Opening night was turned into a celebration as the San Diego Sockers (22-0-1, 63 pts) clinched the MASL Shield and the number one overall seed with an 11-4 win over the second-seeded Florida Tropics (18-3-2, 56 pts ).
Tavoy Morgan was a man possessed as he had seven points, a new career-high, with five goals and two assists on the night. Tonight’s win also marked the 19th straight win for the Sockers and also leaves them one win behind, tying the MASL record for wins in a season, held by the 2018-19 Sockers team.
The night started fast and furious as Morgan would complete a hat trick within the first 10 minutes of the game. The Tropics goalkeeper Rainer Hauss would face seven shots in the first quarter, and five of them would go in for goals. After Morgan would complete the hat trick, Charlie Gonzalez would get in on the action adding the fourth. Not to be outdone, Morgan would get his fourth of the quarter shortly after. With 2:20 remaining in the first, it was 5-0 Sockers already. Chad Vandegriffe would pull one back for Florida off a free kick, but the damage was already done.
It would not be long into the second that Christian Gutierrez, back from an ankle injury, would receive a beautiful lobbed pass by Charlie and easily find the back of the net to restore the Sockers’ lead back to five. San Diego would dominate the run of play, threatening to score more and keeping possession, frustrating the Tropics. Late into the second a controversial handball call on Boris Pardo would lead to a power-play goal for Victor Parreiras. Dallin Cutler would open his MASL scoring account with 45 seconds left in the half to give the Sockers a 7-2 lead going into the break.
Coming out the Tropics would change goalkeepers and bring in Jorge Navarrete. The change would stifle the Sockers for most of the third, but Charlie to Christian would strike one more time and put the Sockers up by six. The game would get a bit of an edge as Brandon Escoto, and Anthony Arico would both make silly challenges. Arico, Vandegriffe, and Alan Garcia would all receive blue cards for their actions in the ensuing shoving contest. Tavoy Morgan would take advantage of the man advantage 10 seconds into the power play. The goal would add to the Sockers’ league-leading power-play attack, putting Morgan at the league lead at nine and the team at 26 for the season (63.4% conversion).
San Diego would hit double digits on the night early into the fourth as Juan Manuel Rojo and Charlie would hit on the counter off a fantastic save from Pardo. Rojo would get the ball down the field and lay off an easy pass to Charlie who was waiting across the field. Mitchell Cardenas and Zack Regret would have a discussion on what the best place to eat after the game was which led to them getting blue cards and leading to a rare three on three.
Xavier Snaer-Williams would come in to give Pardo a well deserved rest but Florida would find the net twice through Breno Oliveira (no relation) and Parreira. However it would be too little too late and the Sockers would add in one last goal for good measure through Cesar Cerda on the Morgan assist on the power play.
The Sockers have one last remaining home match on the regular-season schedule, a tilt with the rival Ontario Fury. This last regular-season edition of the I-15 Derby could be crucial for the Fury as they currently sit in the seventh seed for the playoffs. Depending on how things shake out across the league throughout the weekend, Ontario may need all three points from the match to get into the playoffs. The weekend will also be important for the Sockers as they will be watching to see who their opponent for the first round will be, with a home match on the horizon on Sunday, April 10th.