After starting off April by throttling the Marquette University Golden Eagles 15-4, the University of Denver Pioneers (8-2) wrap-up the weekend against the Bellarmine University Knights (7-2) at Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium – in the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s game of the week.
This is the first meeting between the two teams this season, with Bellarmine chasing Denver for the second spot in the ECAC – and Denver vying for the top seed with Loyola University. To gain ground in the home-stretch of the ECAC race, the Knights are looking to stop a Pioneer’s team that has won seven of their last eight games coming into the contest.
The conference and post-season implications intensifies this battle between an explosive offense and stalwart defense.
Bellarmine will certainly be more of a challenge to the fourth-best offense in the nation, as the Pioneers will be hosting one of the country’s top goalies in the Knight’s goalie Dillon Ward. Ward has posted an impressive 70.6 save percentage – which leads the nation – and is third in saves per-game with just over 14 and a half per-game.
Ward will certainly need all the saves he can get, though, facing Denver’s attackman Eric Law and midfielder Wesley Berg. Law leads the country in shot percentage, and put up his 10th hat-trick of his career April. 5 in Denver’s 11-point dismantling of Marquette – leading the team with 4 goals. Berg is third in the country in goals per game, and leads the team with 31.
The stout Knight’s defense is led by defensemen Michael Bender and Bobby Schmitt, and will be looking to stop the power-duo of Ward and Law. Coming in averaging just under 35 shots per game, Denver looks to overwhelm Bellarmine offensively. But, with a opponent shot percentage of .189, and only allowing an average of just under 7 goals per-game, that may just be what the Knights are expecting.
Bellarmine is coming off a tough defensive road victory in which they built off a four-goal first quarter, and held Fairfield University to two goals or under in all four quarters en route to an 8-7 win March 30.
With only a handful of games remaining for each club until the ECAC tournament both will be needing this win to maintain their position. However, it may be Bellarmine with the most to lose, as they have already posted two conference losses. At 3-2 a loss would give the Knights a .500 conference record, while boosting Denver’s 3-0 ECAC record to within one-game of top-seeded Loyola.
The Pioneers are perfect against the Knights with a 7-0 all-time record, further stacking the odds for the away team. For this Bellarmine team there is no time like the present to break that losing streak against the No. 3 team in the nation – but, doing it in the Mile High City will require firing on all cylinders for a full 60 minutes.