The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Showdown is more than a game. But lately, there hasn’t been much of a rivalry.
The University of Colorado men’s lacrosse team lost 14 of its last 15 games against Colorado State coming into Saturday’s game. The Buffs hadn’t beaten the Rams since 2009. Last year’s national championship game was but the latest in the series of humiliating defeats.
Things finally turned around for the Buffs on Saturday. In Denver’s Mile High stadium, CU never trailed and held off a late CSU rally to defeat the Rams, 9-6.
Colorado’s explosive offense struggled early against CSU’s stifling defense. Junior goalie Jack Regan was a wall. Buffs senior attacker Riley Seidel scored the only goal of the first period when he lost his defender on a screen in front of the net. Other than that blown assignment, Regan stopped everything Colorado threw at him in the first. He made spectacular saves off of fastbreaks and rebounds. CSU played its usual methodic tempo offensively, and looked in control after the first period, despite trailing.
Everything changed in the second quarter. Seidel scored again and assisted on another fastbreak goal. Regan turned from a stalwart to a sieve. CSU’s crisp passing became sloppy, and they turned the ball over on routine exchanges. Colorado added four goals in the second, and senior goalie Mitch Fenton was dominant after giving up 14 goals in the Buffs’ last game, against Utah. Only a late score kept the Rams from being shut out at halftime, and Colorado led 5-1 at the break.
The third quarter was physical, entertaining and controversial. CSU scored once, and they had possession again in Colorado’s zone. A shot zipped past Fenton and out the back of the Buffs’ goal, through a hole in the net. The referees didn’t rule it a goal even though replays showed that the Rams had clearly scored. Club lacrosse does not allow for video reviews, and most games are played on small fields without jumbotrons like the one at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The controversy lit a fire in the Rams. They scored two more goals to cut Colorado’s lead to 5-4 and picked up the hits and defensive pressure. CSU’s head coach, Alex Smith, replaced Regan with fellow junior goalie Koltin Fatzinger, who was much more aggressive and met Colorado’s attack far out from goal.
But the Buffs reclaimed the momentum with two consecutive goals of their own and led 7-4 early in the fourth period. Still, the Rams wouldn’t give up. They scored twice more to again cut Colorado’s lead to one.
Ultimately, CSU’s sloppy passing eventually came back to haunt them. They committed turnovers on consecutive possessions, and Colorado took advantage and pulled away. Junior midfielder Riley Klum scored on a bouncing fadeaway shot, and sophomore long-stick man Clark Salamie sealed the game with a fastbreak goal after the ensuing faceoff.
As time dwindled, the game became more physical. And when the clock finally struck zero, the entire CU team swarmed Fenton at his goal, jumping and throwing their sticks in the air.
Colorado left the field jubilant. They ran, whooped, hollered and hugged. These players had never beaten CSU. It was the perfect ending to a nearly-perfect season.
Contact CUIndependent Staff Writer Tommy Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.