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This weekend there are two games that should be exciting to watch.  UNC/MD and UVA/Hopkins.

Saturday March 21 2:00pm  UNC at Maryland

UNC is 7-2 with a win over #15 Navy, and losses to NotreDame and Duke
Maryland is 5-2 with a win over #8 Duke, and losses to Georgetown and UMBC.

UNC’s scoring leaders are Billy Bitter (17G,14A), Bart Wagner (20,8), and Gavin Petracca (14,12).
Goalie Grant Zimmerman has a solid save percentage of 57%.

In both losses, UNC faced hot goalies. Duke stopped 10 of 18 shots, and NotreDame stopped 16 of 23 shots).  Also in both losses, UNC totaled 0 goals and 11 shots in two games during the third quarter.  Over all 9 games, the 3rd quarter has been the worst statistically speaking for the Heels.  Coach Breschi better make sure no players are twittering during halftime.  Maybe replace their Gatorade bottles with Red Bull or something to get rid of their third quarter lulls.

The attack unit of Maryland has all three top spots on the scoring list.  Catalino has 16G, 14A, Yeatman 8G, 10A, and Ryan Young rounds it out with 12G, 5A. Both goalies have a save percentage above 53%.

The Maryland midfield needs to step it up.  In their first loss to Georgetown, while the whole team had turnover issues, the middies (and goalie) did the most damage.  A few of these TOs happened at key points giving the momentum (if not goal) to Georgetown.  In MDs second loss to UMBC, not 1 goal was scored by a midfielder.  4 great attackman can’t win every game themselves.

I think UNC’s defense and goalie have what it takes to hold the attack unit of MD to under 6 goals.  The deciding factors will be if MD’s midfielders show up, and if they can seize the momentum when UNC comes out flat in the 3rd quarter (they will).  I am going with UNC only by a couple.

Saturday March 21 8:00pm Virginia at Johns Hopkins

Virginia is 9-0 with wins over #2 Syracuse and #3Cornell.
Hopkins is 3-2 with wins over #7 UMBC and #6Hofstra, and losses to Princeton and Syracuse.

I have been accused of being a Hop Hater.  Not true.  After this game I believe they could run the table.  They are a good team.  Just not championship caliber this year…and they won’t win this one either. Haha.

FYI…Yes, I tend to hate on players or teams that the rest of the media hoists on a pedestal.  For example, when Mikey P was at Cuse I rooted against the Orange.  Last year I picked on Gvozden until he started playing better (even Hop fans have to admit he started last year SLOW).   I digress…back to the game at hand…

Hopkins scoring is led by Kyle Wharton (13G, 6A), Steve Boyle (11,5), and Mike Kimmel (9,6).  Hopkins has a lot of contributors on offense but no one really stands out as THE go to guy (nothing like the freak of nature Rabil…I admit I like his skills). Gvozden’s save percentage is at 52% and looked better against Syracuse last week than he did against Hofstra.  Hopefully he is shaking off his slow start again and heating up for the rest of the season.

Matt Dolente was a bright spot at the Face Off X going 15 of 24.  Most of these wins came later in the game as Syracuse dominated everything in the first half.  Hopkins got off to a very slow start not even shooting 10 shots on goal in the first half.  They will need to come out firing or they will be buried by a similar offensive machine in UVA.

UVA scoring is led by Garrett Billings (22,10), Steele Stanwick (18,11), and Danny Gladding (12,15).
UVA has the complete team at every position.  Their offense always gets praised, but their defense is making a name for themselves this year.

Adam Ghitelman is always solid in net (60% save%), and leads a unit that held Towson to 2 goals…both of which came when UVA was man-down.  Even strength, they held a shutout.  Clausen, Kelly, Nizolek, and LSM Timms can all strip the ball away from the most gifted players.

I have to go with UVA by about 4 in this one.  Their defense is on a hot streak, and their offense just keeps on rolling.  Hop will get a moral victory.  I think the whole team will play better, and can win outright…after they lose to UVA.

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Saturday March 14, 1:00pm St. John’s at Loyola

St. John’s is 4-0 with a win over #11 Georgetown.
Loyola is 4-2 with no ranked wins and losses to Notre Dame and Duke.

I have to be honest. I have not seen either of these teams in action yet for myself, however this game intrigues me.
Upstart St. John’s wants to prove that their win over Georgetown was no fluke. They also beat Drexel, while unranked is yearly a decent team.

