ROUND ROCK, Texas – Hunter Billings made 22 saves and the Rhode Island offense was clicking, helping the Rams defeat Montana, 15-7, on Thursday evening in the second semifinal of the 2022 MCLA National Championship presented by New Balance.
The victory sends Rhode Island (12-2) to the national championship game, which will take place on Saturday at the main stadium at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.
The Rams raced out to a quick start, putting three goals on the board to start the game before Montana (16-6) could answer. Another two goals, including the second by Hunter LaFrance, pushed the URI lead to 5-1 after the first stanza.
Charlie White opened the second quarter with a goal 34 ticks in to balloon the lead to 6-1 before the Grizzlies gained a little bit of footing.
James Holak bounced in a goal midway through the period before Henry Hancock converted an alley dodge to cut the margin to 6-3 with 7:38 remaining in the half.
Anthony Guardino answered for the Rams off a rebound before long-stick middie Ian Schermerhorn converted a fast break with a rip, giving Rhode Island back an 8-3 lead heading into intermission. Billings had nine of his saves in the first 30 minutes.
URI did not let up, opening the second half with a goal from Adrian Rutkowski and LaFrance’s hat trick to expand the bulge to 10-3.
The Grizzlies made one last push. Close defender Justin Renk connected on a bomb off the fast break before Miles Hess buried a goal to trim the lead to 10-5. But that was as close as Montana would get as Rhode Island finished the game on a 5-2 run for the 15-7 final.
Billings was a huge factor for URI, making clutch saves both high and low and setting up the Rams clearing game. Guarino and LaFrance led the way for Rhode Island with four goals apiece while Charlie White had two goals and two dimes.
Hess had two goals and an assist for the Grizzlies while Hunter Heaston made 10 saves.
With Rhode Island and Utah meeting in the finals, Division II is guaranteed a first-time champion.