The Weekend in Stick is exactly what it sounds like -- a recap of all the important things that happened in the universe while you were enjoying two days of not-work. Part I features thoughts on the big stories from the weekend.
The HAMtriot League
The Patriot League is starting to look more and more like it could have the kind of depth in insanity that it seemingly lacked last season. Three league games popped with heat this past weekend, all featuring the high-end retail of Bonkers (patent pending) that has elevated the conference's profile in the early part of 2015. A Patriot League that is able to draw consciousness into its gravity is great for the conference, even if its league membership isn't littering the top of the polls in notable volume. Internal competitiveness -- even if it stands apart from external strength -- is a powerful attribute that maintains relevance in a unique era of Division I lacrosse.
- The 'Hounds and Mountain Hawks entered the fourth quarter locked at eight, the residue of Lehigh bucketing two tallies in the final two minutes of the quarter that erased a two-goal deficit. Loyola's ability to execute in the final period -- the team put three goals on the board on only three shots, getting buckets on three of its eight possessions in the quarter -- shot the Hawks into the atmosphere, leaving only a trail of Lehigh's strong three quarters of play in its wake.
- Holy Cross entered the final period of regulation with a two-goal hole it was attempting to climb out of. Three straight scores in a five-minute stretch erased the Crusaders' situation, earning Holy Cross a tenuous 6-5 lead with 4:46 left on the clock. Things then went sideways in Worcester: A goal from T.J. Hanzche drew Navy square with 3:54 remaining in regulation and a Dave Little man-up goal -- earned on a slashing penalty imposed on Sean Wilkinson -- gave the Mids all the lead they would need to salt the game away. The result is indicative of what the middle of the Patriot League is going to look like this season: A brutal fistfight of balanced teams that should yield a host of tight matches.
- Ryan Walsh now has 11 points on six goals and five assists in Patriot League play after a two-and-three effort against Bucknell. The Bulldozer -- a 6'4" piece of heavy machinery that is capable of massive destruction -- is a key factor to the Raiders' ceiling this spring and his recent push has helped stabilize a team that is finding its way toward something viable in 2015. Colgate hasn't quite established four results that mark league title potential, but the Raiders are moving closer to that position after the team's solid victory against the Bison. The team's best conference competition sits on the backside of the team's schedule -- the Raiders will not meet Loyola, Lehigh, and Army until late-March and through April -- and if Colgate can continue to accumulate workmanlike victories against the middle and bottom of the conference, the Raiders could find themselves in win-and-you're-gold games when the weather finally turns toward something reasonable.
You Fancy, Huh?
There was a solid pool of nonconference games this past weekend that featured ranked teams attempting to drown each other in the tub. These games will start to bleed into nothingness as conference season starts to accelerate, but for a moment, out-of-conference games featuring teams swinging at each other's faces with heavy instruments of controlled violence remains a driving force in the progression of the season.
The most interesting result of the nation's top nonconference games was probably Princeton's overtime defeat of Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field. As Princeton provides in its press release:
Long after Princeton gave back what appeared to be an insurmountable lead, long after Johns Hopkins scored five extra-man goals in five minutes, shortly after Hopkins had a two-goal lead and not that long after Ryan Ambler tied it with seven seconds left, Gavin McBride cashed in the game-winner with 1:07 left in overtime, off a cross-crease feed from Riley Thompson, to give Princeton a pulsating 16-15 win over in front of 1,217 fans at a very chilly Homewood Field.
That's really the story of the game: Momentum, lost momentum, and Princeton hammering the brick in big spots that may have done serious damage to Johns Hopkins' season. The Jays are running out of legitimate opportunities to bag kills that will impress the selection committee if Hopkins is unable to secure the Big Ten's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament -- the Blue Jays are likely to enter its dates with Syracuse, Virginia, and Maryland as underdogs, requiring Hopkins to play up or its opponents to suffer physically-crippling brain farts -- and the evaporated chance to count Princeton as a win may follow the Jays throughout the season as a haunting reminder of "But if . . . ."
- A five-goal spurt from North Carolina that started at the 12:28 mark of the third quarter and ended just under three minutes later changed the entire complexion of the Tar Heels' date with Denver. Additional focus was put upon an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Ryan LaPlante took with 8:26 remaining in regulation -- Carolina scored on the man-up and turned a two-goal lead into a three-goal advantage -- but it was the Heels' push early in the second half that put the Pioneers in a chase position.
- Albany isn't going to win many games when Lyle Thompson -- the team's combustion point -- commits nine turnovers against four points. Seven of Thompson's giveaways were unforced, a tough reality for the Danes to deal with given Thompson's importance and presence within Albany's offense.
- Duke's offense is a punishing force of compression when it presses. The Devils put up 21 goals on 58 shots -- fifty-eight -- against a defense that was expected to rise as one of the Ivy League's best. It was an emotionless demolition, one that featured Justin Guterding collaring nine points on 13 shots (11 were on goal). The Devils seem to be creating steam again after a four-goal loss to Denver and are set to do something fun with Loyola this Saturday at Koskinen Stadium.