April 9, 2004
USAF, Colo. – After being one of the top three offensive teams in the country through the first six games of 2004, the 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team (4-4, 1-1 GWLL) has turned in the best back-to-back defensive performances in school history since then. Following a 10-3 victory over Dartmouth on Sunday, the Irish battled through freezing temperatures and snowy conditions for a 12-2 road victory over Air Force (2-5, 0-1 GWLL) Friday afternoon at Cadet Lacrosse Stadium. Senior G Stewart Crosland (Bethesda, Md./Landon School) was dominant for the second game in a row, making eight saves on 10 shots, including a stretch of more than 48 minutes without a Falcon score, during which the Irish netted 10 goals.
The combined five goals managed by Air Force and the Big Green mark the fewest given up by Notre Dame in consecutive games in the 24-year varsity history of the program. The previous best back-to-back performances by an Irish defense came in 1992, when Notre Dame beat Mount Saint Mary’s 13-3 on April 11 and followed it up with a 14-3 triumph against Stony Brook two days later.
After senior M Steve Clagett (Chesapeake Beach, Md./DeMatha Catholic H.S.) scored the first goal of the game, putting Notre Dame ahead 1-0 for the seventh time in eight games this season, Air Force freshman M Justin Kuchta tied the game with 9:01 left in the opening period. The Irish defense then took over, denying the Falcon attack another score for the next 48:14, when Kuchta broke the dry spell with AFA’s second and final goal, coming with 5:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It was the third consecutive game that the Irish defense – led by seniors D Mickey Blum (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City H.S.) and D Brennan Creaney (Baltimore, Md./Loyola Blakefield H.S.), junior LSM Chris Richez (Freeport, N.Y./Freeport H.S.), sophomore D D.J. Driscoll (Downington, Pa./Malvern Preparatory School), and freshman D Joey Rallo (Cockeysville, Md./Boys’ Latin H.S.) — put together a scoreless streak of more than 25 minutes in the middle of the game. Ohio State went 28:47 without scoring in the second and third quarters on March 31, and Dartmouth was held without a goal for 40:37, stretching through the final three periods, on Sunday.
After setting a career high in save percentage by stopping 12 of 13 shots (.923) last Sunday against Dartmouth, Crosland again was strong in goal. After the first six games of the season, the third-year starter was 2-4 with a 12.17 goals-against average and .513 save percentage. Over the last two contests, he is 2-0 with a 1.56 GAA and .870 save percentage.
Notre Dame’s defense allowed Air Force to get off just 17 shots (10 on goal) after no previous Irish opponent had managed fewer than 31. Notre Dame fired 40 shots.
In the first six games of the season, the Irish gave up 12.17 goals on 36.3 shots, while allowing opponents to score on half of their 28 extra-man opportunities and clear the ball 70.5% of the time. Against Dartmouth and Air Force, Notre Dame is giving up 2.50 goals on 25.5 shots and allowing opponents to succeed on just 59.3% of clearing opportunities. The Big Green and Falcons also failed on all eight of their EMO chances.
Offensively, the Irish had three players finish with four points: senior A Matt Howell (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington H.S.), junior M Brian Giordano (Princeton, N.J./Hun School), and sophomore M Brian Hubschmann (Short Hills, N.J./Delbarton H.S.). Giordano registered his third hat trick of the season, while adding an assist. He answered Kuchta’s first goal 67 seconds later to put the Irish ahead for good and incite the string of 10 consecutive goales. Howell and Hubschmann each had a goal and three assists. Howell has had multiple points in every contest this season and at least one goal in 16 of the 17 games in which he has played over the last two campaigns, adding six assists in his only goalless affair. After registering multiple points just one time a year ago, Hubschmann has accomplished that feat in seven of eight games in ’04, managing four or more points on four occasions.
Senior A Dan Berger (Phoenix, Md./Boys’ Latin H.S.) scored two goals for the fourth consecutive game. He has 20 multiple-goal outings in his career.
Clagett, who made his first start of the season, and sophomore A Pat Walsh (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh H.S.) both had a goal and an assist, while three other players also netted goals. Junior A Matt Malakoff (Bay Shore, N.Y./Bay Shore H.S.) scored for the second consecutive game after going scoreless up to that point in the season. Sophomore M Matt Karweck (Penn Yan, N.Y./Penn Yan Academy) notched his 10th goal of the season with 3:05 left in the first half, and freshman A Brian Boyle (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) got his first 44 seconds later.
The 12 goals scored by the Irish were the most given up by Air Force this season. Sophomore G Justin Pavoni entered the game with a 7.58 goals-against average and .655 save percentage. He stopped 16 shots on Friday.
Notre Dame held a 17-11 advantage in ground balls in the first quarter, but Air Force dominated the rest of the game to finish up 51-44 in loose balls. Creaney led the Irish with six, while Clagett, Driscoll, Rallo, and sophomore Matt Ryan (Ridley Park, Pa./Ridley H.S.) had four each.
Falcon senior M Ray Wilson had a game-high nine ground balls, while senior M Gregory Kantz added six, and senior D Chris Palmer corralled five. Kantz took all 18 faceoffs, winning 11 of them.
After dropping its Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) opener for the first time ever in a last-second 9-8 loss to #17 Ohio State on March 31, Notre Dame evened its conference record at 1-1. Air Force was playing its league opener. The Buckeyes are atop the GWLL standings at 2-0, while Denver is 1-0, Fairfield is 1-1, and Butler is 0-2.
After opening the season with a 7-6 victory over defending NCAA champion #2 Virginia and then beating Vermont, Air Force has lost five in a row.
Notre Dame has beaten the Falcons 16 consecutive times after Air Force took the initial meeting between the schools, in 1988.
The Irish will continue their Easter weekend trip by heading to Denver (6-2, 1-0 GWLL) to face the 17th-ranked Pioneers on Sunday at 1 p.m. (MDT).