Loyola on the other hand will play up or down to their opponents. Loyola only lost to Notre Dame by 1, and by 2 to Duke. However they only beat lowly Sienna by 2.

St. John’s is winning the FO battle with 63%, and I can safely say that their shot on goal differential is due to this control of play.  They have out shot opponents an average of 43 shots vs 26 shots per game. When an opponent is only getting a limited number of shots, it is easy to win games when your keeper (Gavin Buckley) is saving 61% of the shots he does face. Loyola is winning about half their face offs, and is averaging about 35 shots per game.

I think St. John’s has a chance in this one. They need to play their style of game, and not be intimidated by Loyola. I am going with them for my upset pick of the week. Either way it should be an entertaining game to watch.

Saturday March 14, 1:00pm UMBC at Maryland

UMBC is 3-2 with no ranked wins, and losses to Hopkins and Princeton.
Maryland is 4-1 with a win over #10 Duke, and a loss to Georgetown.

UMBC’s offense took a backseat in their loss last week to Princeton, but they are still a potent scoring team. The Retrievers are led by Peet Poillon (8 Goals,13 Assists), Kyle Wimer (12,5), Alex Hopmann (13,1), and Rob Grimm (3,7).

Aside from their scoring ability, goalkeeper Jeremy Blevins is playing very solid in net. He has a 9.17 GAA and a save percentage of 56%. Blevins was a big part in keeping UMBC in the game as he made 11 saves against Princeton and only let in 6 goals.

UMBC’s weaknesses are face offs and hustle. No one has won even 40% of their face offs on the team, and as a whole unit, they are only at 33% (and that’s rounding up).  On ground balls, they are averaging 8 less per game than their opponents. Without possession (FO) and control (GBs) the Retrievers make their games that much harder on themselves.  Their defense has to play longer, and harder, and each shot becomes that more crucial on offense.

Maryland last week surprisingly played Towson close…a little too close.  I have said earlier this is one of the best attack units, and they proved it by scoring all of the goals in the Towson win. Not 1 goal was recorded by a midfielder.  They need to get their act together when they face UMBC this week.

Maryland’s top scorers are Grant Catalino (11,10), Will Yeatman (6,8), Ryan Young (9,4), and Dan Groot (5,6).

In goal for this game should be Brian Phipps, as each goalie shares the starts. Phipps has been slightly better statistically speaking with a 7.38 GAA and a save percentage of 61%.

Maryland’s FO unit couldn’t be more different than UMBC’s. No one has won less than 45% of their FOs taken, and as a unit combine for a win percentage of 62%. On GBs, Maryland is averaging 8 more per game than their opponents.

These are the keys to the game.  Maryland needs to continue their FO/GB dominance and control the time of possession.   Their middies need to step up the offensive contributions to give them some breathing room.  For UMBC, they need to take MD’s midfield out of the equation.   Make Maryland beat them with just their attack. If they can do this and start winning FOs (even 50%), they have a chance.

Maryland will win in a surprisingly close one.

Saturday March 14, 2:00pm Hopkins at Syracuse

Syracuse is 3-1 with a win over #11 Georgetown, and a loss to Virginia.
Hopkins is 3-1 with wins over #9UMBC and #12Hofstra, and a loss to Princeton.

Kyle Wharton was a one man show against Hofstra tallying 5 goals and padding his stats. Wharton now leads Hopkins in scoring (11,3), then comes Mike Kimmel (8,6), Steve Boyle (9,4), and Brian Christopher (4,4).

Hopkins needs someone to step up to an injury riddled FO spot. If you take out Mike Powers’ 68% FO wins, the rest of the team is sub-50%. The other weakness is still Mike Gvozden.  Heading into the Hofstra game his save% was below 50%.  Hofstra made him look good by shooting at his body. Every game I watch him, I keep thinking, “Is this the turn around game where he wakes up and turns it on the rest of the year?”

Syracuse has 9 players with 3 or more goals, and is led on offense by Kenny Nims (10,9), Steve Keogh (13,4), and Dan Hardy(6,5).

An area they are suffering this year compared to last is at face offs. Syracuse’s FO unit is winning 46% of the time.

