Denver's Shooters Find Their Marks
When you have won 10 consecutive games, including a defining victory over Duke, by averaging more than 12 goals with skilled shooters who relentlessly pound the opposing net, you are a dangerous NCAA tournament team. Say hello to the Denver Pioneers.
Fresh off their ECAC tournament championship that guarantees them an automatic bid to the NCAAs, the Pioneers (13-2) have a lot going for them, as they await the tournament selection committee's decision on their first-round assignment.
First and foremost, Denver has second-year coach Bill Tierney, who knows a thing or two about winning games in May, judging by those six national titles he won after reviving Princeton lacrosse two decades ago. Tierney, a defense-first believer, had adapted nicely to this team in his second spring at Denver.
The Pioneers play solid, man-to-man, slide-and-recover defense, which has gotten a nice lift from freshman goalie Jamie Faus. But Denver is at its best when face-off man Chase Carraro is doing his thing and the offense is putting the pressure on opponents to keep up with the Pioneers' scoring.
What Denver does best is swing offensively, and swing hard, starting with its attack trio of Mark Matthews, Alex Demopoulos and Todd Baxter -- the team's leading scorers who have combined for 96 goals and 65 assists. And these guys pepper the cage.
Matthews, the Canadian lefty finisher who has taken a team-high 113 shots and scored a team-high 41 goals, is shooting 36.3 percent and is on-cage with 59.3 percent of his attempts. And he's the statistical weakling of the bunch. Demopoulos is shooting 38.6 percent with 75.7 percent of his 70 attempts on goal. Baxter is shooting a superb, 43.1 percent, with 67.7 percent of his shots on goal.