May 21, 2011

Davenport Finishes Revenge Tour, Stuns St. Thomas for National Championship

by Jac Coyne | | Twitter

Cody Cross (above) had a goal and an assist in the MCLA Division II national championship game, helping Davenport end the two-year run by St. Thomas as top dogs. The Panthers raise the trophy for the first time.
© Cecil Copeland

The 2011 Davenport Revenge Tour is officially complete.

With an overwhelming 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter, the Panthers erased an 8-6 deficit at the end of the three quarters and coasted to a 14-9 win over St. Thomas in the MCLA Division II national championship game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., on Saturday afternoon.

The win not only halts the Tommies’ quest for a third consecutive national championship, but allowed Davenport to avenge four of its five losses this spring on its way to the title.

It started with a rout of No. 4 Briacliffe in the quarterfinals, followed by a four-overtime victory against top-seeded Grand Valley State, which beat the Panthers twice this season. The Panthers finished up with the win over St. Thomas, which beat DU during the regular season.

Davenport took a slightly different route to the win than the previous two tournament contests. Instead of racing out to a quick start like they did against Briarcliffe and Grand Valley, the Panthers looked sluggish against St. Thomas. They managed only a pair of goals in the first half and six after three quarters.

Then everything changed.

With a series of crease finishes, along with a sprinkling of low-to-high rips and near-breakaways, the Panthers smashed the Tommies, culminating with a Taylor Keyworth empty-net goal with 2:01 in the game to give the Panthers a 14-8 lead.

“Letting them get a lead sure wasn’t my strategy,” laughed Davenport head coach Bob Clarkson. “We scored two goals in the first half and 12 in the second half. That’s a flip of what usually happens for us. I think our guys just had the will to overcome being tired and the soreness.”

“We played our game and we didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Shawn Beer, who finished with game-high six points (4g, 2a). “We went down a couple of goals, but we battled back and went hard.”

St. Thomas, which had shown such poise when confronted with challenges in the past two national championship game, wilted under the Davenport onslaught.

“It looked like we lost our legs and stopped getting back on defense,” said St. Thomas coach Pete Moosbrugger. “They got on a run and we didn’t stop it. We just didn’t answer. And I thought we had them. I thought we had them.”

Over the course of the first three quarters, it did look like the Tommies had Davenport right where they wanted them, especially considering the pace of play.

The first eight minutes of action featured exactly one shot on goal, and that was an end-to-end sprint by close defender Kevin Gause, who netted his fifth of the year on a bounce shot past Zach Higgins. Davenport struck back with 1:10 left in the first quarter as Beer ripped a low shot to the far side past Thomas Thone for a man-up goal.

Will Hersman rolled to the right from up top and unleashed a shot at the beginning of the period that stuck in the low corner. Just 49 seconds later, the lead expanded to 3-1 when Nikolas Colpitts beat his defender at the top of the box and walked in.

Davenport would pare the lead to one goal when Dominic Boggiano hit a cutting Jordan Richstsmeier, who connected on a short bounce shot over Thone’s shoulder at 6:46 of the second. That goal was matched just a minute later, however, when David Burke rocketed a shot top shelf off a dish from Pete Carbonneau. The Panthers had a great opportunity to sneak with in one with 10 seconds left in the half, but Thone shut the door on a low shot.

St. Thomas expanded its lead to four goals at the start of the second half as Hersman set up Carbonneau before netting one himself a minute later for a 6-2 lead. With the game perilously close to getting out of hand, Davenport would answer, scoring four of the next five goals to cut the lead to 7-6. Keyworth scored two of the goals, including the one to draw the Panthers to within one at 4:14 of the third.

Before the period ended, it was Gause – the Tommies long pole – who again sparked the offense, this time with a crease feed that Mike Fitzgerald fired high for an 8-6 bulge heading into the fateful fourth.

Lost in Davenport’s surge in the final period was the play of Panthers goalie Alexis Buque, part of Clarkson’s goalie platoon with Higgins (4 saves). Although Buque let in two soft early goals to give the Tommies a 6-2 lead at the start of the half, he settled down, finishing with 11 saves in the second half.

“I just tried to stay focused and let it go,” said Buque of the rough start. “I tried to have a short memory and move onto the next shot.”

“In the end, when we were trying to get back into the game he came up huge,” said Moosbrugger of Buque. “In the fourth quarter you need a goalie to come up big.” 

Joining Beer with big offensive days for Davenport was Keyworth (4g, 1a) and Baggiano (1g, 4a) with five points apiece. Cody Cross chipped in with a goal and an assist.

Fitzgerald had three goals to lead St. Thomas while Thone finished with seven saves. The Davenport defense held Tommies All-American Joe Costello off the score sheet.

Davenport becomes the fifth different team to earn an MCLA Division II championship, completing their revenge tour in style. Now they are the ones with the bulls-eye on their back.

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