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10-Man Ride: #CardiacCats, CSU debut & some B1G freshmen

Each week, College Crosse’s Joe Keegan will try to cover the whole field of D1 lacrosse in ten topics. It’s the 10-man ride!

1. Boston University looked great playing in space; when Providence could get in the hole and set up its six-on-six defense, the Terriers struggled.

Without face-off specialist Sam Talkow in the lineup, BU (8-for-18 at the face-off X) had to produce possessions from other areas. Senior goaltender Christian Carson-Banister (16 saves) gave them those opportunities, but BU’s offense struggled to do much with them.

Of the Terriers’ eight goals, three were on the extra-man. Another three goals came within a minute of gaining possession. When they played five-on-four or five-on-five, the Terriers were unselfish and generated great shots.

Once transition numbers advantages were erased and the substitution cat-and-mouse games ended, the Terriers couldn’t find a matchup they could win consistently. You can’t rely on transition and extra-man opportunities for points while expecting to win games. At some point your offense needs to win a matchup and draw a slide. As the season unfolds, it will be interesting to see whether this outing was a reflection of a rusty BU offense or a dialed-in Providence defense.

2. This referee reminded us that, when standing on goal-line extended for 60 minutes, you need to be on full alert at all times.

The Terriers offense may not have been in midseason form, but this official certainly is. Check out the acrobatics involved to dodge this shot. Dude tuck-and-rolled like he was jumping out of a car going 80 mph.

3. Michigan’s midfield athleticism and collective first step in transition will be enough to win games when other factors don’t go their way.

Mikie Schlosser went viral on Twitter in the preseason thanks to his mullet; he went viral again thanks to this truck stick. In many ways that sequence was the CSU-Michigan game in a nutshell. Despite their impressive execution of their offensive gameplan and their dedication to keeping Michigan’s defensive midfielders low on the field (more on this in a bit), the Vikings were outmatched athletically between the lines.

Michigan was an absurd 21-for-21 on clearing attempts. They had zero extra-man opportunities this weekend, but the speed of Schlosser, Chase Young, Parker McKee and others allowed head coach John Paul’s team to turn every defensive stop into an offensive possession. In a tighter game, that sort of athletic advantage can pay huge dividends. Even if the face-off X or the turnover battle doesn’t tilt Michigan’s way, their speed helps them win 50-50 groundballs and create numbers advantages.

4. For a first-year program, Cleveland State’s execution of (and in-game adjustments to) its gameplan were impressive.

If you missed the pre-game coverage and failed to get your hands on a roster sheet, you would never have guessed that head coach Dylan Sheridan’s squad is loaded with freshmen. Even the most veteran programs fall victim to early season jitters; at home in front of a sellout crowd, the Vikings remained poised all over the field.

It was clear that the Vikings wanted to attack Michigan’s short-stick defenders low on the field. From the opening whistle, Cleveland State’s ball-carriers dragged shorties to the wings and to X. That’s how they scored the first goal in program history, but the young players quickly fell in love with the all-or-nothing underneath move on the wing. It’s incredibly difficult to pass out of that action, and when the Vikings dodgers became non-threats to gain topside, the Michigan defenders stopped sliding.

In the second half the Vikings made a subtle adjustment that worked wonders: Down-picking for their wing dodgers. Rather than isolate and attempt to win topside with foot speed, the Vikings took topside via picks. It forced the Michigan defenders to make split-second decisions, and more than a few times it opened up skip lanes to backside lefty finishers.

The final score may seem lopsided, but Cleveland State was out-possessed 38-to-23. That’s a brutal uphill battle, and certainly not one they’ll face each week. Their clear coachability and attention to detail bodes well for future matchups.

5. Detroit Mercy’s Mike Turnbull does his best Happy Gilmore impression.

6. Setting overtime game-winning goals to dramatic musical selections is the hottest trend in D1, and I love it.

I don’t know how it started. All I know is that I don’t want it to stop. Late Saturday night a video of Vermont’s game-winning goal against Furman set to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” made its way around Twitter, and it may have started a trend.

