On a sunny, 65 degree Saturday afternoon, the No. 2 University of Denver Pioneers took on the unranked Sacred Heart University Pioneers and won convincingly, 18-7. Denver followed their exciting 14-12 victory over the Duke Blue Devils last week with an impressive, if a bit erratic, offensive showing against their Pioneers counterparts from Fairfield, Connecticut.
The Pioneers started game two of the DU-hosted Faceoff Classic slowly. Start FOGO Trevor Baptiste lost the opening faceoff and SHU quickly capitalized with an early fastbreak goal by sophomore attack Matt Posch just 11 seconds into the game. Thanks to some incredible goalkeeping by A.J. Boyd, Sacred Heart kept Denver off the board for much of the opening quarter.
“It was erratic at best,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “If we’re going to be really good, we’ve got to be more consistent and we can be.”
About halfway through the first quarter, Posch capitalized on another chance in front of Denver goalie Alex Ready and doubled SHU’s lead.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team,” junior attackman Connor Cannizzaro said. “We prepared for it and we just started chipping away.”
Apparently, it took going down 2-0 early to SHU to wake up the crimson and gold. Over the next 22 and a half minutes going into halftime, Denver scored 11 straight goals to take an commanding 11-2 lead into the locker room.
“I thought we had some moments of real brilliance,” Tierney said. “The last two minutes of the first half [especially].”
For the first time since March 28 of last year against Georgetown, Denver went on an 11-0 run. Today’s run against SHU was highlighted by three goals from Connor Cannizzaro and Brendan Bomberry. Cannizzaro finished his hat trick with just 11 seconds left in the half. Not to be outdone, Jack Bobzien scored just 9 seconds later with 2 seconds left to cap the run.
Coming out of the locker room, SHU made some adjustments to stop Denver’s high-octane attack while earning better offensive possessions. Those adjustments worked for the entirety of the third quarter as they outscored Denver 4-1 and outworked the home team.
Despite the slow start to the second half, Denver recovered again in the fourth quarter and outscored SHU 6-1 to seal the dominating 18-7 victory.
The story of the game was the breakout performances of Connor Cannizzaro (5 goals, 1 assist) and Brendan Bomberry (4 goals, 1 assist). The play of the attackman and midfielder paced Denver all day.
On the heels of being named the best lacrosse player in the NCAA by ESPN lacrosse analyst and Baltimore Sun columnist Quint Kessenich, Cannizzaro put together a performance nothing short of spectacular. He routinely put on a clinic with Sacred Heart’s defense and, had it not been for the incredibly goaltending effort from Boyd, he could have scored another three or four goals.
“That’s his job,” Tierney said. “My take on Connor is that he’s got to do that for us. He’s not where he will be, but it’s a lot of effort from the other guys to get him the ball and it’s his job to finish.”
Bomberry was in a similar zone today. It felt like every time the ball was in his stick, something good was going to happen. He sliced through the SHU defense with poise and ease.
The presence of Bomberry and Cannizzaro on the field together has been the stuff of lacrosse goalies’ nightmares. Today was no exception. The two players alone outscored Sacred Heart.
Coming into the day, another star midfielder, Zach Miller, hadn’t been lighting up the scoreboard like many expected he would. What he has lacked in offensive production he has more than made up for in strong on-field leadership and great vision. Though he didn’t tally any goals against SHU, he did notch three assists, two on Bomberry goals and one on a Cannizzaro goal. All three were highlight reel passes.
Trevor Baptiste, Lacrosse Magazine’s 2015 rookie of the year, was an incredible 20-of-24 against SHU. At times, he made a mockery of the faceoff process. Twice he caused the opposing player to drop his stick and a few times, it seemed like he was the only player taking the faceoff.
Coming into the game against Sacred Heart, no one thought that SHU would come out on top, but few thought that Denver roll over their Pioneer counterparts this handily.
After winning the 2015 National Championship, DU knows that they will get every opponent’s best shot. Today was no exception, but if Denver can score like they did today, the crimson and gold will be playing deep into May for the 6th straight year.
For the 11th time since Matt Brown was hired in 2008, Denver had 10 different goal scorers; Cannizzaro now has 9 goals on the year through three games played while Bomberry now has 6; Denver was 5-6 on man-up opportunities while Sacred Heart was 0-3; Both teams turned the ball over 11 times; Denver ended the game with 20 faceoff wins while SHU had 7; Denver outshot SHU 43-26; DU recovered 29 groundballs to SHU’s 15; Attendance was 2,497, the 15th largest crowd in Peter Barton Stadium history.
Sunday, Feb 28
Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium