Hopkins takes on Denver in a game that features two well coached teams that are flying under the radar.
Hopkins is 13-2 with losses to Syracuse and Princeton. The Blue Jays have beaten Delaware, UVA, UNC, Maryland and Hofstra.
Denver is 14-2 with losses to Syracuse and Notre Dame. The Pioneers have beaten Duke and Villanova.
In a nutshell…Hopkins. The only way Hopkins could lose this one is if their youth/nerves get the better of them.
The key to Hopkins’ game is ball control. I haven’t seen a Face Off guy at the D1 level as dominant as Alex Smith used to be until I saw Dolente (178/265 = 67%) destroy all comers against Syracuse. It doesn’t matter who he faces, Dolente will gain control of the ball for the Blue Jays. Denver’s Chase has won 60% of his, but so have many others that face Dolente. They walk in with a good percentage and walk out shredded.
The defense for Hopkins is tough to break (less than 29 shots per game). And if opponents do get through Goalie Pierce Bassett has been making the stops all year (6.6 GAA, Save 59%). If Hopkins defense has one weakness it would be their man down unit. Opponents are converting over 36% of the time. Luckily for the Jays, they have only had 48 penalties called on them all season (opponents got flagged 73 times).
Denver is going to find an uphill struggle scoring even tougher if their third leading scorer, Todd Baxter (28G, 18A) is out this game. He was out of the Villanova game with a high ankle sprain and partially torn knee ligament.
Denver will have to rely more heavily on Mark Matthews (44G, 22A), Alex Demopolous (29G, 27A), Cameron Flint (24G, 10A) and Eric Law (14G, 12A).
Denver’s defense can look shaky at times. They cannot afford to be shaky against a Blue Jay team with a stacked attack of Chris Boland (32G, 16A), Zach Palmer (22G, 24A), and Kyle Wharton (31G, 8A). They will also have to be cognizant of two VERY good middies named John. John Ranagan (17G, 13A), and John Greeley (14G, 12A). Even though Denver’s young goalie Jamie Faus has put up good numbers (8.2GAA, save 57.6%), he needs support from his D.
Hopkins is just too good. Denver isn’t a pushover and could keep up for a half maybe, but Hopkins will run away at the end like they did last week against Hofstra. Unless of course Denver coach Bill Tierney whines enough for a few extra EMO opportunities which Denver could capitalize on. We’ll see if Tierney’s whining or Petro’s screaming gets heard more by the refs.