Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, Santi Torres, Sapo Caset and Adolfo Cambiaso) looked strong riding into Wednesday’s semifinals, but when disaster struck, the winner of the 2014 C. V. Whitney Cup and the USPA Piaget Gold Cup looked vulnerable.
Valiente star 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso took an exceptionally hard bump just three minutes and twenty-two seconds into the first chukker that aggravated a previously injured groin muscle that sent him to the ground writhing in pain. Play was suspended as the medics attempted to alleviate the injury, and after nearly 15 minutes Cambiaso re-mounted play resumed with a Valiente penalty shot that Sapo Caset converted for a 3-1 Valiente lead. Play was halted again, however, and Cambiaso left the field. In a two player switch, Valiente team captain Bob Jornayvaz joined Cambiaso on the sidelines and sent in Carlitos Gracida (3) and Brazilian 8-goaler Rodrigo Andrade, and play resumed. A disorganized Valiente battled through the balance of the first chukker, giving up a goal in the last two minutes of the chukker that brought Lechuza Caracas to within a goal of the lead, 3-2.
Pieres tied it up in the second, 3-3, with a goal from the field at 5:08. A pair of 30-yard penalty conversions from Caset put Valiente back in the lead, 5-3. A late Valiente foul, however, allowed Lechuza Caracas to stay close as Pieres converted a short penalty shot with just five seconds on the clock to make it 5-4, with Valiente still in the lead. The reshuffled Valiente lineup began to gel in the third. Caset converted on a well-placed backhand pass from Andrade, 6-4, with Andrade adding another goal just a minute later, 7-4. Pieres converted a 60-yard penalty shot to close out the first half with Valiente on top of a 7-5 score.
Pieres and Caset traded penalty shots in the first two minutes of the fourth chukker, with Valiente maintaining their two goal lead, 8-6. Carlitos Gracida (substituting for Bob Jornayvaz) made it 9-6 with his first goal of the day, and Andrade ended the period with a goal from the field to put Valiente ahead, 10-6. Valiente 6-goaler Santi Torres caught fire in the fifth chukker scoring three times from the field. Pieres converted two more penalty shots for goals but Lechuza Caracas fell behind by five goals, 13-8.
Pieres scored the first goal of the sixth chukker from the field, 13-9, but Torres answered back with a goal of his own, 14-9. Two more penalty conversions from Pieres brought Lechuza Caracas a bit closer, 14-11, with less than two minutes left to play. Andrade slammed the door on Lechuza Caracas with his third goal of the game at 1:08 to give Valiente the 15-11 win and a berth in the final of the 2014 Maserati US Open Championship. Pieres was credited with a game high nine goals (eight on penalty conversions). Nero scored twice. Five of Caset’s team high six goals came on penalty shots. Torres added five goals; Andrade was credited with three goals; and Gracida added a goal for the victory.
Alegria (Julian Mannix, Clemente Zavaleta, Mariano Aguerre and Hilario Ulloa) closed out the day with a 9-8 win over Crab Orchard (Facundo Pieres, Magoo Laprida, Matias Magrini and Peke Gonzalez) in a real nail-biter that bounced into the Maserati US Open final against Valiente-a re-match of their face-off in the final of the USPA Piaget Gold Cup.
There was little offensive success in the opening minutes of play in the day’s second semifinal game between Alegria and Crab Orchard, with Hilario Ulloa scoring the opening goal of the day on a penalty conversion at the 3:38 mark of the first chukker, 1-0. Magoo Laprida evened the score at 1-1 less than a minute later on a goal from the field. An Alegria foul cost them a goal with just 28 seconds in the period as Crab Orchard took the early lead, 2-1 on a 40-yard penalty shot.
Both defenses clamped down in the second period. A 60-yard penalty goal from Ulloa at 5:28 accounted for the only scoring, with the teams deadlocked at 2-2. Two penalty conversions from Ulloa (a 30-yard shot and a 60-yard shot) had Alegria up by two, 4-2. Facundo Pieres got Crab Orchard on the scoreboard with a 60-yard penalty conversion with 47 seconds left in the first half. Alegria continued to lead, at the end of the first half, 4-3.
Pieres scored a goal from the field two minutes into the second half for a 4-4 tie. Ulloa put Alegria back in the lead on another penalty goal, his fifth of the day for a 5-4 Alegria lead. Ulloa stretched the Alegria lead to two goals with a 40-yard penalty goal in the fifth. Fourteen-year-old Peke Gonzalez blistered the ball through the Alegria goalposts on a breakaway at 5:46, cutting the Alegria lead back to a single goal, 6-5. Pieres tied it up at 6-6 a minute later. Clemente Zavaleta scored his first goal of the game at 2:27 for a 7-6 Alegria advantage. Pieres ended the chukker on a goal from the field with just 53 seconds left in the chukker to level the score once again, 7-7.
Both defenses stepped it up in the sixth chukker. Ulloa finally broke through the Crab Orchard defenders to put Alegria on top, 8-7 midway through the chukker. Pieres tied it up with his sixth goal of the game at 2:38. Ulloa scored the final goal of the game with less than a minute on the clock with time running out on the 9-8 Alegria victory. Ulloa led the Alegria attack with eight goals (six on penalty conversions). Zavaleta added a goal for the win. Pieres scored six times for Crab Orchard (two on penalty shots). Laprida and Gonzalez each added a goal in a losing effort.
The win boosts Alegria into the final of the 2014 Maserati US Open on Sunday against Valiente, a rematch of their USPA Piaget Gold Cup final, a final that was won by Valiente in a down-to-the-wire 11-10 victory.