May 17, 2012

Numbers Weren't Pretty, But Cal Poly Bests ASU

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Scott Heberer scored a pair of goals and set up a third, helping Cal Poly knock off Arizona State, 10-4, and send the Mustangs to the first national championship appearance in program history.
© Cecil Copeland

Any coach will tell you that there is only one stat that matters.

That was certainly the case in the MCLA Division I semifinals, where Cal Poly (21-1) was dominated in just about every statistical category except the most important one as the Mustangs rolled to a 10-4 victory against Arizona State (13-5) on Thursday night in Greenville, S.C.

The Sun Devils held an advantage in shots (37-27) and ground balls (42-30), while dominating at the faceoff dot, winning 15-of-17 draws.

"We'll take it," said Cal Poly head coach Marc Lea. "We're not really concerned about stats right now. And faceoffs are such an arbitrary stat because they technically won them, but we did a good job of preventing them from doing anything with it. They picked up the ball, and we were on them."

Helping Cal Poly offset the lack of statistical prowess was superb goalie play by the platoon of Nick Czapla and Bo Dunnahoo-Kirsch, who both made eight saves.

"Both of them played great," Lea said. "Czapla played great in the first half and we considered not making the switch, but that has been working for us all season, so we went with what we have been doing. And B-K played just as well."

It also helped to have a dominating defensive effort. The Mustangs held ASU to its second-lowest goal total of the season, allowing just one goal over the final 30:51 seconds of the contest.

"Our defense was on point today," said Lea. "We worked as well together as a unit as we've ever done. All of our slides were in place and they didn't have the players to break us down one-on-one to get us out of position."

The game – and the frustration level for Arizona State – was set early on as Cal Poly posted a prohibitive lead and parried the lone charge by the Sun Devils.

Matt Graupmann scored two of his four goals to open the game and the lead expanded to 3-0 with 1:58 in the opening stanza when Tim Albo delivered off a dish from Zach Jones. The bulge expanded to 4-0 with 10:56 left in the second quarter on a Scott Heberer strike, prompting a timeout by Arizona State.

The break paid dividends for the Devils as 51 seconds later ASU broke through with a marker by Logan Quinn. Justin Straker finished off a dish from Payson Clark before Quinn struck again to narrow the gap to 4-3 with 5:19 left in the half.

Demonstrating their quick-strike prowess, the Mustangs scored twice in the final 51 seconds of the second stanza – one by Heberer and the other by Albo with 10 ticks left before the break.

Graupmann completed his hat trick in the opening minutes of the third quarter before Cooper Pickell spun on the crease for a quick bouncer past Dunnahoo-Kirsch to keep the deficit at three, 7-4, with 11 minutes remaining in the third.

The rest of the quarter was dominated by the defenses as Graupmann's fourth was the only other score, sending the Mustangs into the final stanza with an 8-4 cushion. Dunnahoo-Kirsh pitched a scoreless fourth quarter (and kept ASU of the board for the final 24 minutes) while Poly added two more for the 10-4 cushion.

Cal Poly now advances to the national championship game, and will face the winner of the Colorado State-Brigham Young game on Saturday night at 9 p.m. It's the first title game appearance for the Mustangs in program history.

"We've gone through a lot of disappointment in the past years losing in the first round, so it was nice to be able to push through and play for a national championship," said Heberer.

Graupmann's four goals led the way for Poly while Heberer had two goals and a helper. Quinn had two of the Sun Devils four goals while Dylan Westfall made six saves in the loss.

Cal Poly may have lost the statistical battle in this game, but they are certainly trending positively when it comes to the final score. After needing double overtime in the first round against Minnesota-Duluth and beating Michigan State by a goal in the quarterfinals, the six-point win was a welcome change.

"We were on the brink with UMD," Lea said. "I don't think people know how close we were to being out of here. It was a second life for us and we took advantage of it."

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