(3) Towson v. (2) Drexel
Towson and Drexel did that thing where two THUNDERDOME! teams try to detonate atomic bombs against each other and hope to survive. In this particular effort to not exist only as dust, the Tigers emerged from the barren land of former reality with a solid 11-8 victory over Drexel. The loss ends the Dragons' season at 7-8, the program's first sub.-500 campaign since a 7-8 campaign in 2009. Towson midfielder Ryan Drenner led all scorers with five points on a goal and four assists with four of his points coming in the second half.
The teams traded shots to the mouth throughout the first half with each each using multi-goal runs to create three ties in the opening 30 minutes. Neither team led by more than two goals over the first two periods of action. The Tigers entered the break with a slim 6-5 advantage, but Cole Shafer -- the attackman finished with four buckets against Towson -- quickly knotted the scoreboard at six just 7:58 into the second half. From that point on, though, the Tigers would make their decisive charge: A Justin Mabus hammer from Drenner with five seconds remaining in the penultimate period loosened the scoreboard and two goals early in the final quarter gave Towson an insourmountable 9-6 advantage with 10:21 remaining in regulation. The Dragons would respond with two buckets in the next six minutes, but inoperable damage had already been inflicted on Drexel's face.
The game was a slog at only an estimated 49 possessions, the perfect type of pace for the Tigers. Towson's vaunted defense yielded goals on approximately 36 percent of the team's estimated defensive opportunities, but that elevated rate of allowed tallies was muted somewhat by the team's estimated five-possession advantage and an offensive performance that netted goals on approximately 41 percent of the Tigers' estimated offensive opportunities.
(4) Massachusetts v. (1) Fairfield
Massachusetts and Fairfield did that thing where two THUNDERDOME! teams gets pails of gasoline and pour them on each other while dancing next to a bonfire to see which team is made of asbestos and which team is made of things that fire ruins. In this particular effort to break the physical sciences, the Minutemen were warmed but not burned, capturing a surprising 9-8 victory over top-seeded Fairfield. Massachusetts' win marks the sixth time in the last 10 THUNDERDOME! Tournaments that a team seeded third or worse has advanced to the THUNDERDOME! Tournament final (the Minutemen are attempting to become the third team since 2006 to earn the league's championship despite entering the conference's postseason event as the lowest seeded team in the tournament). Fairfield's season is now past its sunset, the Stags dropping behind the horizon with a 9-6 record.
The first half was the kind of brutal fistfight that has come to define the league: 30 minutes of anger produced a 3-2 lead for the Stags; the teams combined for 29 shots in the first two quarters with 15 making their way toward the net but turned away. The estimated pace in the first half topped out at 32 possessions -- a lightspeed tempo for a THUNDERDOME! ruck -- with Massachusetts and Fairfield accounting for a total of 14 turnovers on those opportunities. Five penalties in the first half worth five minutes of shame-filled moments in the box helped color the show at Rafferty Stadium, the perfect accomplice for an already pissed off two periods of action.
Things rapidly changed in the second half: Massachusetts popped for four tallies in the quarter -- hot cha-cha! -- while Fairfield got in on the action with a single bucket, the rush from the Minutemen building a 6-4 lead after 45 minutes. Brendan Hegarty pitched in two goals for the Minutemen in the period, including the buckets that started and ended the quarter for Massachusetts. The final stanza opened with the Minutemen extending their lead to 7-5 on a Dan Muller finish from a Nick Mariano assist, but a Fairfield response from Joe Rodrigues hammer reduced Massachusetts' lead back to two with over 11 minutes remaining in regulation. The scope of the game changed just over four minutes later when the Minutemen lit the scoreboard twice in less than two minutes, providing Massachusetts the final scores it would need to withstand a three-goal run from the Stags in the last 2:08 of the game.
This league is the best.