Michael Morgan escaped serious injury after the Goucher junior short-stick defensive midfielder was struck in the head by an errant shot prior to the team’s eventual 9-4 loss to Landmark Conference foe Susquehanna on Friday at Gopher Stadium in Towson.
Morgan, who did not lose consciousness but had complained of numbness in his extremities, was released from a local hospital Friday evening and is recovering at home, coach Brian Kelly said.
Morgan was wearing his helmet when a teammate’s shot accidentally hit him during pregame warm-ups. The start of the game was delayed 25 minutes while Morgan’s head and neck were immobilized and he was taken off the field on a stretcher.
Senior attackman Sam Morgan, who is not related to Michael Morgan, said the sight of his teammate lying prone on the turf shook the players.
“It definitely hurt us,” Sam Morgan said. “We lost all of our energy. He’s an emotional leader on the field. So losing him really hurts. He’s one of the best players on the field. So it definitely hurt us a lot.”
Morgan had paired with senior Zach Wrisk as the Gophers’ top two short-stick defensive midfielders. Junior Stefan Schultz played in Morgan’s place.
“Obviously, that’s not how you want to lose a starting defensive midfielder four minutes before a game,” Kelly said. “It’s a tough way to go into a game.”
Morgan’s injury appeared to cast a pall over Goucher (7-4 overall and 2-2 conference), which allowed the Crusaders to score the game’s first three goals. Junior attackman Conner Annunziato acknowledged that the team may have been reeling from the incident.
“Just a really unfortunate situation,” he said. “He’s a lockdown short-stick defenseman, one of the best in the conference. So when we lost him, it kind of just sucked the air out of any momentum we had coming into the game. But at the same time, that can’t be an excuse to come out flat like we did.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) The start. As mentioned above, Susquehanna (9-3, 3-1 league) got off to a strong start, scoring the game’s first three goals. Freshman Jake Purnell staked the Crusaders to a 1-0 lead when he won the opening faceoff cleanly and scored from the slot just seven seconds into the contest. Coach Stewart Moan said the quick start was critical against a Gophers team that had outscored opponents 22-15 in the first quarter and 31-17 in the second.
“They’re a very talented team, and we respect the talent they have,” Moan said. “… We got to jump on a good lead in the beginning, and that helped with our confidence to come into a hostile environment.”
2) The man-up. Goucher had entered the game tied for 39th in Division III in converting extra-man opportunities, succeeding on 37.8 percent (17-of-45) of their chances. But the man-up offense went just 1-of-4, ending two opportunities with turnovers and one with a stick save by Crusaders senior goalkeeper Jared Knowlton. Moan said the man-down defense, which has now killed 82.1 percent (32-of-39) of short-handed situations, is blessed with 6-foot-6 junior defenseman Kade MacGregor and a pair of 6-3 defensemen in junior Corrie Van Haastern and freshman Alex Weightman, who clog up passing lanes and create turnovers.
“Kade and Corrie and Alex have that knack and that anticipation, and that’s why they’re [good] players,” Moan said. “They’re on-the-ball players, but they also do a great job off-the-ball. They do have that long, lanky build, and they’re smart and they anticipate. So we’re utilizing their talents.”
3) The faceoff. The Gophers won 8 of 15 draws thanks to freshman Chris Lasprogata, who went 8-of-13 and picked up a team-high five ground balls. But the offense failed to capitalize on Lasprogata’s efforts as the unit scored just four goals and had 18 other shots turned aside by Knowlton. In fact, Goucher outshot Susquehanna, 40-30, but Kelly said the players’ shot selection and accuracy must improve.
“We’re running an offense that’s generating shots,” he said. “There are some times when we’re taking bad shots, but for the most part, we’re getting some quality shots. We had two good opportunities late in the game on a man-up situation and Sam Morgan hits a pipe. Sometimes that happens. Early in the game, we had [senior midfielder] Dave Waligurski run down the alley and shoot one lefty off-hip and it hit the inside pipe and came out. That’s early in the game. If that goes in, who knows what happens?”