The Boulder Panthers didn't wait for the game to come to them, they took charge right away. The strategy produced several chances and a few goals, and then they had to survive a Legacy rally.
But thanks to goals by Jesse Bacardi, Micah Blackburn and Milo Lewon, and a couple of great feeds by Sam Phillips, Boulder beat the Lightning 3-1 on Tuesday night in a 5A top-10 matchup.
"It feels great," Blackburn said. "We knew they were going to be a good team and to win this one going into the playoffs is great."
The No. 2 Panthers lone loss is to top-ranked Fairview, and that came in double overtime. They avoided an upset Tuesday with a strong first half but sixth-ranked Legacy made them sweat with great chances in the final 40 minutes.
"It was probably one of our best second halves this season," said Daniel Marks, who scored Legacy's lone goal.
The Panthers (13-1, 9-1) were on the attack from the start, getting good chances in the third and fifth minutes. They appeared to take the early lead when Omar Santos scored but after a brief huddle the officials ruled the play offsides.
That didn't discourage Boulder, and just a little later it scored a goal that did count when Blackburn got a steal, fed Phillips, who got it to Bacardi to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute.
Legacy came right back to tie it when Marks scored off of a corner kick in the 15th minute, but the Panthers controlled the play and was in command by halftime.
Blackburn broke the tie more than midway through the first half when his header off of a corner feed by Phillips beat Brandon Hansen in the 29th minute and a 2-1 lead.
"We've been designing headers all year," Blackburn said. "I don't know, I just got up and put it in top right. We needed that one."
Boulder wasn't done. With time winding down in the first half, Fabian Valencia split two defenders and sent a crossing pass to Lewon sprinting down the left side, and his shot to the far post gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead in the 35th minute.
"Once they got that second goal we kind of put our heads down a little bit and gave them the third goal," Marks said. "If it stays 2-1 we could have won that game for sure."
Legacy (10-3-1, 6-3-1) was thwarted by two good saves by Boulder goalkeeper Toby Bateman and an unfriendly post in an attempt to rally in the second half.
"Their goalie made a huge save and another one hit the post," Legacy coach Tony Romano said. "We had a couple of lapses in concentration. If you have a lapse in concentration against a well-coached, strong team they're going to make you pay."
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Boulder 3, Legacy 1
At Recht FieldLegacy (10-3-1, 6-3-1)10—1Boulder (13-1-0, 9-1-0)30—3
Goals (assists) —Legacy: Daniel Marks (Noah Stover), 15th minute. Boulder: Jesse Bacardi (Sam Phillips), 13th minute; Micah Blackburn (Phillips), 29th minute; Milo Lewon (Fabian Valencia), 35th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Legacy: Brandon Hansen (40-3-5); Ivan Castillo (40-0-4). Boulder: Toby Bateman (80-1-7).