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MLAX: Denver Preview

March 11, 2017

MLAX: Denver Preview

Written by: Mike Camarda

Who, When, and Where: #4 Denver (4-1); March 12th @ 3 PM EST; Denver, CO – Peter Barton Stadium. Game broadcast on Altitude TV. The Skinny: Another year, another high-stakes showdown between these former GWLL rivals. There is never a shortage of drama when Notre Dame plays Denver. Each of the past three contests has been decided by one goal, and numerous have needed extra time to decide the victor. On paper, this year appears to be another classic:

What to Watch:
This year’s matchup is a stark contrast in styles. Denver features the third most efficient offense in the country, while Notre Dame’s is a respectable but underwhelming 23rd. Notre Dame’s defense is rated the second best in the nation, while Denver’s is rated 21st. So it’s strength-versus-strength, and weakness-versus-weakness. But the biggest contrast comes from how each approaches the game. Denver’s success is built on playing at a snail’s pace and controlling faceoffs, while Notre Dame likes to push transition and attack early in possessions. Denver’s motion offense that doesn’t turn the ball over or settle for bad shots is perfectly designed to attack Notre Dame’s defense , but Denver’s Achilles’ heel is that when they aren’t winning faceoffs they struggle to effectively play the full field game that Notre Dame excels at. Trevor Baptiste for Denver is the best in the business at the faceoff dot, but Notre Dame’s faceoff strategy that emphasizes wing play is well suited to mitigate the impact of an excellent FOGO.

On defense, Notre Dame must account for a dominant attack group headlined by Connor Cannizzaro and all-world freshman Ethan Walker. Both players are special not just from a scoring standpoint but a facilitating one. What makes them more dangerous than Maryland’s lauded group is that they’re superior passers who move the ball quickly against double teams. Denver’s midfield group also gets a shot in the arm from the return of All-American Tyler Pace who missed their first four games with injury. When Notre Dame has the ball, Denver’s best cover man Christian Burgdorf will likely guard Ryder Garnsey meaning offense will need to be generated from other players like Brendan Gleason, Pierre Byrne, and Sergio Perkovic. If there was ever a time for Perkovic to bust out of his shooting slump, this would be it.

Prediction: This is the hardest game on Notre Dame’s schedule and a style nightmare for the Irish. The easy prediction is another nailbiter. The probable way that this game unfolds is that Denver uses long possessions to chip away at Notre Dame’s defense that Notre Dame counters with a couple runs. The way Notre Dame comes out on top is Doss saves north of 65%, Perkovic scores 3+ goals, and the EMO unit converts at least half of their man up opportunities. The odds of all three happening on the road are slim, so the smart bet is that Denver finds a way to get it done 9-8.
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