Photo courtesy DU Athletics
When you look at Connor Cannizzaro and Ethan Walker, you’d be forgiven if you give a double-take. The manner in which the two present themselves, their dialect, and their physical appearance translate to the field. If it weren’t for their jerseys, No. 40 worn by Cannizzaro and No. 57 sported by Walker, it’d be nearly impossible to tell them apart thanks to their nearly identical playing styles.
To add to the confusion, the two mirror attackmen for the University of Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team grew up just 415.5 miles from one another.
Though separated by the Canada-United States border and three years of age, Cannizzaro returning for his final year as captain immediately clicked with Walker upon his arrival.
“Right from the fall I saw what he could be and saw what he could do,” Cannizzaro said. “He’s just been an amazing player for us this year especially as a freshman. He doesn’t play like one [a freshman] and when he’s on the field he controls the game and slows it down like anyone else. That’s a special thing to have, especially when you’re a freshman.”
Cannizzaro and Walker’s undeniable chemistry has established a dynamic offensive force. The duo leads Denver in scoring. Walker boasts 60 points with 33 goals and 27 assists while Cannizzaro has amassed 57 points on 36 goals and 21 assists to this point.
“These kind of lacrosse players, these kind of athletes build off confidence,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “When they get confident in a teammate or teammates you can see that relationship build and it happened right at the beginning with these two.”
Cannizzaro, the youngest in an athletic family, grew up in Cazenovia, New York. Siblings Chris played hockey, Kara played collegiate lacrosse at the University of North Carolina where she was a 2013 Tewaaraton Finalist, and closest in age brother Sean played lacrosse at DU, graduating after winning a national championship in 2015.
“I just followed in my sibling’s footsteps pretty much. I grew up in a really athletic family,” Cannizzaro said. “I was always around my brothers Sean and Chris and my older sister Kara. They were always doing sports. Growing up in Syracuse, lacrosse is a huge part of the culture and community that’s how I really got into it. I used to go to Syracuse lacrosse games and watch all the old greats like the Powells [Brothers – Michael, Ryan, Casey]. That was a special place to be a part of and motivated me to become who I am today.”
Cannizzaro spent his freshman year at the University of Maryland before transferring west. As a junior, he followed in his sister’s footsteps as a finalist for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award and continues his senior campaign as a current nominee for the 2017 award. Cannizzaro currently holds the longest active point streak in the nation at 55 games, totaling 230 points (150G – 80A) throughout the streak.
“It’s been a special experience,” Cannizzaro said. “I’ve always dreamed about it especially as a little kid, winning a national championship [in 2015]. Going to the Final Fours almost every year and watching some of the great teams play, I knew I wanted to be there one day. It’s actually really special to be a part of it and actually live out some of my dreams. It’s kind of surreal when you look back to when I was little and think about it now. It’s special and I can’t wait for the rest of what this season has for us.”
Walker, dubbed ‘E-Walk,’ picked up the sport at two-years-old thanks to a recommendation from one of his father’s friends since his father never played growing up. A natural lefty, Walker bounced between positions throughout the field and box lacrosse until he transitioned solely to attack at Culver Military Academy, in Indiana.
Since joining the Pioneers’ program, Walker’s expectations were minimal, but his immaculate work ethic and outstanding talent have reflected his impact on the field and on the stats sheets.
“As a freshman, you just come in and you don’t expect much right?” Walker said. “There’s all these guys they’ve played here before so you’re just coming in and not expecting much. I just have to take things in stride and you have to work hard and prove to them that they can put their trust in you and go out there and perform on a daily basis.”
Cannizzaro and Walker have established an undeniable rapport and legacy for future Pioneers to look up to.
“He’s going to be a great player for us the next three years. I wish he could have been here my three years,” Cannizzaro said. “It’s going to be fun to watch him play and grow as a player.”
While Cannizzaro’s chapter as a Pioneer is closing, Walker’s journey is just beginning. For now, the duo has the chance to salvage four more games on the field together and cherish the unique bond they’ve developed while time allows.
“They both come from amazing families. Competitive families that understand athletics and the value of sports more than just the winning,” Tierney said. “They do have a lot in common. They’re very brother-like. I think for Connor, he had Sean his [older] brother here two-years ago and now he’s got his little brother here.”