#7 Denver’s Offense Goes Cold in Second Half as Pioneers Fall to #1 Duke

A week ago, a one-goal first half against Utah nearly spelled disaster for the #7 Denver Pioneers (1-1) in a 9-8 thriller victory. Today, though, against the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils (1-0), in the first of DU’s two games in North Carolina, it was a two-goal second half – the product of a stout Duke defense and a lack of urgency from the crimson and gold attackers – that contributed to a blown halftime lead and a 12-10 loss, their third straight against Duke, for the Pioneers at the hands of the best team in the country in Durham.

The result is certainly disappointing for the Pioneers, who held a commanding 8-4 lead at halftime thanks to a hat trick from Jackson Morrill, three points from JJ Sillstrop, and 11 faceoff wins in 13 tries for Alec Stathakis. Denver surrendered the first goal but for the remainder of the opening 30 minutes, it was the Pioneers’ game to lose and they, rather than the Blue Devils, played like the top-ranked team in the country.

The script completely flipped in the second half, though. Duke coach John Danowski replaced starting goaltender Mike Adler with Turner Uppgren early in the second quarter but it was in the second half where he really made his presence felt. His seven saves on nine second-half shots on goal prevented the Pioneers from pulling away and gave his offensive teammates like Princeton transfer Michael Sowers (1 goal, 3 assists) and Brennan O’Neill (3 goals, 1 assist) the time and ability to erase the halftime deficit and complete the comeback.

In the first half against Utah, there was a noticeable lack of urgency on offense and, combined with a poor performance on faceoffs from Alec Stathakis and Brett Boos, Denver needed an efficient offense in the second half to prevent disaster. Today, Stathakis rebounded at the X to go 19-for-25 and give Denver all the opportunities it needed to complete the upset. Even on groundballs, Denver held the edge scooping up 30 to Duke’s 16. The Pioneers improved in some ways but fell back into their lackluster ways in others, going just 1-for-7 on their extra-man opportunities and turning the ball over a full 15 times (Duke had 11).

If there was one area that stood out as the most confounding part of the game, it’d be the performance of DU’s midfielders. Jack Hannah, normally a scoring machine, and Ted Sullivan were held without a point despite firing a combined 16 shots in the direction of the net (just five were on goal). Cotler was the lone starting midfielder to tally any points with his three on the day.

Denver’s challenge on Sunday against #6 UNC (pour your coffee early, the game starts at 9am MT), in the second game of their east coast road trip, will be to play a consistent 60 minutes of lacrosse. If they can find a way to combine today’s first half with last week’s second half, they’ll undoubtedly come back to Denver at 2-1 with a big top-ten victory under their belts.


Top photo: NCAA

2 thoughts on “#7 Denver’s Offense Goes Cold in Second Half as Pioneers Fall to #1 Duke”

  1. DU dominated many facets of today’s game but THIS stat was the glaring one: Duke had 19 shots and 12 goals. That’s totally unacceptable goaltending on DU/Thompon’s part – just a 36% saves percentage when 50% is the average DU needs to have to be an effective team.

    Until DU can get 50%+ goaltending on a regular basis, DU will always be in danger of losing games against competent opponents.

    DU has SEVEN goalies on its 67-person roster.

    Can one of them please save 50%?

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