Iowa Demon Hawks complete perfect season, win MASL 2 championship

In the end, only the Iowa Demon Hawks were perfect.

Scoring three times in the first quarter, the Demon Hawks put the finishing touches on a perfect 15-0 season, defeating the previously undefeated Rochester Lancers 8-3 Sunday, to win the Major Arena Soccer League 2 championship.

It was the first time in the seven year history of the league that two undefeated teams met for a title after they completed the fourth and fifth perfect regular seasons. None of the previous three undefeated teams won a playoff championship, however. In 2019-20 Chihuahua Savage II were declared champions with a 12-0 record after the playoffs were canceled that spring due to COVID.

The Demon Hawks simply had a little more pep in their step, despite the fact it was the third game in three days for both teams. Rochester was pushed to overtime in Saturday's semi-finals against Wichita, winning in a game that didn't finish until after 10 p.m. Iowa, meanwhile, had defeated Amarillo in what was also a tough battle, 11-7, in a game that finished four hours previous to the Lancers-Wings classic, which many already believe is the greatest game ever played in MASL 2 history.

Sunday, the Demon Hawks got a goal from Murilo Ceruli just over three minutes into the first quarter, followed by goals from Lucas Silva and Bruno Henrique in the next seven minutes for an early 3-0 lead. Henrique went on to record a hat trick and was named winner of the Chico Borja Playoffs MVP Award, which several years ago was named in honor of the legendary Wichita Wings player.

Rochester, however, then battled back before the final 60 seconds in the first half that might have sealed their fate. Taner Bay got a power play goal less than a minute into a second, and August Finn scored with just over five minutes to go before the half to bring Rochester to within a goal.

Joao Vitor got one back for Iowa to make it 4-2 with 2:37 to go. However, in a bid to continue to build momentum into the locker-room, the Lancers went to a sixth-attacker in the final minute. Iowa took advantage with a quick but legal restart after a foul near midfield and  got an easy goal from Thiago Freitas, who had two goals and two assists, with nine seconds to go until the half, making it 5-2.

Henrique scored the only goal in the third quarter, but the Lancers pulled to within 6-3 with almost 10 minutes still to play when  Rodrigo Almeida found the back of the net before Henrique and Freitas put the icing on the cake. 

Iowa outshot Rochester 30-27, with Rainer Hauss making 14 saves to pick up the win. He was the winning netminder in all 15 of Iowa's wins this season, another MASL 2 record.



After conceding an opening goal to Wichita's Taylor Henry, Amarillo took advantage of a somewhat depleted Wichita roster in scoring the game's next six goals to earn a win in the Third Place Game. 

It was Wichita's first regulation time defeat all season. They lost in Amarillo to the Bombers in overtime during the regular season, and then in OT to Rochester in Saturday's instant classic.

David Trevizo bookended the six straight goals, leaving Amarillo up  6-2 at intermission. The Wings did twice pull to within two goals in the second half, but could get no closer. Wichita was outshot 36-33.

Trevizo ended up with a three-goal afternoon, while Conrod Goulbourne and Rene Loya each had two goals and one assist for Amarillo. Henry ended the afternoon with four points on two goals and two assists. Peter Espinoza and Mehrshad Ahmadi chipped in with two goals each.

"This was a tremendous weekend for indoor soccer in general and M2 specifically," league commissioner Chris Economides said. "Saturday's semi-finals were intense, thrilling, riveting, it was great entertainment for the fans both at the arena and at home. We've had over 6,500 views of what is probably the best game ever played in this league between Rochester and Wichita. It was indoor soccer at its absolute best. That they were two iconic franchises in soccer to begin with made the pregame hype almost too over the top, but the game lived up to its billing and more."

The Demon Hawks won the title in just their second season, and first in Des Moines after playing home games in Cedar Rapids in 2022-23.

"They were dedicated to winning and representing Des Moines, and bringing a championship trophy back to "The Nest". They just were a buzzsaw all season and a most deserving champion. They have enthusiastic and dedicated ownership, so I think the Demon Hawks will continue to grow and be embraced by their fans and their city," Economides added." And Amarillo is a model franchise. Great ownership, tremendously competitive teams every single season. They have no reason to hang their heads; they pushed Iowa to the brink on Saturday too."

Sunday's finale concluded a stretch of nine games in three days at Hartman Arena for the host WIngs.

"What a tremendous soccer city. Ever single person in the arena was standing for the fourth quarter and overtime Saturday.  The atmosphere and electricity was as big time as it gets," Economides added. "They were tremendous hosts off the field and put on a tremendous show every time they take to the field. Its almost unbelievable that with their history in the sport they've never won a championship, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if that changes in a season or two. Our hats are off to them, and we again offer our sincerest thanks for the tremendous job they and their staff turned in for all our teams and fans."