Every team in the RMLC Division 2 except for Montana State showed up for the 3rd Annual Regis Gold Rush Tournament this past weekend in Denver, CO. The Fort Lewis Skyhawks made the 6+ hour drive to arrive late Friday night, and left Sunday afternoon with a large target on their back. Avenging last year’s fall ball defeat, Fort Lewis jumped out to a big early lead against the UNC bears, and held on for a 9-5 win in the championship game. 12 of the 19 Skyhawks suited up for the weekend were new to the program, 11 of them are freshmen. They played like veterans. They played as a team. They made plenty of mistakes. They made plenty of big plays too. Hopefully they will only get better, since the regular season is a far cry from the lax fall season when the games matter the most.
The first game of the weekend was against the RMLC’s brand new program, Johnson & Wales University. The Fort came out hot, scoring the first 5 goals of the game, while allowing only one shot on goal in the first half. The J&W Wildcats looked raw, as they had only had a few practices due to weather and NAIA clearinghouse requirements. They rebounded in the second half, scoring three goals to make it a contest, but goals by six different scorers for the Fort were too much in the end, and the Skyhawks came away with an 8-3 victory and the rest of Saturday off to enjoy the city of Denver. Thanks to the many friends and family who helped to make that day comfortable for these young men.
Sunday morning came quickly, as a 9am start time against the host Regis University Rangers proved to be one of the best games of the day. The Skyhawks had to fight tooth and nail for every possession on the way to an early 2 goal lead. Both teams could have used more sleep, as the turnovers on both ends were forced and unforced and they were plentiful. A few penalties by the Fort opened the door for Regis, and they took advantage, tying up the game at 4-4 with just 2 minutes left in the game. Sophomore attackman Max Segal (a 2013 Honorable Mention All-American) proved clutch as he scored the game winner for the Fort to get the bench jumping for joy with under 40 seconds left. Faceoff domination by Junior Brooks Wilcox was the real difference i the game, as he went 6-2 at the X and won the biggest draw of the game to set up Max’s game winning goal. With the win, the Fort earned a rematch with UNC, and a chance to catch their breath.
The UNC Bears have been a nemesis for Fort Lewis for almost a decade. The Skyhawks victory over UNC last season was the first in either preseason or regular season in the past seven years. Trying to change that trend and establish a perch atop the division, the Skyhawks came out firing, taking a 7-1 lead at halftime. Thanks to a balanced scoring effort, and shut down defense led by the Fort’s other 2013 Honorable Mention All-American, junior defenseman Shaun Koenig,the Fort looked in almost mid-season form. The game was never in doubt, but UNC put the fear into the Skyhawksby outscoring them 4-2 in the second half on some impressive individual efforts. Freshman Ian Bragdon (Grand Rapids, MI) put the icing on the game with a goal with one minute left after he dodged through 4 UNC Bears. Hopefully the Skyhawks did not wake up an angry bear, and they can continue their impressive play in the regular season, when they travel to Greeley and the hostile UNC crowd in early April. For now, the Fort can rest and enjoy the hard fought victories of the preseason, while preparing for the alumni game and rivals Western State and the University of New Mexico on October 19-20.
Pictures, and trophy, hopefully coming soon!!