Boulder senior Mitchell Graesser had reason to step up his game on Thursday night against Broomfield.
Not only was it the biggest game of the regular season for him and the top-ranked and unbeaten Panthers, it was the first time this season he had the chance to play in front of his mother Melissa.
Having taken a job with Disney in Seattle in August, Melissa Graesser and Mitchell's two siblings had to forego watching him play this season. But they flew in for the Front Range League title match and were not disappointed.
Mitchell Graesser scored the first goal of the night and was instrumental in the Panthers' flawless run through the league that culminated in a 2-1 win over the two-time defending Class 5A champions from Broomfield at Christian Recht Field.
"This one was extra special," said Mitchell Graesser, who stayed in Boulder with his father Steve to complete high school. "For my family, for my team. It was something I wanted to do for them and 'La Familia' well."
Boulder wraps up the regular season 15-0 overall and 12-0 in the FRL. Despite all that, the Panthers will likely be the No. 2 seed in the state tournament based on the RPI behind Denver East.
Even more ridiculousness based on the RPI, is that Broomfield (12-2-1, 10-1-1) that came in No. 4 will likely drop to No. 5 behind Fairview — a team they beat 3-0.
Boulder had the disciplined Broomfield defense on its heels in the early going and watched as several chances went by the wayside.
Simon Julien and Jackson Curry both had quality looks just skirt by Jose Ogaz's posts.
It wasn't until the 32nd minute that the Eagles made their first mistake on the narrow Recht pitch. A foul gave Boulder and Omar Castruita a direct free kick from 25-yards out and the Panthers made them pay. Castruita connected with Graesser, whose well-timed run to Ogaz's near post allowed him to sneak a header to the back of the net.
"We've been working on our restarts. We've scored over 50 goals and 45 have been in the run of play and so we are trying to add to that mix by being dangerous on the restarts," Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said. "Mitchell said I want to be the guy to make the dangerous run and Omar, who leads the conference in assists, put it right where it needed to be."
Broomfield nearly equalized in the 35th minute on Riley Shea's well placed shot in the upper-90, but Panthers keeper Djibril Doumbia made a leaping save and maintained the shutout for the half.
The Eagles would equalize early in the second half. Making the most of the narrow dimensions, Nate Holland's flip throw connected with Ethan Campbell in the box and the seniors finally solved Doumbia.
"It's hard to play on the postage stamp," Broomfield coach Jim Davidson said."Boulder obviously has an advantage on it, seeing it every day. But our guys handled it well, especially in the second half.
"We made some adjustments and got their mentality right. They did well to go equalize, but Boulder deserves the credit, it's a very good team."
The Panthers would get the game-winner just over two minutes later. Coming off of a corner kick, it was Kalisher's "super sub" Nick McCabe that was johnny-on-the-spot in the box and his shot deflected its way past Ogaz — who was forced to make 10 saves on the night.
"It's the most well coached team we play all year long and in any year, (Davidson) get so much out of his players and they work extremely hard and they have ideas," Kalisher said. "They are just a handful and our defense held strong.
"Without a doubt we have the top goaltender (Doumbia) in the conference and people don't see that, but when he gets called upon, he came up tremendous."
BOULDER 2, BROOMFIELD 1
At Christian Recht FieldBroomfield (12-2-1, 10-1-1) 0 1 — 1 Boulder (15-0, 12-0) 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) — Boulder: Mitchell Graesser (Omar Castruita), 32nd; Broomfield: Ethan Campbell (Nate Holland), 51st; Boulder: Nick McCabe (unassisted), 53rd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Broomfield: Jose Ogaz (80-2-10); Boulder: Djibril Doumbia (80-1-6).