DI College Championships 2022: Minnesota Ices Out Vermont (Men’s Pre-Quarter Recap)

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Gray Duck mounts the defense to win a rematch with Brown.

Minnesota flies over Vermont in the pre-quarters of the 2022 DI College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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Powered by the best defensive defense #15 Minnesota has displayed all tournament, Gray Duck eliminated #7 Vermont 15-10 and advanced to the quarter-finals.

AJ Larson set the tone of the game with a layout block on the first point. Minnesota’s D-line offense was shaky — they needed a stalling blade at nine in the back of the end zone to score — but managed to break at their first chance.

Clearly still shaken after surviving a late series of breaks from Wisconsin the previous round, Vermont couldn’t settle into the game and Minnesota took full advantage, building a 4-0 lead. Once they proved they could score, Vermont’s offense found its rhythm and the teams held on until halftime, with Minnesota leading 8-4.

Minnesota was managing to isolate its main cutters, Anthony Jirele and Paul Krenik, and let them toast the Vermont defenders in deep space. Ian McCosky seemed oblivious to the light breeze and occasional raindrops; his throwing prowess was on full display on deep shots and tight shots. McCosky was responsible for five of Gray Duck’s 15 assists.

Minnesota also made its mark in the second half, surviving within seven possessions and eleven minutes to add a break and increase their lead to 11-5. While the scoreline indicated Vermont had a long chance to come back, their sideline was confident a run was coming.

Kuochuan Ponzio ignited the team with an impressive trailing edge hold on a Walden Ng blade across the field. Declan Kervick’s ensuing draw landed deep in Minnesota’s end zone and Chill defenders locked in to stop Gray Duck handlers’ movement. Christopher Kiepert choked off the bailout and Vermont had their first real break chance of the game. Carl Crawford managed to hang onto a huck going the other way and Vermont suddenly had life.

With intense pressure on Minnesota managers, Vermont forced two straight turns on late upfield pitches and converted them both to breaks to make it 12-10. Reed Browning played impressive defense against the Minnesota stars, alternating between guarding Cole Jurek and Krenik. He’s also been involved in Vermont’s last two break scores, catching the first and throwing the second.

From there, Minnesota survived a few wild runs. Jurek caught a late crosshammer just inbounds while backpacked by a Vermont defender,1 but rushed his next pitch which was acrobatically blocked by Kervick. With a golden chance to bring the game back in less than one, Vermont looked off their legs on offense and returned a huck. Minnesota slowly worked the drive the other way against Vermont’s stiff defense, and McCosky found Krenik just over the end zone line to stop Vermont’s four-goal run.

“We didn’t want to get in the head and not play super confident that we’re going to win,” Larson said, when asked how the team held up against Vermont’s comeback attempt. “We realized our season is on the line and their season is on the line.”

With their return offense on the field and their best season ever, Vermont needed to move quickly to score with enough time remaining in soft cap to stage a true comeback. Minnesota’s Erik Aadalen took advantage of their tunnel vision pace, timing his run perfectly to block a set-up and set Minnesota up to pull away. Aadalen scored on that point after the soft horn sounded, and Minnesota could feel the victory coming.

Vermont sent in their kill line to avoid elimination. They worked the disc to the end zone line, but mistimed a fast flat that would have counted as a score. Minnesota wasted no time moving the other way as Joey Pickens went horizontal to catch the breakaway huck. Krenik picked up the reset and threw a single through pass to Trevor Graham to put the game away.

Vermont’s slow start ultimately explained the difference in this game. Whether they were tired after a surprisingly tight final pool game against Wisconsin or just needed a few points to acclimate to their first-ever Nationals bracket game, Chill was never able to to get out of the hole they built.

On the other hand, Minnesota came out with a surprisingly solid defensive performance. Going into the tournament, Minnesota’s story was that their defense wasn’t strong enough to get breaks without crossing paths with their best offensive players. They put that story to rest from the first point in the game. “We have a lot of D-line guys who have really improved over the course of the season,” said Larson, a senior Minnesota defenseman. “It was great to come here and get a real opportunity and smash it.”

Minnesota was in high spirits after their win and the team is feeling confident ahead of their quarterfinal game against Brown. They’re the only team to beat Brown this season, in the season opener at the Florida Warm Up, and Larson said they’ve been looking forward to a rematch all season.

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