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Men's Lacrosse: Denver Preview

+7 HS
beserkr29's picture
March 17, 2023 at 10:12am

We have arrived. The make or break section of the season is upon us, and there's very little room for error now. A huge slate of games was pretty humiliating for Ohio State, losing badly to three top 5 teams in a row. There's little hope of a Final Four run, but making the tournament is still very, very feasible.

And, given the complete lack of offensive continuity, there's still time to right the ship. But, given current results, it's going to be very, very difficult for Ohio State to have a top-half finish in the Big Ten. Lots of lacrosse to play, but things need to improve in a hurry.

First, Denver. This isn't the Denver of 8 years ago. Or, really, last year. The Pios are really struggling in the final stretch of Bill Tierney's exceptional career. Denver averages just 11 goals per game on offense, far from the death machine of a few years ago. Part of that is a struggle in recruiting. The Pios haven't replaced Jack Hannah, and the remaining talent is very reminiscent of Ohio State's.

Denver IS a far more balanced team than Ohio State has been, even though the production isn't
spectacular. The Pios currently have 5 players with 12 points or more this season, though there are two players tied for the team lead in points with 14.

Attackman JJ Sillstrop (#5) leads the team in goals with 12, and is tied for the lead in points with 14. Attackman Noah Manning (#7) is right behind him in goals with 10, but also has 14 points on the season. Richie Connell (#23) rounds out the starting attack line, and has 13 points this season. Fortunately for Ohio State, their defensive strength is slowing down the attackmen.

That doesn't mean stopping Denver will be easy, however, as Stephen Avery (#50) anchors the Pio
midfield with 10 goals of his own. Given the complete abuse Ohio State has taken on the SSDM/LSM lines, it's going to be a rough matchup there. Avery probably gets 3 and 2, if past results hold.

Defensively, Denver is noticeably difficult to shoot well against. While never really being a completely shutdown defense, the Pios force teams into bad shots, as can be seen by the fact that they hold opponents to a SOG percentage of just .534. Good teams average around 600, so to be that poor against Denver you have to really be hemmed in when you have the ball.

Denver will start Jack DiBenedetto (#31), Adam Hangland (#41), and Jimmy Freehill (#15) down low against the Ohio State attack unit.

We know only one player who will start for sure, Jack Myers. After that, it's anyone's guess. Is Colby Smith healthy yet? Who's going to be in the lefty slot? Those answers have escaped the team all season. Ed Shean is a surefire star, but won't see the field at attack if Smith goes.

Ohio State's problems have been related to extended poor shooting from Jack Myers (20%). Kyle Borda (27%), and Colby Smith (15%). Borda went scoreless against every top 5 team, and Myers had just two goals total in that stretch, both against Virginia in a game that was over at halftime.

The big names need to come through against Denver to really have a shot.

The nice thing is, even though they force really bad shots, Denver allows teams to score at an identical rate as their own. Opponents have a shooting percentage of .284, half a percentage point behind the Pios own conversion rate (.289).

Goalkeeper Malcolm Kleban (#53) has a save percentage of 508 this season but averages just 5 saves per game. There's opportunity there if Ohio State can get shots on goal.

Denver's long been good at faceoffs, and this year is no different. The Pios are winning 66% of their draws as a team, even though they're just a .500 outfit.

Alec Stathakis (#37) is a certified monster, having
taken every faceoff for the Pios. Ohio State has seen their success dip this season, getting crushed in their game against Notre Dame. This game will be worse. Much worse. Ohio State is going to need to pull out every trick to get to just 40%. If the Buckeyes can do that, it will probably be a pretty good day.

On special teams, Ohio State finally has an advantage. Denver is very, very mediocre, scoring just 30% of the time on Man Up, and allowing teams to score 43% of the time on Man Down. Obviously, that's not good, unless you're a Buckeye fan. Ohio State has had their share of struggles, especially on Man Down but this is a chance to really take advantage if Denver makes some mistakes.

This game is going to be decided in settled situations, and in the clearing game. Both Denver and Ohio State have struggled with turnovers. Denver is a little below average at clearing the ball. Ohio State is really bad at riding.

Denver does not allow teams to score unassisted (21 unassisted goals allowed). Ohio
State scores a lot of unassisted goals (39).
This being an away game, Ohio State is going to need to find some offensive consistency. No one on Denver is truly scary, outside of Stathakis, but Ohio State struggles to score goals against quality opponents.

I think that Ohio State is very capable of winning this game, but it will be a long, drawn out
battle that is close all the way. In the end, however, I think that Skylar Wahlund and the Buckeye starting poles will be a big, big factor in shutting down the Denver offense.

Final prediction: Ohio State 12, Denver 11

Go Bucks!

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