Denver Weathers Brenden Crouse’s Six-Goal Effort to top Air Force in 2022 Home Opener

On the heels of an unexpectedly strong winter storm, the #12 Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team (2-0, 0-0 BIG EAST) took to the field at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium to face Air Force (0-2, 0-0 SoCon) in the Pios’ 2022 home opener. Air Force, for their part, came up I-25 after getting dominated by #1 Virginia, 21-11 while the Pioneers came home from topping Utah last weekend, 14-13, in a season-opening thriller. With an all-important trip to Duke on the schedule next weekend, the Pioneers planned to use the matchup against Air Force as a tune-up and, along the way, they had to withstand a one-man scoring machine in Brenden Crouse who scored six goals for the Falcons. Fortunately for DU who had five different players score at least two goals, Crouse was the only Air Force attacker to make a difference as the Pioneers pulled away in the second half to win 13-9.

Air Force is well-known for starting games fast. Last weekend, they shot out to a 3-0 lead against the Hoos in Charlottesville before getting outscored 21-8 the rest of the way, and today, in Denver, the Falcons again scored first as Crouse got his sock-trick day going early. It was the play of AFA goaltender Jason Rose, though, that even allowed that to happen, saving Denver’s first two shots before Crouse’s game-opening goal. But from there, Denver took over and never gave the lead back.

Alec Stathakis won 17-of-26 faceoffs (.654) throughout the day, JJ Sillstrop scored four goals, all within the first quarter and a half of play, and Alex Simmons added a hat trick of his own to keep Crouse and the Falcons at bay.

Rose, for his part, kept the game from getting out of hand and kept Air Force within striking distance, making 18 saves on 31 DU shots on goal (.581 SV%). In contrast, DU goalie Jack Thompson stopped just seven of Air Force’s 16 shots (.438), though he did come up with some key saves at important spots to preserve the Pioneers’ lead.

Defensively for DU, though, LSM Malik Sparrow was, without a doubt, the Pioneers’ player of the game. He forced three turnovers and laid the body multiple times including an incredible and forceful body check of Crouse as the first quarter came to a close. But maybe the play of the game came in the final seconds of the third quarter when he stick-checked Ethan Grandolfo and forced a turnover as the Falcon attacker was attempting to score a last-second goal and close the gap to three entering the fourth quarter. Sparrow didn’t show up on the scoresheet but his presence was felt throughout the game and was a major difference-maker for Denver.

Overall, it was a solid victory for the Pioneers, if a bit sloppy at points. Denver would have loved to cruise to a blowout victory, especially after the close call against Utah last weekend and with the #3 Blue Devils next on the schedule. But, luckily for head coach Bill Tierney’s squad, there will be plenty of helpful film from this game to analyze and use to improve ahead of next weekend’s trip to Durham.


Top photo courtesy of Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative Photography

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