed momentum take over a game or lived through it (for better or worse), especially in a championship game, it’s an incredible thing to behold.
For the two teams that faced off in the 2018 NCLL DII National Championship, Stevens and RIT, momentum was the name of both of their games.
A momentous scoring run during the Elite 8 round vaulted the Stevens Ducks past the 2nd-seeded Akron Zips, while a stunning 9 goal run gave the RIT Tigers their Final Four victory over West Chester, the defending DII champs. So both of these teams had proven they can score goals in bunches…….plenty of goals in bunches.
We spoke of RIT’s ability to humiliate a goaltender in our DII Elite 8 recap, but we failed to give the Ducks attack unit the praise they probably deserve. The Ducks worst offensive performance of the year was 6 goals (back in February in the snow), it’s best was 18 and they topped 12 goals an impressive 9 times through 14 games.
So both squads had firepower, but who could capture the momentum and take home the 2018 DII crown?
Stevens drew first blood as Alex Kennedy scored unassisted to get the Ducks on the board first. Then, RIT standout attackman Rob Mejia scored the first of his three first half goals to get things rolling for the Tigers. Tom Lawson converted a John Marchese pass into Stevens 2nd goal of the day, just before Mejia repeated his earlier move, racing from behind the cage to bury a right-handed shot into the Stevens net. Game tied, 2-2.
Mejia proved he could do more than dodge, finding Tyler Oakley on the crease for his first goal to give the Tigers the lead for the first time at 3-2. Long pole defensemen, Tom Russo followed up with an unassisted coast to coast effort of his own to stretch the RIT lead to 4-2.
Both teams traded goals before the Ducks regrouped, slowed the ball on offense and began to find their stride.
Down 5-3, the Ducks shooters came to life, scoring 5 unanswered goals to take back the lead at 8-5. Five different scorers contributed during the Stevens onslaught, which was capped off with a sick behind the back goal by Ducks middie Tom Lawson.
Mejia stopped the bleeding for RIT when he buried a Jason Bogacz feed to make the score 8-6. Mejia added his 4th of the day unassisted to bring the Tigers to within 1 at 8-7. Both teams would trade goals once again as RIT had appeared to have slowed the Stevens offense.
But then it all went south for the Tigers.
- The Ducks gained momentum as they rolled into the 4th quarter.
The Ducks went on yet another run, scoring the next 6 of 7 goals, turning a 9-8 nail-bitter into a comfortable 14-9 Stevens lead, all while chewing up a considerable amount of clock.
Zach Eberding got things rolling with an unassisted behind the back goal off a loose ball. The Ducks followed that up with scores from Alex Gaydos and Roy Standing. After RIT’s Justin Ross netted his first for the Tigers, Standing found the net again for Stevens, off an assist from JP Southern. Chris Gaydos netted the final goal for the Ducks before Vikram Singh scored the final tally of the game for RIT, but that would be the Tigers final score of the day….and the 2018 season.
Ballgame: Stevens 14, RIT 10.
Mejia lead the Tiger with 4 goals and 3 assists, while Tyler Oakley added 2.
With 14 goals, the Stevens offense managed to do what no other DII squad managed to do all season versus the Tigers, score more than 9 goals. Roy Standing was the Ducks high scorer on the day with 3 goals. Alex Kennedy and Tom Lawson netted 2.
But despite the Ducks offensive prowess, the weekend belonged to their goaltender John Castro, who ended with 12 saves on the day and took home the game’s Most Valuable Player award. The junior netminder played out of his mind all weekend compiling 35 saves over 3 games, and was clutch in the 4th quarter. Castro’s championship showing was the fitting climax to what was an amazing 2018 for himself and the Ducks defense, as they recorded 2 shut-outs and held opponents under 4 goals a staggering 10 times in 15 games.
More images of the DII finals action can be found in our online gallery.