Sticks of the Week: Top 5 teams duke it out

Liam Oram

Sports Blogger

@liam_oram

Denver Pioneers at Duke Blue Devils

5 p.m. Friday, ESPNU

VisitPlano/Flickr

After No. 3 Denver barely missed out on the national championship last year, the Pioneers are off to a great start this season. Junior attackman Austin French, who had a hat trick, led them to beat Air Force in their first game of the season. He will try to put on a repeat performance as No. 1 Duke has its own star in senior attackman Justin Guterding, who was named second-team All-American last year. Guterding is coming into this game after already notching 12 goals. The key for Denver (2-0) in this game will be to limit the amount of possessions Duke has. Denver’s Trevor Baptiste will lead this effort to limit possessions at the face off x. Baptiste redefined the “Faceoff, get off” (FOGO) player as he amassed 12 goals last season and has been dominant on face-offs in every game. The Blue Devils (3-0) will be ready for the Pioneers’ strong offense, as last season, Duke gave up an average of 8.39 goals per game, which was the lowest that statistic had been for the Blue Devils since 2009. They returned two starters, who are great cover defenders, from their defensive unit last year. They also improved their offense through adding an impressive transfer from Georgetown to their midfield. Both teams will have to control possession to win, but the team that plays defense better will get the job done.

Albany Great Danes at Syracuse Orange

1 p.m. Saturday

If you love high-scoring offensive affairs, then this is the game to watch on Saturday. Although No. 7 Syracuse lost all three of its offensive leaders from last season, it has some great players to replace them. Stepping up into one of those spots is junior Nate Solomon. He was one of the big bright spots from the scrappy offense that Syracuse (1-0) had last year as he had 28 goals and chipped in with eight assists. Senior attackman/midfielder Brendan Bomberry, who is one of the Orange’s most dangerous inside shooters, also had a leadership role. No. 4 Albany is no slouch on offense, either. The Great Danes are returning Tewaaraton Award finalist Connor Fields. Fields, a senior attackman, had some major offensive production for the Danes (0-0) last year as he ended with 55 goals and 62 assists. Senior attackman Justin Reh, who tallied 39 goals last season and was on the America East All-Conference second team, will help fields. Albany’s offense has been in the top of the league for the last couple of years and can continue this tradition with the offense it has this year. This game will be fast-paced and have a playoff-like atmosphere, so it shouldn’t be missed.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Army Black Knights

1:30 p.m. Saturday

After a massive collapse last season, No. 11 Rutgers might just have a team that competes with its past glories. Senior defenseman Michael Rexrode, who was a 2017 third team All-American last year, is coming back to help the defensive side, which has improved. The offense is also more polished this season with the return of Christian Trasolini and Adam Charambides, who suffered season-ending injuries last year. Rutgers (2-0) is off to a great start this year, as it’s beaten two high-caliber teams in St. Johns and Robert Morris. This victory is needed for the Scarlet Knights’ season to stay on the right track. No. 13 is poised to be a strong team this year, as many key players returned from last year. One of these returning starters is senior midfielder David Symmes, who ended last season with 25 goals and can pick up where he left off last season with some more goals in this crucial matchup. The struggle for Army (1-0) this season is at the face off x with the graduation of Dan Grabher. The Black Knights will need to make sure to keep the ball away from the Scarlet Knights’ offense, which will likely capitalize on many possessions. This would be a big victory for either of these teams, which have struggled to make the tournament in the last couple of years, so expect a fast-paced, hard-hitting affair.

ozone@ocolly.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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