This weekend will be a very active one in the Mile High City for Denver University lacrosse. Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium will be host to Air Force (again), new program Cleveland State, and western New York’s Canisius College. Four games total will be played over Saturday and Sunday.
Denver is atop all three major polls and in the Maverick Top 20 tied with Maryland who has a slight lead due to having played one more game. Maryland takes on No. 8 Yale (USILA Coaches Poll) and stands with just as much chance of remaining No. 1. However, the Pios have two advantageous match-ups this weekend against Cleveland State (Saturday) and Canisius (Sunday).
Both Trevor Baptiste and Connor Cannizzaro earned recognitions as Players of the Week following starlight performances. Cannizzaro scored his 200th career goal and recorded 42 straight games scored in (second in the country); Baptiste dominated the hard fought face-off X despite Duke’s efforts.
The absences of Zach Miller, Brendan Bomberry and Tyler Pace (injury) seem to have been smoothed out by roster depth and skill.
Starting attackman Nate Marano is stepping into role well, and Ethan Walker and Colton Jackson are coming off big performances in the win over Duke. Seven different players scored in that game. Denver’s defense seems to be in full swing while Alex Ready demonstrates just how much progress he’s made in the offseason and regular season games. Ironically, his save percentage is still below average – but his communication is much better than 2016.
Neither team that Denver plays this weekend is currently ranked.
Canisius has played only one game in 2017 having topped Dartmouth 13-8. Their real strength seems to be with the defense and goaltending because Dartmouth outplayed the Griffs in every aspect of their first ever match-up.
The Golden Griffins had eight different players score in their victory, and Liam Ganzhorn stood tall in cage with 14 saves. The offense played very consistently, scoring four in the first quarter and then three in each of the following.
Connor Kearnan (Junior) had a career game against Dartmouth with nine points (four goals, five assists).
The questions that will be answered this weekend – more so in their match up with Air Force – will be was Dartmouth that evenly matched with Canisius, or is Canisius the real deal against the Falcons this weekend? Is Canisius as consistently precise with their shot opportunities as their stats project, or were they getting lucky?
CLEVELAND STATE VIKINGS
If you ever saw the movie We Are Marshall then you’ll understand when I say that is the Cleveland State Vikings (minus the backstory of the football team).
This is the Vikings’ inaugural season debuting in NCAA Division-I lacrosse. They are 2-2 officially, carrying an inexperienced offense of entirely freshmen. The three upperclassmen on the roster haven’t been active in a minute.
To give credit where such is due, Cleveland State opened their season with Michigan and Duke as opponents, losing 13-8 to Michigan and more depressingly 22-7 to Duke. That type of score just puts the team down, causes loss of focus and lack of care. The Vikings went on to play Baldwin Wallace and John Carroll – both younger, DIII programs – and walked away with victories. But with their matchup this weekend, those were only morale wins. They walk into Barton Lacrosse Stadium against No.1 Denver.
If this score is any closer than 20-2, I’ll give the Pioneers sportsmanship credit and Cleveland State an ‘A’ for effort. This will most certainly be a learning experience for the young freshmen, and an introduction to the strength of the rest of their season. Their drive will be tested more than most programs.
Starting out 1-2 is not ideal and the Falcons have a lighter schedule than DU. This weekend will be key for them in restoring season momentum and focus.
The offense is completely deflated. Only averaging seven points per game and barely over a .200 shot percentage, one has to logically wonder how do you win lacrosse games that way? Right now, Nick Hruby leads the Falcons with seven goals on the season and two assists. Chris Walsch is the overall leader with just one more point.
Face-offs are ugly – only having won 22 on the entire season so far, and the defense has been quiet since leaving Denver in the opener. Paxton Boyer in net is playing with a .460 save average.
College athletes have some of the toughest jobs out there, let alone in the military also. Air Force is the type of program that wants it all, to play with passion and dignity. They need to focus in on turning this season around. This weekend is, again, a huge opportunity for that to happen.
RATE THE WEEKEND
This slate of matchups features a highly questionable lineup. Denver has the high-road backwards, ideally wanting Canisius first on Saturday but either way heavily in the Pioneers favor.
Cleveland State has the absolute worst weekend playing No. 1 Denver and then Air Force the very next day.
Canisius has a tough ride, but an opportunity if they can keep their energies up for Sunday’s home opponent.
Air Force has the best, most opportune lineup, playing Canisius Saturday at full strength and versus Cleveland State Sunday they’ll be tired, but mostly favored.