Sticks of the Week: Big 10 play begins as reigning champs take on rising underdog

Liam Oram

Sports Blogger

@liam_oram

 

North Carolina Tar Heel at Duke Blue Devils

4 p.m. Friday, ESPNU

Winner: Duke, 11-10

VisitPlano/Flickr

North Carolina (6-5) has had the most up and down season this year. Although the Tar Heels have snagged a big victory against Johns Hopkins, they have struggled against in most other games. In their game against Maryland in the Pacific coast shootout, their defense showed improvement in slowing down the Terps’ offense. Then they began to struggle down the stretch as their goalie Alex Bassil let some questionable goals in. Senior Chris Cloutier, who has provided 27 goals on the season, is leading the Tar Heels’ offense. They need other players to help step up and provide the needed goals that will allow them to catch up in games when they get down. Their defense is young this year, and off ball cutters have picked it apart constantly. No. 5 Duke defeated North Carolina and came in with one of the best offenses in the nation. Senior Justin Guterding, who has been on fire from behind the crease, leads the Blue Devils. Freshman attackman Joe Robertson has aided Guterding in his efforts. The Blue Devils are going played angry after taking a hard-fought one-goal loss to their bitter rival Syracuse. The Blue Devils’ biggest struggle in the game against the Orange was capitalizing on their numerous face-off wins. They went 20-of-32 on face-offs but were slogged down by 13 turnovers on offense. Duke’s tempo was off as well, as the typically fast-paced offense was slowed down on most possessions. Duke had to storm back from a five-goal deficit last year against North Carolina , but with the Tar Heels’ inexperience on defense, the Blue Devils won the game by one goal.

Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Wolverines

11 p.m. Saturday, Big Ten Network

No. 2 Maryland has proven its contender status over the last couple of weeks. After losing to the best team in the nation three games ago, the Terrapins (7-1) beat a surging Villanova team and a young Tar Heels team. The Terps have returned most of their stellar defensive players who helped them to a national championship and have received the same great production from their star senior midfielder, Connor Kelly. Maryland played well in its tough nonconference schedule and now will have to begin its long trek through the Big Ten. They are going to rely on their senior goalie Dan Morris as many of the Big Ten offenses are known for their scoring prowess. Their stellar defense will have to be on point when the up-and-coming young No. 15 Michigan team challenges it.  The Wolverines (7-2) have strung together big victories against tough teams like Notre Dame and Marquette. The Wolverines’ offense has been one of the best in the country. Junior Brent Noseworthy, who has put up a staggering 31 goals on the season, has led Michigan’s offense. In a game against Notre Dame, Noseworthy’s play was crucial as he added five goals. In their last game against UMBC, the Wolverines got the defensive help they’ve looked for in much of the season as goalie Tommy Heidt came in with 13 crucial saves. The Wolverines have begun to play well on cylinders. Last year, Maryland controlled this game, but this Michigan team has changed a lot since last year. The Wolverines are going to come ready to play, so expect it to be close.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Syracuse Orange

4 p.m.  Saturday, ESPNU

No. 10 Syracuse is riding high after beating Duke in Durham. The Orange (4-3) showed much improvement in their game, especially players like Brendan Bomberry and Nate Solomon. This was a crucial victory for the Orange. In their prior couple of games, they struggled against Rutgers and Johns Hopkins. They are returning back to the dome in this game and have struggled there twice this season in an up-and-down year. They will need senior goalie Dom Madonna to play as well as he did against the Blue Devils as they come up against a strong No. 7 Notre Dame team with a great offense. After a big victory against Ohio State last weekend, the Fighting Irish (5-2) are riding high. The Irish had major help from senior attackman Mikey Wynne, who had two goals in the game. Wynne has been a major leader for the offense as he has put up 13 goals on the season and been everywhere on the field. The main improvement for the Irish has been in the net with the play of freshman goalie Matt Schmidt. Face-offs have also been a big key for the Irish this season as John Travisano has been killing it at the x. In the Irish’s last game, Travisano won 17 of 19 face-offs. The Irish have great victories on the season against teams like Denver, Virginia, and now Ohio State. Last season, Notre Dame easily handled the Orange. This season, both teams have had struggles and have had great games, so expect this game to be contested until one team pulls away in the end.

ozone@ocolly.com

 

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