The first thing to mention about this of Championship Weekend is that all three men's titles were claimed by first-time champions. That is an incredible statistic; especially when considering some of the opponents that Yale, Merrimack and Wesleyan each had to play en-route to their respective victories. The fans who were in attendance braved some unseasonably cold weather on Sunday and Monday, but were treated to unbelievable performances at all three levels.
This game delivered everything a fan could want. It somehow featured excellent defense and goaltending, while still having room for momentum-changing runs sparked by high-flying offense. The Yale defense and their goalie, Jack Starr, did a fantastic job of taking away the "enemies they knew" and forcing other players to step up for Duke, and daring those comparatively unknowns to beat them. Most coaches would prefer to entirely shut down an opposing offense, but with a team as deep and athletic as Duke, that just wasn't a conceivable option. So hats off to Andy Shay and his staff for the faith they showed in their defense, and the brilliant game planning that included momentary zone looks that gave Duke fits at key moments, such as right before the half as they were trying to make it a one goal game. I think the true unsung heroes of this National Championship victory were Tyler Warner and Jason Alessi, who, in addition to holding Duke's freshman phenom Nakeie Montgomery without a shot, played an integral role in the clearing game nearly every time Yale regained possession.
Go to 1:10 below to see what Happen when Andy Shay realizes he's won the national championship...
Now this was not the stereotypically dominant Salisbury Seagull team that fans are used to seeing, but any team making their 18th Championship Game appearance and looking for their 13th National Title is a force to be reckoned with. Instead of it being Wesleyan's day of reckoning however, it was their signature zone defense that Salisbury couldn't quite reconcile. Wesleyan impressed in this tournament with their ability to win games of different styles, and at different speeds. In their semifinal victory over #1 RIT, they out-dueled the Tigers to win 19-18; then they followed that with a methodical attack against the Seagulls and a modest but stifling 8-6 victory. Beyond that, in order to claim their first NCAA Championship the Cardinals successfully won NCAA tournament games against teams that accounted for 14 of the past 15 championship wins; that is absolutely unheard of!
This game was never in doubt and not necessarily the most interesting to watch for the fans, but that didn't make it any less sweet for the Merrimack Warriors, who were right on the cusp last year as they lost to Limestone in this very game. Senior midfielder Hunter Schmell said he had the picture of Limestone lifting the trophy last year as his phone background to remind him to keep working throughout the year to have another shot at his own version of that moment. This game was all Merrimack from start to finish, as soon as they scored their first goal mid-way through the first quarter the floodgates had opened en route to a 23-6 final score.