The Patriot League
There is no shortage of references to the Patriot League as a cannibalistic entity. The conference parity is frightening. Just a word to the wise, if you’re looking for a cannibal reference, go with the stock Hannibal Lecter, the Donner Party, or the film Alive. Just skimming through the Wikipedia page on the subject gets disturbing fast.
The dog-eat-dog veracity of Patriot League action was on display last weekend. Here are a few notes:
Bucknell/Colgate: Colgate stumbled out of the gate against Michigan, causing many to question whether the Raiders were the same team they were last year. Well, no, that’s not possible with personnel turnover and all. But you know what I mean. Colgate beat Bucknell twice last year, once in a close regular season game, and then a blowout in the Patriot League tournament. This edition was a back and forth affair that needed overtime to determine a winner. Bucknell was a top 20 team going into the game and a win would have helped bump the Bison up, at least in my book. But the loss opened the door for other teams.
Navy/BU: That other team was Boston University. Look, Navy is a solid team, but the Mids offense has been too inconsistent this year. We’re still waiting for Jack Ray to impose his will, as someone with his frame should be able to do. Ray didn’t even get on the score sheet in this context. That’s not to take anything away from Patrick Keena, he continues to be a sparkplug for Navy. Just look at the goalie play to see where the difference in this game was. John "The Terminator" Connors only made 5 stops, while his counterweight, Christian Carson-Bannister made 15. That’s a huge swing in favor of the scrappy dogs. The loss was a major hit to a Navy team looking to find its stride. For the Terriers it was a nice rebound after an unexpected drubbing by Hartford, that puts them atop the league table. For now.
Loyola/Lafayette: The Leopards have been the Patriot League whipping boy for a while now. Sorry ‘pards fans. Just calling a spade a spade. But there have been flickers of progress. The first half of last year’s game against Loyola stands out in my mind. Well it seems the boys from Easton learned from their experience and gave the Hounds a run for their money this year. This was a much closer game than anticipated. Don’t sleep on Lafayette’s Jason Sands. He’s currently leading the nation in average assists per game at 4.3. Yes, LEADING the NATION. Of course, Loyola also force 18 turnovers in the contest, ending up with the 12-8 victory.
Lehigh/Holy Cross: Is this another up and down year for Holy Cross? You never know what Crusaders squad you’ll see from week to week, apparently. Remember, Lehigh had Duke up against the ropes earlier this year before running out of time to rally. Holy Cross was up 11-9 in the fourth quarter before Lehigh mounted a late comeback, scoring three straight to seal the 12-11 win.
The point in recounting all of these Patriot League match ups is that all of the games were close. The widest margin of victory being 4 goals, and that was between what are considered the best and worst teams in the country. The thing about one goal games is that they can go either way. This is why it’s foolish to sleep on the Patriot League. Whether you’re watching these games lives, streaming, or simply following live stats, the number of "holy cow!" moments are non-stop.
Denver Faceoff Classic
Having been a Denver season ticket holder for the past four seasons I’ve become familiar with the Faceoff Classic. It’s basically a chance for Denver and Air Force to each squeeze two games into a single weekend. It always takes place on the last weekend of February and the weather typically stinks. Even in past years when it was sunny it was still freezing cold. We’ve even missed a few games in recent years as snow storms forced the games to move to Air Force’s indoor facility down in Colorado Springs.
But not this year. It was 60s and sunny all weekend. (Thanks El Nino!) In addition to Air Force and Denver, Sacred Heart and Dartmouth made the trip out west to partake in the festivities. A few observations from the games that folks might have missed.
Air Force: The highlight of the weekend came on Sunday morning. Sacred Heart went into a 10 man ride, and Air Force goalie Doug Gouchoe launched a shot from the defensive side of the field and into the back of the net. 1-0 Air Force was never more interesting. The Falcons dispatched Dartmouth easily the day before. And the defense picked up where it left off on Sunday. The Falcons seemed to get too comfortable, with a 10-3 lead over Sacred Heart. That is, until the Pioneers rattled off 5 straight. The late rally made this the closest game of the weekend.
Sacred Heart: A few players stood out to me over the weekend from the Pioneers’ roster. One was Canadian Bryce Jurk. He saw a lot of runs on the EMO and is very fast and shifty. Frankly I was surprised he wasn’t out there more. Another player that impressed on the offensive side of the ball was middie Brian Masi. This dude has an absolute howitzer of a shot. He was good for 1 and 1 in both games over the weekend. One last player that impressed was Ryan O’Donoghue. He had a number of impressive caused turnovers and was probably the team’s most impressive defender.
Dartmouth: The Big Green end up with more black eyes than not, but one bright spot for the boys from Hanover was midfielder Cameron Lee. This kid is an absolute monster at 6’ 4", 220, and like Masi has an absolute cannon for a shot. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see as much of Lee’s toolset as I would have liked because Dartmouth spent most of the weekend playing defense. They did get a bit chippy with Denver in the second half of that game though. I didn’t realize they taught chippiness in the Ivies.
Denver: There are a lot of things that can be said about Denver, but I’ll keep it to a select handful. First, can Connor Cannizzaro get some dap for his riding ability? We all know how fast and shifty he is with the ball, but his riding reminded me of Mike Powell. He’s just tenacious out there.
Second, Brendan Bomberry emerged as the player we all know him to be. His numbers from last year are misleading because of the talent on the roster and the fact that he sat out the second half of the season. But he scored early and often against both Sacred Heart and Dartmouth.
Third, I’m really intrigued with Matt Brown’s plan for Zach Miller this year. Miller is the type of player you want on the field at all times. Denver rotated their attack unit quite a bit, but Miller didn’t get any runs, instead staying at mid. I wasn’t wowed by Nate Marano or Jeremy Bosher, and have to wonder if Miller will end up back on attach at some point this season.
My last observation was with the aforementioned Bosher. He’s 6’ 1" and 215 lbs, but he’s one of these guys that just looks a lot bigger than that. I don’t know what the Canadian equivalent of a brick sh!thouse is, but that’s Bosher; He looks like the Hulk in lacrosse gear. Because of this it was puzzling to me that he looked tentative on attack. Perhaps it’s just his role in the offense, but he didn’t seem able to get himself open when playing inside off ball. And there were a few times when I thought he could drive and dodge on his defender, but he opted to move the rock instead. For me, this kid has a ton of potential, but he’s a bit of a Jack Ray situation in my mind – when is he going to break out and throw his weight around to his advantage. With someone like Bosher running with Cannizzaro the attack unit could be like USC’s backfield when LenDale White and Reggie Bush were there – thunder and lightening.