Towson, MD – The fourth seeded United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners (9-7, 3-3 Landmark) upset the top ranked Gophers of Goucher College (8-8, 6-0 Landmark) by a score of 6-5 Wednesday night in Towson, MD.
Goucher, who has won two of the last three Landmark Conference Champions failed to reach the finals for the first time since 2009, the last time Merchant Marine took home the Landmark crown.
The win marks USMMA's first win over the Gophers since joining the Landmark Conference in 2008.
The first half of the contest was a defensive struggle culminating in a total of four goals being scored.
Merchant Marine got on the board first at the 7:15 mark as sophomore midfielder Troy Smith (Deer Park, TX) fired a rocket past Goucher's goalkeeper. Less than two minutes later, Dylan Zook responded for the Gophers as the two teams took a 1-1 tie into the second quarter.
The Mariners were able to keep Goucher off the scoreboard in the second frame, netting a goal from junior defenseman Alex Cline (Draper, UT) and a last minute score from senior midfielder Joseph Purcell (Mineola, NY) to head into the break with a 3-1 advantage.
USMMA's offense exploded in the third quarter, extending their run with a goal from Mariners' leading-scorer, sophomore attacker Geoff Harty (Chicago, IL), and a pair of tallies by senior attacker Michael Ackerman (Malvern, PA) to extend the Mariner advantage to 6-1.
A costly Merchant Marine penalty late in the frame allowed Goucher to convert on a man-up opportunity with 2:39 remaining in the quarter as USMMA took a 6-2 lead into the fourth.
The Gophers came out strong in the final frame, showing why they hadn't dropped a conference matchup all season. Goucher notched the first three goals of the quarter to slice the Mariner advantage to a single goal, 6-5, with 5:07 remaining.
Merchant Marine was able to buckle down defensively for the remainder of the contest as they hung on by the slimmest of margins.
Despite being outshot heavily, 45-26, the Mariners were able to make the most of their opportunities and convert on quality chances.
Freshman goalkeeper Kevin Young (Springfield, VA) made a career-high 23 saves as he improved his record to 4-1 since taking over the starting goalkeeping duties.
Ackerman had a team-high three points (2G, 1A) including the game winning goal to lead the Mariners in scoring. Senior midfielder Sean Sheehy (Annapolis, MD) and junior midfielder Phil Walker (East Falmouth, MA) each collected a team-high three groundballs apiece.
Pierce Ingram led the Gophers in scoring with two goals and two assists and Tristan Morris had a game-high six groundballs for Goucher.
Connor Mishaw took the loss in net making nine saves on 15 Mariner shots on goal.
USMMA will head to Selinsgrove, PA to face the number three seeded Susquehanna University Crusaders (11-6, 5-2 Landmark) in the Landmark Conference Finals Saturday, May 4 at 5:00 PM.
This marks the first time in Landmark Conference history the three and four seeds will meet in the finals as no seed lower than two has previously won the conference championship.