Two shining underrated stars have been John Galloway who has stood on his head in goal saving 62% of the shots he faced, and Joel White. White needs his own stat of intercepted passes. He has an uncanny ability to time and snatch the opponents passes and create turnovers without taking his opponents arm off with a check.

I think the injury to Powers is a huge benefit to Syracuse. I would have to think FOs will be about even in this game now.  The other thing to watch in this game is EMO.  Syracuse EMO unit is scoring 64% of their chances. Syracuse did struggle against UVA only converting 1 out of 4 chances.  With Hopkins getting an average of 6 penalties per game, Syracuse needs to be able to convert near their season average.

I’m going to be a homer and pick Cuse by 4.

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If the season continues like it has the first couple of weeks, we are in for a wild ride. Upsets and let downs have appeared in most big games so far. This week will hopefully shake the lacrosse world back into alignment.

Friday March 6, 8:00pm: Princeton at UMBC
UMBC is 3-1 with no wins over ranked teams and one loss to Hopkins.
Princeton is 2-0 with a win over #10 Hopkins.

UMBC has been putting up a lot of points this year averaging 13.8 goals per game. The Retrievers are led by Peet Poillon (8,10), Kyle Wimmer (11,4), and Alex Hopmann (11,1). Wimmer has stood out not only putting up 15 points, but also winning 6 of 9 face offs and scooping up the most 19GBs. If only the rest of the team had as much effort as Wimmer. The Retrievers are picking up less GBs and winning a lot less face offs than their opponents (36%).

Princeton is enjoying a year with not only their signature stingy defense but also an offense putting up 14 goals per game. As one would expect, the Tigers’ defense and clock management have been superb. Opponents are averaging 25 shots per game…that’s not on goal, but overall. Only 17 shots per game are getting through to the goalie.

On the hustle aspect, Princeton has picked up 20 more GBs (10 per game) than their opponents. Their face off abilities are just slightly over the 52% mark. One other interesting fact about their discipline…they have successfully cleared the ball 32 of 34 times.
On offense, opponents don’t know who to cover, as Princeton has 7 players with 3 or more points. Jack McBride leads the way with (8,1) followed by Tommy Davis (3,2) and Rich Sgalardi (1,4). On the flip side, both goalies are putting up great numbers. Ashra has 6GA and save percent of 63%, and Fiorito has 7.3GA and a save percent of 58%.

While UMBC plays opponents tight, and has made great progress in recent years, I have never seen a Retriever beat a Tiger in a fight. Princeton is too well oiled of a machine of discipline, time management, and now add in scoring this year. Princeton will take this one. I’m going out on a limb and saying the Tigers score 14…again.

Saturday March 7, Noon: Hofstra at Johns Hopkins
The Flying Dutchmen (aka Pride) of Hofstra will travel into Blue Jay territory. This is a rivalry that has heated up in recent years. Hofstra has actually won in 2006 & 2008. Hopkins won in 2007. Two of the three games(07/08) were 1 goal games.

Before I get into the breakdown of the teams, I’ll tell you neither of these goalkeepers has impressed me so far.

My favorite whipping boy from last year, Mike Gvozden has gone back to his sieve like self. Maybe he just doesn’t get good until 5 or 6 games into the season. Either that or the second half of last year was a fluke. I’ll concede that he didn’t get much help last week against Princeton, as Princeton took advantage of early disillusioned slides.

For the Dutchmen, we have Danny Orlando. Sure he’s got a suave name, but can he stop shots? The jury is deliberating. Every season he gets worse. Freshman year he had 7.2Goals Against and 56.3 save%. Soph year slid to 8.6GA and 49.1%. So far this year he has 9.4GA and 41.2%.

If Hofstra wants to beat Hopkins and improve to 3-0, they need more input besides Jay Card. Forget his 7Goals and 3Assists, he has been the saviour scoring both game winning goals in their two 1 goal wins. Card’s fellow attackman, Kevin Ford has taken more shots than a spaghetti western, but is having trouble raking in goals (24shots/3G). At midfield Anthony Muscarella is drawing opponents top defenders after a stellar year last year. While his production is down, it is freeing up Mike Colleluori to make things happen at midfield putting up 4G and 7A. Hofstra’s defence has faired well causing turnovers, limiting penalties, and limiting opponents shots. They just need to get Danny O’s head back into the game.

