Duke kept the train a rollin over Denver to move into the championship.
To get past Denver, Duke played their typical game of Shots Shots Shots …
Surprisingly Denver pretty much kept pace.
Face Offs, Ground Balls, Shots, and Turnovers were fairly even.
Turnovers were only 6 per team. That magnified the importance of possession in this game. There were barely any caused turnovers, and the face-offs were even, so a single missed pass, or drop became that much more important. In a game where offense mattered more than defense, every possession made a difference.
As predicted, Duke had a miserable time saving shots, but in lacrosse, unlike every other sport…Defense does not always win championships. Duke goalies combined had 12 goals against and 7 saves, and those 7 were generous.
They key to the win didn’t rest with Godzilla (Myles Jones). It rested on the shoulders of Kyle Keenan who filled in for Josh Dionne.
Myles Jones and Jordan Wolf were not surprised by Kyle’s performance. Even coach Danowski chimed in about Kyle being a natural lefty, a natural attackman, and a three sport athlete. If Kyle can play the same way on Monday, Duke has the Championship in the bag. Dionne will be missed, but his shoes have been filled.
For Notre Dame, they are riding the hot hands. Kavanagh and Kelly.
Matt Kavanagh continues to carry the Irish on his back. He had the game winner in their first win over Maryland, then he saved the day against Albany a week ago with a brilliant heads up play followed by the game winning goal, and in their second win over Maryland put up 5Goals and 2 Assists. In their last 5 games, Kavanagh has 25 points (16 Goals / 9 Assists).
The Notre Dame defense really showed up in the game against Maryland. They were able to limit a healthy Chanenchuk to 1Goal and 1 Assist. The defensive unit looked to be moving well and covering all the gaps. When Maryland did get a shot off, Connor Kelly in net was seeing the ball perfectly as he stopped 14 of 20 (Save percentage 70%) in his best outing of the year. In the tournament (past 3 games), Kelly has 37 Saves and 24 Goals against (Save percentage 61%).
The defense for Notre Dame has to have a similar flawless effort against a Duke team that scores with little to no effort. The attack for Duke of Mattheis, Wolf, and Dionne lit up defenses all year. However with Dionne out, Kyle Keenan stepped into his natural role and didn’t miss a beat. The only question mark is what does this do to the chemistry. Against Denver, with 7 goals scored by the attack, there was only 1 that was assisted by a fellow attackman.
Duke’s offense runs more from Midfield down. Their first line of Jones, Class, and Walsh can all shoot, but Jones and Walsh also have the vision to generate plenty of assists. These first line middies will be what gives Notre Dame an issue on the defensive side of the field. The Irish would be able to shut down Duke’s attack one-on-one, but when they are going to start to slide to the middies is when they will run into problems.
Duke’s defense will not be able to handle the Irish attack. Doyle and Kavanagh are a great 1-2 combo. Duke’s defense doesn’t force too many turnovers, and even when they know where the shots are going to come from they don’t stop their opponent (Wesley Berg for Denver put up 5 goals).
Who will be the starting goalie for Duke will be an interesting decision. On the year, Kyle Turri started, and quickly lost the job to Luke Aaron who has been OK (not great, not good, but OK) all year. Aaron though has picked the wrong time to be in a slump. In the last two games, Aaron has 20 goals against and 6 saves (Save percentage 23%). In substitution time, Turri has stepped in and made 5 saves with 3 goals against (Save percentage 63%). Not only has Turri made more saves, but they have been tough/critical saves.
Notre Dame needs to play aggressive, and get Duke to turn the ball over. Since the Irish will probably not come close on FO wins, and Duke sucks up ground balls, Notre Dame needs to generate their own possessions somehow. If they can get the ball enough, Notre Dame can score. I think Duke’s shooters get challenged by Notre Dame’s defense. I don’t see this as many do (Duke blowout). Duke’s goalie is cold, Myles looks to have a slight leg injury, Fowler didn’t dominate FO by as much as he should against Denver, Dionne is out. Notre Dame’s Kavanagh is on fire right now, Kelly in net was saving just about everything thrown at him, and the defense looks crisp. I am going with Notre Dame in a thriller of an upset.