Detroit takes on Bellarmine in Milwaukee for Marquette’s annual event (that also includes Ohio State, but the Titans and Buckeyes never meet up there, because they start the season against each other).
Bellarmine has gotten itself off to a 1-2 start to the year, losing a close one to Robert Morris (10-8) and getting its teeth kicked in by Michigan (13-5). However, they recovered for a nice win against Quinnipiac, and, well, unfortunately Detroit will be the worst team they’ve seen so far this year, with losses to the two teams that have beaten Bellarmine by a combined 14 goals.
The Knights have come and gone as a pretty decent team, but so far it doesn’t seem like 2017 will be one of the up year.
From the Michigan edition of this very preview:
Tucker Ciessau… had a pretty nice season (23G, 13A), and will play both midfield and attack in 2017 – starting at attack against Bobby Mo. Fellow attack starter Ryan Coukoulis had basically no production as a part-time starter (he also missed multiple games due to injury, in his defense), but the diminutive 5-9, 160-pounder scored two goals in three shots against the Colonials. Freshman (and Brother Rice grad) Morgan Macko was the third starter up front.
Midfielder Andrew Schoenick has been the second-leading scorer so far at this point, while Coukoulis and Macko have yet to start again. Jack Perkins is right behind Schoenick, and with the outstanding Ciessau, that trio forms the nucleus of the offense.
With a few good poles and a typically strong set of SSDMs (albeit banged up at this early stage in the year), Detroit actually has a decent matchup for Bellarmine on this end of the field. Make them get it done outside by taking away Ciessau, and suddenly you have a chance for Jason Weber to steal the game for you.
From the Michigan version:
Evan Kalish was a starter at both LSM and close D last year, though, he he will step in to be a key member of the defensive unit. The lone returning D starter (at least full-time) is Kevin Fahey, though he didn’t garner preseason all-conference honors (the only Knight who did was Ciessau).
Chase Rose was the primary starting goalie for Bellarmine last year, but he was relegated to the bench to begin the Robert Morris game, with freshman Jordan Dondoyano getting the starting nod instead. They both saved 60% of shots faced, though Dondoyano saw three times as many in almost exactly three times as much playing time: so far, they’re very similar, and the defense plays similarly in front of them.
Kalish and Fahey have started all three games for the Titans, along with Aidan Christian. Fahey has caused two turnovers, while his linemates have caused three each. This isn’t a takeover-dependent backline… though it may be wise to take a few more risks with Rose saving just .395 of shots faced in the majority of game action. Dondoyano and sophomore Max Cartor have had much more success, albeit in more limited playing time. The goalie selection is definitely something to watch, because it’s a weak point.
This is a game where, if Detroit can dial in their shots (instead of many going off-cage or directly to the keeper), they have a chance to really put some balls past a group of goalies that is far from intimidating.
Going back to the well one more time:
Senior Tyler Nangle took every draw against RMU, and finished at .455. Last year, he was a .382 faceoff man…
Bellarmine cleared very well against Robert Morris, and held the Colonials to .833. The Knights have had spurts over the years of being a pretty hard-riding team, so they may be trying to transition back to that.
Robert Morris had three man-up opportunities and failed to convert a single one… though this early in the year, it’s impossible to say if that’s a credit to the BU man-down defense or a strike against Bobby Mo.
Nangle has reverted to his previous form, and this should be a major opportunity for the Titans – particularly Ben Gjokaj – to grow a possession advantage and have a chance to steal this game, even if the offense and defense aren’t fully clicking. Of course, there’s a chance that the hard-riding Knights (opponents are down to .764 clearing on the year, an awful number) get that advantage right back against a UDM clear that is known for its own struggles.
This is not a good Bellarmine team, but unfortunately, it isn’t a particularly good Detroit team (yet), either. UDM finally got the monkey off its back in beating Jacksonville last mid-week… then destroyed any potential confidence that may have built by being blown off the field by a Robert Morris team that isn’t any good, either.
This could be one of the last legit chances for another victory before beginning conference play (Marquette Sunday, Air Force the following Saturday), so the Titans really could use a victory. Yes, getting enough MAAC wins to enter the conference tournament is the major objective for 2017 at this point, but there are plenty of reasons – confidence-building, putting together a least an unembarrassing final record – that it would still be real nice to win this one.
Bellarmine seems to be a slightly better team than UDM overall, but the particular matchups between the Titans and Knights make this very interesting.
- Gjokaj should have a day on faceoffs. He’s down to .439 on the year, but against a really bad faceoff team, he should be able to get back to his early-season form. That will be important not just for potentially winning this game, but building something for the remainder of the year.
- Jason Weber will have a save percentage over .667. Other than Ciessau, Bellarmine is a team that gets a lot of its production from outside. That’s a pretty good fit for a team like Detroit, that has an outstanding keeper between the pipes and a relatively physical defense inside. Will they be able to shut down Ciessau? I wouldn’t count on it, but forcing him to feed, rather than score, would allow the team to put this game in Weber’s hands, to an extent.
- One of the downsides there is that Weber is a liability in the clearing game sometimes (he’s not the only culprit there, obviously, but you know, verbal transitions and such), and Bellarmine is super-into the ride. Giving up free possessions seems almost like an inevitability, and like the Titans can win this one on faceoffs and between the pipes, they could very easily lose it in transition. I see a sub-.800 clearing day.
- Will the offense have success? That’s the one aspect of the game that I’m not sure I’m ready to make a prediction about. There are ways to squint and look sideways to see how they could do very well, but then the little voice in the back of your head says “yeah but turnovers.” They’ll do well when not turning it over – as is often the case – but the amount they turn it over is capital-A capital-P A Problem.
UDM will scrap in this one, and it’s the type of game where too many of the predictions fall into the “guess” category, rather than things we can truly glean from past performance. If everything goes right, it could be not only a win, but a comfortable one. Unfortunately, the opposite is just as possible if the 50/50 stuff goes the other way. I still think Detroit finds a way to win, 10-9.