Denver Face Off Classic Ends in Surprises

This weekend’s event in Denver could not have been better timed to fit in with a weekend full of lacrosse upsets across the entire schedule. Though the probable teams came out on top this weekend, performances were full of surprise and excitement.

All four games were hard fought the entire way through. Hard hits and punishing checks were exchanged in constantly back and forth, scrappy games. Despite the usual spectator discontent with officiating, the referees allowed both teams to play out and keep the game under control.



In a high scoring 15-10 victory for Air Force, eight different Falcons had goals. Marcus Ward (4g) and Chris Walsch (3) each recorded hat tricks; Hruby, Gould, Flynn, Carter, Smith and Schwartz all tallied goals. Air Force managed to beat out the Griffs in shots, ground balls, and face-offs.

Air Force vs. Canisius College on February 25, 2017. (Photo credit: Ian Neadle)
Air Force vs. Canisius College on February 25, 2017. (Photo credit: Ian Neadle)

The turning point in the game was the third quarter. Though the score heading into the half was 8-3 there was still an opportunity for Canisius to come back based on the effort they were putting in. They would only win the spirit award for all their yelling on the sidelines while Air Force scored six goals in the third quarter with three of them unanswered at one point within three and a half minutes.

Nicholas Acardi and Trent Harper had the defensive efforts of the day for Air Force snagging eight ground balls alone. Paxton Boyer and Fitzhugh Lee both got time in goal – Boyer with a .500 save percentage in the game.


The amount I have to say about this freshmen team is unfathomable. Though the scoreboard and stats reflect the Vikings being smashed into little pieces, losing 19-6, the performance itself was full of excitement, effort, and fundamentals. The Vikings surprisingly scored the first goal of the game and won the first three face-offs on contention.

Not only did Cleveland State get six on the board against the No. 1 team in the nation, but they were able to capitalize on two of their three granted man up opportunities. The size and experience difference was noticeable, and many times the Vikings were overwhelmed – barely able to handle the ball – but they never quit and ran with the “big boys.”

There was a scary moment when Cleveland State’s Danny Tesler took a target to the head from a Pio and laid motionless on the ground for a few minutes. Tierney even walked out to the downed player with some personal thoughts and condolences. The hit itself was audible throughout the entire stadium and the air went silent. Eventually, Tesler was able to walk off guided by trainers and would spend the rest of the game on the sideline under concussion protocol.

Tesler scored a goal prior to his exit, and Jake Lewis, Noah Gleeson (2g) and Tommy Joyce (2g) all tallied goals. The Vikings continue to figure out who their team leaders are as there were many different players in throughout the game, including at attack and defense.



Cleveland State kept up the effort a second day in a row but six goals from Air Force early in the game demoralized the young Vikings straightaway who lost their second contest of the weekend 16-2.

There are three areas that the Vikings truly struggled at in both contests but even more so against Air


Offensive possessions (both time and abilities) were terrible. The possessions the Vikings do run are wheel passes. They’re taking too long to achieve their plays and need to speed that up. When they do have the ball, Cleveland State must protect the ball and maintain it. They were very sloppy with their offenses.

Shots, shots, shots! The Vikings need many more shots at the goal instead of playing catch on offense. More than three players need to be willing to dodge and make the moves.

Finally, ground balls. They’re definitely disadvantaged by sheer size but at the end of the day many of the ground balls were caused by them.

Defensively, the Vikings continue to surprise. They’re able to keep up with other offenses pretty well and square up with them. However, offense needs to pick up some of the slack and

Air Force vs. Cleveland State on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. (Photo credit: Ian Neadle)
Air Force vs. Cleveland State on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. (Photo credit: Ian Neadle)

give the defense a rest.

Gideon Brockenbrough and Brandon Ruditz were the only two scorers for Cleveland on Sunday. Chris Walsch and Grant Gould each had hat tricks – Walsch his second in two days. The Falcons should ride out the momentum from two wins this weekend and work their season back on track.


Connor Cannizzaro continued his game scoring streak with four points in Sunday’s contest prior to a scary moment causing his exit, and Bill Tierney notched his 100th career win as DU Head Coach. Colton Jackson also spearheaded the offensive efforts as Denver went on to shutout Canisius 12-0.

Denver dominated in shots (44-18), ground balls (32-17), face-offs (12-3) and man up opportunities capitalizing on three of their granted nine. Canisius brought the heat though, with their defense punishing anyone who dared enter their territory.

The uncomfortable moment occurred when the Pios’ star in Cannizzaro got hammered in the head between two Canisius defenders sending him to the ground hard. He was hesitant to get up and clearly disoriented on the field. The trainers would escort him to the proper sideline.


At the end of the weekend, all teams involved proved their own. Denver should continue to hang at the top of the polls while the rest of the Top 20 mix around following number of upsets. Air Force does have the abilities to get back on track and stay there; they need to stay as focused as they were this weekend. Canisius needs to clean up penalties and questionable plays in order to win, and climb higher in shots and face-offs. Cleveland State will be one heck of a team in 2-3 years with the experience they’re collecting this year. The boys are resilient and youthful.

Denver continues their six game home streak next Saturday as host to defending champs UNC. Air Force Plays Boston University out east. Cleveland State and Canisius play each other and the Vikings may want to wear extra pads.