Denver shuts down Air Force in thrilling opener

The Denver University Pioneers get ready for their game against Air Force on Saturday, February 11 at Peter Barton Stadium. (Photo credit: Ian Neadle)

The atmosphere was lit in the latest meeting between the Pioneers and Falcons, and the Pios used it to their advantage shutting down the Falcons 14-6. The sunny skies gave way to chilly breezes and clouds right before face off but that didn’t stop spectators from filling in every vantage point possible (including hills and trees) to witness the game. The student section and stands were a 50/50 split of loyalties and Air Force followers but were loud enough to create a home field-feeling for the first quarter of the game.

In front of a sold-out crowd, Denver drew first blood with a solo goal from Ethan Walker a mere 89 seconds into competition. From there, the stage was set for a tight game full of strong defensive stances, solid offensive possessions and tons of back and forth battle up and down the field by both teams.

Air Force finally found an answer back with 3:37 left in the quarter from Chris Walsch off an assist from Andrew Tien to tie up the scoreboard at 1-1. This would open up the road to victory for DU, started by a goal off a combo from Ethan Walker to Connor Cannizzaro in a man-up situation caused by a nasty slash to the head just a few moments prior to the goal. Cannizzaro then unleashed his cannon again with an unassisted dunk, diving through the crease a minute and half into the second quarter.

What followed was continued back and forth – again calling for a tight game. The scoreboard reflected a 3-1 lead by Denver, but Air Force was playing with composure and control both offensively and defensively. Spectators were still ecstatic. Then, with 8:26 left in the first half, Colton Jackson snagged himself a goal off an assist from Connor Donahue. 4-1 Denver.

The Falcons answered back meagerly three minutes later to make it 4-2, but the Pios shut down any hope that brought the visitors with a solo goal from Jeremy Bosher – opening up the route for his hat trick. The first half would close with DU leading Air Force 5-2.

As per status quo, the second half became the life of the part for the Pioneers. Though Air Force scored the first goal of the second half off a sniper from Andrew Tien (with assist from Chris Walsch) Denver began their offensive route with an Ethan Walker goal unassisted off a sweet swim dodge. Cannizzaro followed up two and a half minutes later with his hat trick goal bringing DU ahead 7-3.

Air Force answered back with a goal with 25 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but Denver not only had an answer – but a shut-down of the Air Force morale and game tempo. Denver scored three goals in 24 seconds: Trevor Baptiste off a face-off fast-break stampeding down the field, Cannizzaro 13 seconds later unassisted off a wing dodge, and three seconds later a perfectly executed lacrosse basic fast break – a Baptiste face-off pass to Cannizzaro who quick-sticked to Walker for the ultimate buzzer beating dunk. The Pioneer fans went nuts and Air Force loyals could only sit on the cold metal bleachers.

Denver ran away with the game in the final period of play scoring four more goals to Air Force’s two, and closing out hat tricks for Connor Cannizzaro, Jeremy Bosher and Ethan Walker.

Alex Ready demonstrated his offseason development in both positionally and as a defensive quarterback. He commanded the Denver defense and communicated shut downs of the Falcons’ attempts to repeat their Duke victory performance.

Air Force tried running the exact same offense that propelled them past Duke against Denver, and as effective of an offensive system they have, DU’s defense actually showed up to play unlike Duke’s. Many commended the Falcons man-up and even possessions, and their attention to both detail and finding open opportunities. This also compliments the Denver defense and Ready’s abilities in shutting them down so eloquently.

Denver moves on 1-0 to play Duke (1-1) February 18th at noon MT in Denver. The Pios stand with a record against Air Force of 18-2 throughout their histories.