May 17, 2012

Colorado State's 'D' Ends BYU Repeat Hopes

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Patrick Sullivan was part of the Colorado State defense that held Brigham Young to its lowest output of the season. The Rams 11-5 victory sent them on to the national championship game against Cal Poly on Saturday, where they will seek their MCLA-record fifth title.

Standing outside his locker room at Sirrine Stadium watching the final moments of the first MCLA Division I semifinal, Colorado State head coach Alex Smith jokingly said that he loves playing Brigham Young, the Rams blood rival, in the tournament.

"It makes scouting a lot easier," he said with a chuckle.

As he stood on the field after CSU (15-2) completed dominated the defending national champions, 11-5, and with his young son pulling at his pocket to go play back at the hotel, Smith admitted to a completely different feeling about meeting BYU (18-3) for the third time.

"There were parts of this game that I didn't enjoy," Smith said. "I don't enjoy that ugliness that sometimes happens as part of this rivalry. When we lost last year, I felt like I made a fool out of myself and I've been striving all year not to get to that point with [BYU], but it's so hard because the temperature is so high and it's easy for things to boil."

For one of the few times in the MCLA's premier rivalry, this contest barely reached a simmer.

From the opening quarter, it was all Colorado State, thanks mostly to the play of CSU attackman Austin Fisher, who factored in on eight of the Rams' 11 markers on the evening, and a defense that smothered the Cougars.

After feeling each other for the first five minutes, Fisher scored a pair of goals barely over a minute apart, with the second coming on an assist from Tim Taggart. Fisher returned the favor on the Rams third goal by sending a skip pass up to where Taggart ripped a shot stick-side high.

Before the quarter was out, the lead bumped up to 4-0 after Dustin Grybinas finished a feed from Alex Devlin.

The march continued in the second as Fisher started things off by completing his hat trick and then set up Sean Smith for bomb high on the left side to balloon the advantage to 6-0.

"The defense just kept giving us the ball, which is nice," said Fisher, who finished with five goals and three assists. "And our offense was really moving well and working for each other. I was getting looks because our middies and attackmen were working so hard."

"Austin is tough to guard because he's not the type of guy who goes to the cage a lot," said Smith. "He's really good in a lot of different situations. A lot of times he has missed those goals he buried tonight, and that's the sign of a mature player."

After nearly 25 minutes of scoreless play, Patrick Matheson finally put the Cougars on the board with a bull-dodge and bounce shot to cut the lead to 6-1.

With the teams apparently headed to halftime, LSM Grayson Dahl took a desperation shot at the cage from 20 yards out that Ted Ferrin scooped up and backhanded into the net with one second left to narrow the margin even further at the break.

The momentum was short-lived, however. Daniel Warfield won the opening faceoff, sprinted down the field and fed Fisher all alone on the crease to push the lead back to five, 7-2. The bulge would expand all the way to 10-2 at the beginning of the fourth quarter as BYU could not solve the stingy Rams defense.

"The thing is we had the same struggle in the conference championship game," said BYU head coach Matt Schneck, referring to the Cougars 14-7 loss to CSU in the RMLC title tilt. "I thought we had figured it out, but I'm getting the sense that we were a little stagnant and things that were working against other teams weren't working against a great team like CSU. They did a good job in stifling our offense, and that impacts the entire game."

What is the key to the Ram mastery of the usually prolific Cougars' offense?

"We definitely have a little plan, and maybe I'll talk about on Sunday," said Smith, coyly. "You've got to cover Ted Ferrin. He is always at the top of the scouting report and you can't let them run in transition because they are so good. All we've been talking about for the past two days is not letting them run."

It also helped having closed defender Hayden Porter, who was locked up Ferrin – the nation's leading scorer – allowing just two goals on six shots.

"That's a tough match-up for anybody in the country and he hung in there," said Smith of Porter's work against Ferrin. "But I think he'd tell you that his brothers were helping him out tonight, as well."

Joining Fisher with big nights were Taggart with two goals and an assist and Alex Devlin with three assists. Jack Regan turned away eight shots to pick up the win in net. Ferrin and Corey Gunderson paced BYU with a pair of goals each while Wes Goar and Rob Ostler combined for eight saves.

Colorado State returns to the championship game for the first time since 2007, and they will be seeking their MCLA-best fifth championship against a Cal Poly squad that beat the Rams in Fort Collins earlier this spring.

"I think we have the ride home to enjoy this and then tomorrow it's all about recovering and starting to game-plan for Cal Poly," said Fisher. "Cal Poly is a great team. It was an overtime loss, so we know we can play them close."

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