Election Day was just a few days ago. For a candidate to win, they must have the most boxes checked off (or filled in) compared to their opponents.
After Indiana’s 2-0 win against Division III opponent Trine on Oct. 27, head coach Todd Yeagley acknowledged that was a match where Indiana wanted to check some boxes.
One of those boxes was to get Tommy Mihalic his first goal of the season. The junior who scored 12 goals in his first two seasons had desperately struggled this season to find the back of the net despite leading the team in shots.
Mihalic scored in the opening moments of the second half against the Thunder nearly two weeks ago but on Wednesday night scored in the dying moments of the first half to put top-seed Indiana ahead 3-1 on Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
“It’s always nice as a forward to see the ball hit the back of the net,” Mihalic said going back to the Trine match. “Obviously I struggled with that the majority of the season but I’ve done a good job just keeping my head straight.”
Mihalic, who shined in the preseason with multiple goals, was in the right place at the right time for Indiana’s third goal in IU’s eventual 4-3 victory. After Sam Sarver’s free kick was saved by Michigan goalkeeper Isaiah Goldson, Mihalic smashed the rebound into the back of the net to give a defensive-minded Hoosier squad a two-goal cushion that seemed to be more than enough for them to hold onto.
But that wasn’t the case, as another Hoosier came up with not one, but two massive goals on the night in what he described as his best game ever.
That was fifth-year senior Maouloune Goumballe.
“Definitely my best game,” Goumballe said. “I've never scored two goals in a game so I'm happy.”
Goumballe has never been known as a goal scorer, scoring only eight goals in his lengthy Indiana career entering the night, but the Cincinnati native has now scored in three of the past four matches.
The first of those matches was also against Trine. Goumballe, like Mihalic, hadn’t found the back of the net until the Friday night clash with the Thunder.
In a match where the Hoosiers were struggling in the final third, Goumballe got the scoring started with a strike from a sharp angle a few minutes before the half-hour mark.
Indiana had struggled in that same area of the pitch in the regular season tilt with the Wolverines, but Wednesday night was different.
Goumballe again drew first blood, this time 21 minutes in, with an incredible strike from just outside the 18-yard box.
“It was important for the confidence,” Goumballe said, referring back to the Trine match. Even the usually soft-spoken forward admitted that he is currently in form and attributes that to opening his account against Trine.
Hugo Bacharach, another in-form player, was the third different Hoosier to score in the first half. After Michigan equalized 67 seconds following Goumballe’s opener, it seemed that Indiana was in cruise control at halftime.
But Michigan responded with goals in the 54th and 72nd minutes to knot the score at three. After the Wolverines went down to 10 men moments after equalizing, the door was open for Indiana to win the match in the latter stages.
It was none other than Goumballe who knocked in a rebound with less than four minutes on the clock. Mihalic had scuffed a tap-in from three yards out off the crossbar and Karsen Henderlong saw his header get cleared off the line. But Goumballe, like Mihalic in the first half, took advantage of a rebound, just like Mihalic did in the first half to put the nail in the coffin and sent Bill Armstrong Stadium into a frenzy.
“I didn't really, I don't know what I did,” Goumballe said in regard to his celebration. “I just know it was emotional.”
Yeagley touched on how Goumballe found his form late last year and scored a screamer against UNC-Greensboro to send Indiana to the College Cup.
Yeagley realizes how important it is to have both Goumballe and Mihalic scoring goals, considering Indiana struggled so much in that department during the early-season struggles. Now, the Hoosiers have scored four goals in two of their past three contests.
“Yeah, it’s paying off,” Yeagley said when referring to getting Goumballe and Mihalic goals in the Trine match.
After the Hoosiers beat Rutgers on the final day of the regular season to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, the team echoed the message that they wanted to check off three boxes this year.
Winning the regular-season title was the first box and now the Hoosiers can check off the second: winning the Big Ten Tournament Championship. Indiana is in the final for the seventh straight year, but the past two years have come up short.
Mihalic, Goumballe and co. can erase their previous sorrows and check that second box by beating Penn State, a team they already took down in the regular season. Kick-off is at noon on Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.