College Crosse’s Chris Jastrzembski posted BU’s game-winner set to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” on Sunday morning. There’s something about a bench-clearing celebration set to a tear-jerking song that makes me laugh every time. If last year’s wild amount of overtime games is any indication, I think we’re in for a couple dozen more of these videos.

7. The #CardiacCats pull off two come-from-behind OT wins in the same roadtrip.

Despite missing last year’s leading scorer Ian MacKay (42G, 28A), the Vermont Catamounts pulled out two overtime wins on the road this weekend. The script for both games was eerily similar. Vermont trailed 7-2 in each game; freshman Ben French (6-for-10 shooting, 3A) netted game-tying goals with 0:13 remaining against Furman and again with 2:18 remaining against Mercer.

Cam Milligan (7-for-11 shooting, 6A) had two game-winning assists. Defenses sent double-teams and triple-teams in his direction but he somehow managed to escape. Call ‘em the Cardiac Cats, call ‘em the Canada Boys -- whatever you call ‘em, make sure you tune in to watch ‘em. These boys play fast and the product is fun to watch.

8. In Grant Ament (1G, 6A) and Mac O’Keefe (7G), Penn State has found its Batman-Robin tandem for the next three years.

Freshman lefty Mac O’Keefe scored a touchdown in his debut, while sophomore Grant Ament picked up right where he left off. This box score (plus glimpses of both Ohio State and Michigan) has me excited for the third year of B1G lacrosse. [Ed. note: Super Bowl champion] Chris Hogan is excited, too -- did you know he played lacrosse at Penn State?

9. Ohio State’s Western Canadian pipeline continues to impress.

Over the years, head coach Nick Myers has brought some of the biggest names -- and biggest bodies -- in D1 from British Columbia to Ohio State. Logan Schuss (6-0, 210) and Jesse King (6-3, 200) physically overpowered opponents while at OSU, freeing their dominant left hands at will. Now, the Buckeyes have a new duo, which -- as IL’s Dan Aburn pointed out -- is as physically imposing as Schuss and King.

Senior Johnny Pearson (6-4, 194) and freshman Tre Leclaire (6-2, 205) are going to make a lot of grown men look like boys this spring. Eventually, coaches around the country will find Myers’ secret stash of Western Canadian giants. Until then, the Buckeyes will continue to assemble midfield lines that can steamroll opposing defenses.

10. Air Force won its game at Duke, and it won the day on Twitter in the process.

Freshman goalie Paxton Boyer made 14 saves in Air Force’s upset victory over Duke, and the team twitter account had this to say about it:

Masshole of the Week: Brandon Grinnell (Wakefield, Mass.)

Look, there’s enough Philly bias on this blog already. Possibly too much. Last year on the College Crossecast, Safe and Ryan had the audacity to question the Greater Boston area’s ability to churn out D1 prospects. Over the years there have been some studs: Max Quinzani, JJ Morrissey, InYourFace’s own Ryan Danehy, Hakeem Lecky, Josh Hawkins (okay, he’s from Western Mass.), James Fahey, etc.

Boston Lax has a page dedicated to every Massachusetts All-American from 1971-2011. Each year it seems like there are more and more D1 players from US Lacrosse’s largest chapter. Each week, let’s use this space to highlight one of them.

The first ever Masshole of the Week is Manhattan freshman attackman Brandon Grinnell. Apparently Bryant respects Boston less than Safe and Ryan -- they tried to put a shorty on Grinnell, and he made them pay with a hat trick. My favorite goal is the second, when Grinnell outverts and isolates the shorty. The jog to the top of the box is nonchalant; what happens next is everything but. Grinnell blows by his defender in a couple steps, puts him on his back, and sticks the shot high-and-away.