Alright, so some conferences have already started their conference schedule. But this weekend, nearly every team that’s playing will have a conference game, including the CAA, which opens up conference play on Saturday.
For some teams, it’s a chance to get that top seed in their respective conference tournaments en route to a possible automatic bid. For other teams, the road to the postseason begins now. One loss might be the difference between reaching a conference tournament and their season coming to an end.
There’s plenty of big games this week, and it all begins with an ACC rivalry on Friday night.
#17 North Carolina @ #11 Duke – 6 PM (ESPNU)
The weekend begins with a battle on Tobacco Road, as both of these teams aren’t having the best of seasons. The Tar Heels fell to Maryland 11-8 last weekend, but who knows what team will show up Friday night? Will it be the one that took Denver to overtime, or the one that lost to Hofstra and UMass? There’s no one superstar on the offense that includes leading goal scorer Steve Pontrello and junior Luke Goldstock. Meanwhile for Duke, they had a spirited final quarter against Syracuse last week and ended up beating the Orange in overtime. Deemer Class registered seven goals in the win, while Justin Guterding and Chad Cohan had hat-tricks. The Duke offense has a ton of weapons, including Jack Bruckner, who didn’t record a point until overtime when he assisted on Cohan’s winner. Goaltender Danny Fowler looks like he’s getting better and better as the season goes. He played UNC in his first career start last year.
Penn @ #1 Yale – Noon (ESPN3)
The top-ranked Bulldogs host a surprisingly good Penn team as one of the early games on Saturday. Ben Reeves leads the team in all offensive scoring categories, but the story with this team is the defense, which is anchored by senior Michael Quinn. This defense has carried this Yale team into a possible title contender. As for the Quakers, they’re 2-0 in Ivy play with wins over Princeton and Cornell to tie Yale in first place in the conference. Nick Doktor leads the team in points with 29, while Simon Matheis and Alex Roeser each have 14 goals. A big key to their success has been freshman goalie Reed Junkin, who has a .565 save percentage so far this year. Could we see a rematch in the Ivy League Tournament come May?
Another Ivy League game to watch: #3 Brown hosting Princeton at 1 PM, also on ESPN3. Split screen ESPN to start your Saturday.
Lehigh @ #20 Boston University – 12:30 PM (Patriot League Network)
Lehigh is in need of a big win after losing their last two, and a road win against Boston would be that big win. Freshman Tristan Rai only has a goal and an assist in his past two games after starting 2016 hot. He still leads the team in goals with 23, one more than senior Reid Weber, who is also in need of a big game. They’ll have to face a Boston team that’s won their last two games, including a 9-8 win over Harvard. The youth of Jack Wilson, James Burr, and Brendan Homrie, along with juniors Cal Dearth and Adam Schaal and FOGO Sam Talkow, have carried this team to arguably their best season so far in program history. They’ll host Army next week in a huge Patriot League game.
Virginia @ Richmond – 1 PM
One of the very few non-conference games of the weekend. The Wahoos got a much needed win last Sunday as they defeated Johns Hopkins 13-12 in overtime as Mike D’Amario scored the game winner just 19 seconds into the extra session. The Cavaliers need a win against Richmond, because they might miss out on the ACC Tournament for the second straight season. The Spiders are having a great season, with wins over Duke and last week against High Point in SoCon play. Mitch Goldberg and freshman Teddy Hatfield have led the charge for the Spiders, who are looking like SoCon contenders along with Air Force. This game being at Richmond also helps the Spiders.
#6 Villanova @ Marquette – 2 PM
The Wildcats have been the biggest surprise so far this season, but they suffered a huge loss to Brown on Tuesday, when the Bears put up 19 goals. Jake Froccaro leads the nation in goals with 31 and has flourished in his first year on the Main Line since he transferred from Princeton. The return of Devin McNamara from injury, along with help from Jack Curran and Christian Cuccinello are helping Nova form a strong at-large bid. The Golden Eagles haven’t had a very strong schedule, and they haven’t had all-BIG EAST midfielder Kyle Whitlow for the last three games after suffering a season-ending injury. Ryan McNamara and Conor Gately have to carry this team on offense if they want to have a chance to beat Nova’s high scoring offense.
#2 Notre Dame @ #7 Syracuse – 5 PM (ESPNU) – GAME OF THE WEEK
This is my choice for Game of the Week. The Irish have looked Final Four ready for most of this season, with their only loss coming against Denver in overtime, again. The offense led by Matt Kavanagh, Mikey Wynne, and of course Sergio Perkovic has been one story. The other story has been defenseman Matt Landis and junior goaltender Shane Doss keeping the team in their last three games, including last week’s 9-8 win over Ohio State. Meanwhile, the Cuse are celebrating their 100th anniversary inside the Carrier Dome, and it will certainly be loud. In their past two games, the Orange have had quick starts, before faltering in the fourth quarter and overtime to give up games against Johns Hopkins and Duke, both on the road. Will we see another big game from Sergio Salcido, who had four goals against Duke last week, or will Dylan Donahue have another seven goal game like he did the last time the two teams met in South Bend last year? Get ready for some offense.
#18 Penn State @ Ohio State – Noon (ESPNU)
Big Ten play starts this weekend as well, and this game will cap off your weekend well. The Nittany Lions are coming off a huge upset win over then-top ranked Denver 15-10 in Texas. Freshman Grant Ament, TJ Sanders, and Nick Aponte have led the Penn State’s success, which has also included an overtime win over Harvard earlier in March. The Buckeyes have lost four straight games, all of which have been to either ranked teams or teams that were ranked at the time. Last week, they lost to Notre Dame by one and the week before, they fell to Denver. A tough schedule indeed, but Nick Myers’s crew hopes that they can get back to their winning ways in Big Ten play. Austin Shanks and Carter Brown can help lead the way.
#4 Denver @ Georgetown – 11 AM (CBS Sports Network)
#14 Air Force @ Bellarmine – Noon
#5 Maryland @ Michigan – 1 PM (BTN)
Bucknell @ #15 Army – 3:30 PM (Patriot League Network)
#9 Johns Hopkins @ Rutgers – 7 PM (BTN2GO)
Fairfield @ Hofstra – 7 PM
#6 NYIT @ #1 Limestone – Noon (Lax Sports Network) (Division II)
#5 Adelphi @ #4 Merrimack – Noon (Division II)
#8 Lake Erie @ #9 Seton Hill – 1 PM (Division II)
#2 RIT @ #8 St. Lawrence – Noon (Division III)
#5 Amherst @ #13 Middlebury – 2 PM (Division III)
#16 Loyola @ Colgate – Noon (CBS Sports Network)