ROUND ROCK, Texas – Utah goalie Zach Tripp made 12 saves and the defense in front of him put in a sparkling performance helping the No. 5 Utes stun No. 1 St. Thomas, 7-6, in the first Division II semifinal at the 2022 MCLA National Championship presented by New Balance.
Utah (13-3), in its first season back in the MCLA, advances to Saturday’s championship game where they will meet the winner of the Rhode Island-Montana contest.
The Utes opened up the scoring when Cort Rogers bounced a shot into the top of the net. That 1-0 lead would stand up for the better part of the first before the scoring heated up.
Tanner Whitmore knotted the game with just under two minutes left. With 40 ticks remaining, Cade Rogers pushed the Utes back into the lead and was followed 20 seconds later by a goal from Trevor Douglis.
St. Thomas (15-4) wasn’t done as faceoff man Carsen Kost won the draw and sprinted down the field, drawing the Tommies back to within one, 3-2, with a low shot that beat Tripp.
The Tommies finally tied the game at threes midway through the second on another goal from Whitmore.
Kenny Diamond finished a pass from Cort Rogers to give the Utes the lead back and long-stick middie Connor Kuhl went coast-to-coast and potted a goal with just three seconds left in the half for a 5-3 edge.
The lead ballooned to 6-3 late in the third quarter. The play started with Tripp making a spectacular stop on a St. Thomas one-timer, which triggered a fast break that was finished out off by Jack Hindley.
The Tommies answered 19 seconds later off a fast break finished by Leif Benson to cut the margin back to 6-4. St. Thomas clawed to within a goal 2:13 into the final stanza when Jacob Dahl finished in front of the cage after a scramble.
Both defenses locked down for much of the fourth quarter before Douglis streaked in front of the crease and dove for a pretty goal that pushed the margin to 7-5 with 1:58 remaining.
St. Thomas managed to cut it to 7-6 with 1:45 left on a fast-break marker from Garrett Hoch, but the Utes ran out the rest of the time for the upset.
Douglis’ two goals led the way offensively for Utah, but the defense, especially the short-stick defensive middies, was outstanding.
Whitmore led St. Thomas with his two goals while Gunner Arens made 10 stops in cage.