The 3rd Man In

Two best teams will square off

With a NCAA Tournament automatic berth on the line, the Milwaukee Panthers and University of Illinois Chicago Flames will square off in the Horizon League Championship game tomorrow afternoon in Chicago. These two schools have been the top two teams in conference all season, and as a fan you could not have asked for a better matchup in the title game.

Milwaukee knocked off Oakland University 2-0 to advance to the championship game, while UIC had to earn their trip to the title game, winning 1-0 in overtime against Wright State University.

The Panthers were the second seed coming into the tournament, while the Flames won the regular season championship to give them the right to host the conference tournament.

This will be a rematch of the regular season matchup that was held in mid October, when the Panthers suffered a 1-0 road loss to the Flames. This was a tough game for the Panthers, but that loss will give them extra motivation in tomorrow’s matchup.

UIC has had the second best scoring offense in the Horizon League through out the regular season scoring 32 goals in 18 games. This was the second best in the league right behind the Panthers with 35.

The Flames have had a balance offensive attack all season, as they had seven different players with at least two goals. Their main offensive threat is senior midfielder, Slobodan Aleksov, who had 21 points on nine goals and three assists in the regular season. He also led the Flames with 25 shots on goal, 14 more than anyone else on the team.

In goal for UIC will be Andrew Putna, who won won both Goalkeeper of the Year and Freshman of the Year this season. Playing in every minute for the Flames this regular season, Putna recorded nine shutouts while allowing just 14 goals, and finished second in the league with a 0.76 goals against average.

The Panthers were the best overall team in conference during the regular season scoring the most goals (35), while recording a 0.68 goals against average. Led by Horizon League Player of the Year, Laurie Bell, the Panthers will not be an easily offense to stop even though the Flames were able to in their first meeting.

Milwaukee’s goal before the season started was to win the conference title, and make an NCAA Tournament appearance. They will have a great chance at doing that tomorrow, but they will have to bring their “A” game. This will not be an easy game for either team, and whichever team is able to play smart and take advantage of their opportunities will be hoisting the championship trophy after the game.

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