Graduation depleted Goucher of four starters – three on offense – and the program eventually bid farewell to the most successful coach in its history, but that did not prevent the team from extending its success in the Landmark Conference.
Saturday’s 7-6 overtime decision over Scranton cemented for the Gophers (7-7 overall and 5-0 in the league) the top seed and home-field advantage in the upcoming conference tournament with just one more league game against the Merchant Marine this Saturday. The team captured those rewards for the fifth straight season, and coach Brian Kelly said those were goals made in the preseason.
“It’s exciting,” he said Tuesday morning. “It’s certainly an accomplishment. That was a goal. We wanted to have the opportunity for the Landmark championship to come through Goucher and have the opportunity to play home games as opposed to going on the road and all the challenges associated with that.”
Goucher, which has won the conference tournament in 2010 and 2012, was the preseason favorite to finish first in the Landmark. But the departures of attackmen Kyle Boncaro and Rory Averett, midfielder Matt Lynch, defenseman Heath Thumel and coach Kyle Hannan suggested that the team may have been vulnerable this season, and a six-game losing skid further enhanced that theory.
The Gophers have been overpowering in the conference, but Kelly said the team wasn’t trying to send a message to the doubters.
“I don’t know if it’s a statement as much as it’s an overall belief in the guys that we have on our team and the system that we have here,” he said. “I think it’s a statement as much as a belief in our guys and the hard work we put in.”