For Hopkins, they need to win at the face off X. If Powers can continue the success he had against UMBC (17 of 24), Hopkins should be able to win this one. The Blue Jays also need to keep their penalties in check. 19 penalties so far is not helping a goalie that is struggling as opponents are converting on 43% of their EMO chances. Continuing with their defense, if they can nullify Card, and let Ford keep firing blanks, Gvozden might…just might…start to build himself back to last year.

I think this game goes to the Blue Jays. Why? I think Hofstra’s offense right now is too 1 dimensional and their goalie is 0 dimensional.

Saturday March 7, Noon: Syracuse at Georgetown
Syracuse is 2-1 with their only loss to #1 Virginia.
Georgetown is 1-1 with a win over #8Maryland and a loss to unranked St. Johns.

No…that is not a typo.

Last week was a mirror image for these two teams. Both teams are coming off losses. One goal losses that each team really could have won. Both Georgetown and Syracuse played sloppy and made unforced errors early. Both also were trailing early and made nice comebacks that just fell short. Georgetown looked very good against Maryland, and quite honestly not too bad against St. Johns. When a goalie stops 15 of 24 shots on goal (63%) as Gavin Buckley did for St Johns, any team could lose. Their sub-par hustle performance didn’t help as they lost the GB war, and turned the ball over more. Georgetown’s attack is a smooth confident unit with Mirabito (8,1), Shuler (3,1), and Dowd (2,5). But don’t be fooled as they have a one two punch at midfield with Kocis (3,2), and Brancaccio (3,1). Even their goalie Jack Davis is doing well with a save percentage of over 51%.

Syracuse as usual is a scoring machine averaging 17goals per game. What they need to improve on before facing the Hoyas turning the ball over. Against UVA, many passes were errant. Syracuse defense also needs to stand up against confident attack units. In the games I saw last year, the Cuse defense let bodies fly and made attack units think twice about moving in for a close shot. Against Virginia, it looked as though they were timid. Many of the early goals against Syracuse were not their goalie’s fault but bad slides or miscommunication letting the shooter in on the doorstep.

If Georgetown can pull of the upset here, we might see them in Boston. If I erase what happened last week I would say they have a chance at pulling off the upset. Unfortunately we can’t ignore that loss to St. Johns. I think the Orange is pissed. Not so much about losing to UVA by a goal, but the way in which they played. I can see them coming out and being more physical on D like they need to be against a deceivingly good attack. Syracuse by a couple.

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This week there is a double header at M&T Stadium that is billed as a great day of lacrosse. However, Maryland vs. Duke, and Princeton vs. Hopkins just is not as exciting as it once was. A Maryland vs. Hopkins game would have been better.

Maryland plays Duke at 2:30 at M&T Stadium.

Maryland is 2-1. No wins over ranked teams, and 1 loss to #5 Georgetown.

Maryland’s scoring against Georgetown was a big surprise. Their attack which I think so highly of, did not produce (3goals). It was their midfield that showed up. Not only did their midfield unit score most of the goals, they also won 17 of 26 face offs. Maryland is still a team to be reckoned with.

Duke is 2-1. They beat #17 Colgate by just 1 goal, and lost to #14 Harvard. Duke is not waiting until the post season to choke. The Blue Devils just can’t seem to find a rhythm either on offense or defense. The once feared Duke scoring machine only got off 29 shots against Harvard. Their EMO is 2 for 7 on the whole year. Duke is relying too heavily on their midfield lines as their top three scorers are Ned Crotty (4G, 8A), Brad Ross (6G, 2A), and Steve Schoeffel (5G, 0A). Max Quinzani (4G, 1A) has not been able to do much without Greer or Danowski by his side.

On the other side of the field, goalie Rob Schroeder is letting in more than 50% of the shots he faces (24 Goals Against, 22 Saves).

Duke is also below 50% on face-offs.

The Blue Devils should fear the turtle. Maryland should be able to get their midfield and attack firing on Schroeder. Couple that with winning most of the face-offs, Duke will lose and fall into lacrosse mediocrity…Just like Hofstra used to be.

Princeton faces Johns Hopkins at 6:00pm at M&T Stadium.

This game should be better than the beating Duke will take.

