Sticks of the Week: Unbeaten teams face off again as Danes are tested once more

Liam Oram

Sports Blogger

@liam_oram

 

Maryland Terrapins at Villanova Wildcats

noon Saturday

VisitPlano/Flickr

No. 6 Villanova has been one of the teams to watch this season as its recruits have finally come in and played well lately. The Wildcats (6-1) have strung together some great victories this season against strong teams like Penn State, Yale, Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It seems like they are living up to the hype they carried into this season. The Wildcats’ junior goalie Nick Testa posted a great 50-percent save percentage this season and shut down many of the teams that played them, and he pitched a shutout in the first half of their last game. Their offense has received tons of help from senior attackman Christian Cuccinello, who has notched 21 goals this season. They are going to have to play at a high level when they face an angry No. 2 Maryland team that is fresh off a tough loss. The Terrapins (5-1), the reigning national champions, came close to beating Albany last weekend before the Great Danes surged back to win. Connor Kelly continued to play in top form. He has been lighting up goalies, tallying 15 goals this season as the Terrapins’ most vocal leader. The Terps’ defense has still been as stellar as it was last season. Their senior defender Bryce Young has been shutting down opposing teams’ star players, and senior goalie Dan Morris has been a commanding presence in goal. The Terps proved they are still a national contending team and are hungry for a victory. Villanova and Maryland are still looking to prove they can compete at a championship level, but each team will need a victory  to gain more momentum. Expect a close matchup.

Vermont Catamounts at Albany Great Danes

2 p.m. Saturday

No. 12 Vermont has come out of nowhere as the most surprising team of this season. Many people are discounting the Catamounts (7-0) because they have not played particularly good teams, but this game could change that. Midfielder Ian Mackay, who has 17 goals, is leading Vermont. The Catamounts have also received great performances from their freshman attackman Liam Limoges, who has greatly improved many of their struggles they had on last year. The Catamounts’ sophomore goalie has been a great presence in cage as he has put an incredible 63 save percentage in net. A victory here would show they belong in the rankings, but it will take a lot to beat the top team in the nation. Senior attackman Connor Fields has led the Great Danes (5-0) to a great start. They held off the reigning champs in College Park after a great comeback performance. The addition of Tehoka Naticoke to their main attack line has made their already high-powered offense even better. The Danes have showed that they can compete on the road against some strong teams. This will be their first test against another American East team, and they performed well against many of their out-of-conference opponents. Many of the defenses they’ve faced, including Maryland’s incredible defense, have yet to figure out the Danes’ high-powered offense. They have played fast-paced games in which they never let up on the opposing teams, as they have a goal differential of 39. Expect a hotly contested game. Both teams want to win their first conference game and stay undefeated.

Virginia Cavaliers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

5 p.m. Saturday ESPNU

No. 9 Virginia gained another victory last weekend as its offense controlled much of the game. It still wasn’t highly impressive for the Cavaliers (6-1) as they barely squeaked past Stony Brook. While the Cavaliers will lose some offensive production with Ryan Conrad’s season-ending injury, they still have much of their offense intact. Freshman attackman Ian Laviano and sophomore attackman Michael Kraus still provide a fair amount of production in goals, as they have a combined total of 37 goals when their attack line is on. Virginia also can still rely on sophomore midfielder Dox Aitke. He provides lots of help on the midfield line with his goals. Virginia has had struggles with its goalies in their last couple of games. Freshman Alex Rode and sophomore Griffin Thompson  have let in some questionable goals while in net. They have split time equally but seem to have trouble getting stops. Both goalies will have to have peak performances as they going up against an all-around strong No. 4 Notre Dame team. The Fighting Irish (3-1) have had some big victories against strong teams like Denver in their last game. The Irish showed how balanced their team is with big offensive performances from Bryan Costabile, Brendan Gleason and Michael Drake. Their face-offs were the most impressive part of their performance as they surprisingly controlled against the best face-off man in the nation. This allowed Notre Dame to dictate most of the possession time against Denver. Their freshman goalie Matt Schmidt played incredibly against some of the top shooters in the nation. The Irish helped Schmidt, playing incredible defense and shutting down many of the Denver players on offense. Notre Dame plays great off ball defense, shutting down opposing teams’ cutters and preventing easy goals. Each team is looking for its first ACC victory. and In that conference, every game is heated, and expect nothing less here.

ozone@ocolly.com

 

 

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