Cornell - The best offense in the country right now does not belong to Albany. Or Duke. Or Maryland. It is belongs to the Big Red. Cornell has hung at least 20 goals in their last three games, most recently with a 22-11 thumping of Dartmouth. Jeff Teat has 19 points over those last three games, and is up to 53 on the year on an almost evenly split 25 goals and 28 assists. Look at this play from March 17 against Yale:
That stick fake to turn the defenseman’s head, which allowed him to take an extra step into the space that the defenseman used to be occupying, free his hands, and you can see the rest. On the season, Cornell’s offensive efficiency is at a ridiculous 43.2%. They are scoring at a rate that is downright absurd. Cornell needs to figure out it’s goalie situation, as they are without Christian Knight for the time being. Three goalies got in during the Dartmouth game, none of them were Knight, and none played all that well. But outside of that, this Cornell team is absolutely humming. They have some tough opponents remaining, particularly when they host Syracuse on April 10, but their play right now says they can score enough to beat anyone.
Bucknell - Welcome to the Patriot League, where past results don’t matter, no one knows who the best team is, and every week makes less sense than the week before. The current kings of the PL are, in my eyes, the Bucknell Bison. They own a 5-1 record in league play, same as Lehigh who only sit atop the standings thanks to an 8-3 overall record, and are blazing hot right now. They took down Loyola two weeks ago, and then went to West Point and came away with a win over Army. Will Sands had two goals and two assists against Johnny Surdick, who for my money is the best on ball defenseman in the country. Sands is up to 55 points, which is third in the country behind Justin Guterding and Connor Fields, and he is second in terms of percentage of his teams offensive production. But while in some cases that’s a bad thing (see below on Princeton), Bucknell actually has four other players over 20 points, including Connor O’Hara who has the comical line of 28 points on 28 goals this year. That’s right, Connor has yet to register an assist. Sean O’Brien has 24 points this year on 23 goals and one assist. Must be nice playing with Sands, who is up to 36 assists. The Bison will be in New Haven on a short week to play a Yale team that looks better every week. A road win of that caliber would certainly propel the Bison into the Top 10.
Chris Gray, A, BU - What a year the freshman is having. He is...
A DIAPER DANDY. Seriously though, I might have been a bit too high on BU before the season started. They really are probably a year away. But the future is EXTREMELY bright with Chris Gray as part of this offense. He can play any spot in the offense. He can dodge a pole or a shorty, he is comfortable above the goal line or below it. BU has been making an effort to recruit players who have versatility and can be plugged into multiple spots in an offense, and Chris Gray is what you get if you build that player in a lab. He has 49 points on the season to lead BU, 13 more than the next player on the roster. The BU/Harvard press was all about Morgan Cheek, but Chris Gray had TEN POINTS IN THAT GAME, including eight assists. He’s in the top ten in the country in even strength assists and extra man assists. He had three points against Lehigh, five points against Lafayette a week before, the 10 point game before that, and seven points against Bucknell in the week prior to that. The freshman is being handed the keys to run this offense from his first day, and looks more than capable of handling it.
Keegan Khan, A, Villanova - This freshman is on an absolute tear over the last two games. Khan came into the Fairfield game two weeks ago with just nine goals and nine assists on the season. He would score six goals against Fairfield, and somehow get even hotter and score seven goals and one assist against Marquette. Villanova needed every goal he provided against Fairfield as well, as the game went into overtime before the Wildcats prevailed. The best part is, it’s not like Khan is some volume shooter that just gets lucky. His seven goals against Marquette came on nine shots, all of which were on goal. The six goals against Fairfield came on nine shots on goal (nice). Nova has a two game stretch against Denver and then Georgetown coming up, and if they have really found something in Khan, a win against a Denver team that hasn’t been great lately is on the table.
Ryan Kern, G, Navy - Navy has now won three of their last four, and it sure ain’t because of the offense. They beat Holy Cross 5-4 on Saturday, and stunned Lehigh 10-7 the week before. Their sophomore goalie, Ryan Kern, has been a big reason why. Kern made 10 saves for a save percentage of just under 72% against Holy Cross. He made 18 stops against Lehigh. Part of what makes this more impressive is that he had both those performances after being absolutely blitzed by Loyola a few weeks ago. He surrendered 14 goals and made just seven saves against Loyola, and was ultimately replaced in that game. He came out the next week with the 18 save performance against Lehigh. Lacrosse goalies are like relief pitchers in that they need to have a short memory. A bad outing only gets worse if you let it affect future games. Kern shaking off that Loyola game and turning into a brick wall to lead his team to back to back wins is truly impressive.