Hopkins is 1-0 after a thorough thrashing of Siena last week. While this was expected, there were two key stats in the game that should be examined before this game. The 1st is that Hopkins EMO unit was blanked (0 for 3). The 2nd is that Hopkins was thoroughly beat on face-offs (7 of 18). The Jays need to shore these parts of their game up before facing Princeton. The main highlight was the play of Mike Gvozden and the defense. Yes, I was a hater in the first half of last year, as Gvozden looked like a black hole, but then he turned his season around and was saving everything that was thrown at him. It was nice to see the defense only let Siena take 26 shots on cage, and Gvozden start off with a 73% save percentage (3GA, 23SV).

Hopkins has enough depth that if Princeton can shut down leader Steve Boyle (4G, 2A), Kyle Wharton (3G, 0A), Brian Christopher (1G, 2A), or Mike Kimmel (1G, 1A) can step it up.

Princeton is 1-0 after beating Canisius 14-6.

Interesting to point out, at the half, Princeton was actually losing by 1 to Canisius. That changed in the 3rd quarter, as the Tigers unleashed a barrage of shots and netted 8 goals. Jack McBride led the way (4G, 1A), followed by Tommy Davis (3G, 0A), Chris McBride (2G, 0A), and Rob Engelke (2G, 0A). Key stats for this game were that of the 14 Princeton goals, only 5 were assisted. The Tigers had 6 chances on EMO and converted on half of them. Princeton only allowed 22 shots on goal.

While Princeton’s style of play should guarantee Hopkins doesn’t run away with it, Hopkins defense should smother the Tigers’ attack. This should be a low scoring game with Hopkins winning it on their defense/goalie and midfield scoring.

Syracuse vs. Virginia - Photo by Getty Images North America

Photo by Getty Images North America

The game of the week, if not year is UVA at Syracuse on Friday at 7pm.

This should be a great rematch of last year’s quarterfinal game. Both teams have similar styles of hard defense, and lots of firepower.

Syracuse is 2-0 with no wins against ranked teams.

Their offense is averaging 53 shots per game and 19.5 goals per game. Their main threats are Kenny Nims (6G, 8A), Steve Keogh (8G, 3A), Dan hardy (3G, 3A), Chris Daniello (5G, 0A), and Tim Desko (3G, 2A). Between Nims and Keogh they have picked up any slack left by Leveille’s graduation. The third attack spot has seen Daniello, Desko, and Niewieroski round out the 1-2 punch. The Midfield is led by Hardy, and transfer Kahoe, however Abbott needs to contribute more.

Their defense keeping opponents to 18 shots per game, 4.5 goals per game. Even though they lost Evan Brady and Kyle Guadagnolo, Sid “Vicious” Smith is back, bringing back the physical style of play. He is joined by Matt Tierney and John Lade at close D. In net for Syracuse is John Galloway who has started this season off with a 56% save percentage.

Where Syracuse really excels is their special teams. Their EMO is 8 of 9 (89%), and their man-down unit is a perfect 100% (0-10).

UVA is 4-0 with no wins over ranked teams. Their offense is averaging 53.5 shots per game and 13.25 goals per game. The top guns for UVA are Garrett Billings (14G, 8A), Steele Stanwick (7G, 6A), Brian Carroll (10G, 1A), and Danny Glading (2G, 8A).

Their defense is allowing 5.75 goals per game and 23.5 shots per game. Close D is led by Ken Clausen who plays a fun style of D to watch. His flashiness is complemented by the physical play of Matt Kelly. In between the pipes is Sophomore Adam Ghitelman, a solid goalie who has put up a 62% save percentage this season.

UVA’s special teams is a possible weakness. Their EMO is only 25% (3 for 12), and their man-down unit is 58% (5-12).

I think both attack units will witn the battles against their opponents’ defenses. Glading, and Bilings proved it in last year’s game, and their attack unit only got better with the addition of Steele Stanwick. For Syracuse, while Leveille put on a one-man show against Virginia’s D, I think both Nims and Keogh have stepped it up, and now Syracuse actually has more threats on attack than UVA can cover.

At midfield Syracuse’s defensive middies should be able to hold Carroll from having a huge game, although no one can stop him completely. The question will be can UVA stop Hardy. I think Hardy is one possible deciding factor. The other as stated before will be special teams. If UVA racks up penalties (averaging 3 per game), Syracuse can, and will take advantage. In a close 1 or at the max 2 goal game, Syracuse edges out UVA.

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