One Handed Goals - As a former defenseman, this troubles me. Deeply. It feels unfair that this is possible. Check out Tucker Durdevic for Syracuse:
Tucker Dordevic, WHAT!?! pic.twitter.com/OV54CzoGW1— Inside Lacrosse (@Inside_Lacrosse) March 31, 2018
And Chris Cloutier, who scored this way twice this week, once against Duke and once against Maryland:
Chris Cloutier scoring another one-handed geno. What else is new? pic.twitter.com/nA5bBsg31u— Jordie (@BarstoolJordie) March 30, 2018
That’s me, right there, I just look exactly like JT Giles-Harris. I totally understand his frustration because I’m not sure how much better he can play that, other than just trying to get lower onto Cloutier’s hips to shove him off balance a bit better. But really, what else is there to do? JT gets physical with him, shoves him off the dodge down the alley to a low angle shot with one hand, and it’s the offhand that Cloutier almost never uses. Result? A goal. Plays like this showcase the creativity and a new element of offensive gameplay in the sport, as you see these sort of one handed plays more and more often from guys like Cloutier, Tehoka Nanticoke, and a host of Canadian players bringing a box approach to the field game. It’s now that I will mention the Mammoth retired John Grant Jr’s number this week after his 2017 retirement. He, along with guys like the Gait brothers, can be credited with inspiring some of this play, as he found angles and ways to score with one hand, back to the goal, and other unorthodox moves that made life miserable for defenders. Congrats on the honors, and don’t teach your tricks to too many players out there as you enter the coaching world. I’m begging you, for the sake of defensemen everywhere.
Notre Dame Extra Man - The ACC showdown between Syracuse and Notre Dame featured a pretty interesting plot twist. Syracuse, playing in the dome, couldn’t get a call. The Orange didn’t get their first man up opportunity until there were actually just seconds left in the game. To be fair there were flags thrown on ND before then, but the penalties were wiped out by goals. Notre Dame, on the other hand, got to go on man up EIGHT TIMES (you have no idea how badly I wanted one more flag so I could use an Ed Rooney Nine Times gif here). Going 0-8 on EMO in a game is legitimately hard to do. Especially against Syracuse, who came sporting one of the worst man down units in the country in terms of scoring defense. Opponents were 11 for 24 against Syracuse on EMO coming in. The Irish box score is an ugly one. Mikey Wynne with five shots, no points, and four turnovers. Bryan Costabile with six shots for one goal. Ryder Garnsey with five shots, no goals, one assist. Their overall offensive efficiency was a putrid 17%. There were multiple instances where the ND man up didn’t just end without a shot, but they turned the ball over and couldn’t even get their offense moving. Notre Dame hasn’t won two games in a row since they started the season 2-0, and seem to be playing everyone to a close final score, unable to ever really pull away. They host Duke next week, and will need a quality performance from the whole roster to win that game.
Denver - The Pios got a gritty win against Georgetown by a final score of 6-5. Denver shot an abysmal 1 for 17 in the first half. The six goal output is the lowest total for the team since Bill Tierney took the reins in 2010. It is now pretty reasonable to ask where this team would really be without Trevor Baptiste. He went 12-15 against Georgetown, 21-24 against Towson, 14-23 against Ohio State, and 15-24 against Notre Dame. Those were all wins with the exception of the ND game, and the Towson win came in overtime. If that faceoff margin drops to a near even split, Denver easily loses all four of those games. The offensive talent on Denver is excellent, and their scheme has always been dynamic and well designed. But they have hit a wall for some reason. There’s a caveat that Drew Supinski, Sean Mayle, and Connor Donahue all missed the Georgetown game, and Supinski has been out for some time. But an offense sporting Ethan Walker, Colton Jackson, and Austin French should be able to manage more than six goals against just about anyone. Baptiste has been the most important player on Denver for multiple seasons now. This year, if not for his dominance, I’m not sure Denver is a .500 team.
The Penn offense - last week the defense let the Quakers down as they gave up a 20 spot to Cornell. This week, the offense was a no show. I was at this one for Inside Lacrosse, and got to talk to Yale Head Coach Andy Shay afterwards. Shay told me he thinks that Penn attackman Simon Mathias is still dealing with an injury. That certainly would contribute to the lackluster offensive performance. But the Penn offensive players I saw couldn’t beat anyone. There wasn’t a matchup on the field they could win. More than that, there just wasn’t a whole lot happening to deal with that situation. You’d think maybe some two man games, pick and roll concepts, things like that would be employed to try and get switches and more favorable matchups, but instead it was just the Quakers banging their head against the wall. Kevin McGeary and Tyler Dunn were both held scoreless. McGeary, the teams second leading scorer, has just seven points in the last four games. This team had the talent and ability to beat Duke, so you know they have to be better than this. But unless they can consistently play like they did against Duke earlier in the season, they’ll keep dropping games like the one to Yale.
Princeton - The Tigers have hit the skids, hard. They are winless since beginning Ivy League play. Three straight losses to Penn, Yale, and now Brown, have the Tigers at the bottom of the Ivy League standings. Michael Sowers has 45 points this year and ranks near the top of the list in a number of offensive categories. He is at the very top of one list: percentage of teams total points. Sowers accounts for 49.5% of the Princeton offensive production. The next top two scorers on the team, Austin Sims and Chris Brown, combined have the same 45 points that Sowers does. Sowers has two points again Yale, and Princeton only managed seven goals. Sowers had three against Penn, and Princeton only managed eight goals. When Sowers finally blew up for eights points, including six assists, against Brown, the defense let him down and gave up 14 goals. Princeton just can’t seem to put it all together right now. They do, however, have a stretch where they can get back on track, as their next three games are Stony Brook, Siena, and Dartmouth; these are games they should win.