Posted: 02/22/2013 | Last updated: February 22, 2013 at 09:24 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team looks to continue its impressive start the season when it travels to Denver to take part in the Frontier Airlines Face-Off Classic. The Mountain Hawks will face the #11 ranked and host Pioneers Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST before facing an Air Force squad on Sunday (1 p.m.) which is receiving votes in both national polls.
Lehigh participated in the Face-Off Classic three seasons ago when the current seniors were freshmen. The Mountain Hawks lost to Denver and beat Air Force. Saturday marks Lehigh’s first nationally-ranked opponent as Villanova was first in “others receiving votes” last week. It features a matchup of good friends in Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese and legendary Denver coach Bill Tierney. Cassese brought his Mountain Hawks’ coaching staff out to Denver prior to the 2012 season in a meeting that proved beneficial for both sides.
The Mountain Hawks are 2-0 after two games for the first time since 2000 as they look to continue the momentum from last season’s historic run. This weekend’s Face-Off Classic features three NCAA Tournament teams, along with Canisius, who will face Air Force Saturday and Denver Sunday. Denver has made the NCAA Tournament all three of Tierney’s seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 2011 and Quarterfinal appearance in 2012.
Lehigh is coming off an impressive 11-9 win at Villanova last Saturday, its first win at Nova since 1997. Senior attackmen David DiMaria and Dante Fantoni led the way for a second straight week, posting seven and five points, respectively. Both were named Tewaaraton Award candidates on Friday, along with sophomore goalie Matt Poillon, who tied a career-high 16 saves while earning his second straight Patriot League Goalie of the Week award.
The Mountain Hawks have impressed on the road, winners of nine of their last 10 away from home (and 11 of 12 including neutral site games) dating back to last season.
Denver enters the weekend with a 1-1 record, beating Duke 14-12 before falling to Penn State in the Moe’s Classic, 15-12. The Pioneers have made three straight NCAA Tournaments, advancing to the Final Four in 2011 and National Quarterfinals last season. Erik Adamson leads the way in scoring, posting nine points via six goals and three assists. Eric Law has seven (four goals, three assists) while Wes Berg and Jeremy Noble have five points apiece. Denver did lose its all-time leading scorer in Mark Matthews, who graduated after a stellar four-year career. Noble leads the team in groundballs (10). Multi-faceted midfielder Chase Carraro has taken 19 faceoffs (winning eight) while Chace Calkin has taken 40 (winning 19). Ryan LaPlante, who replaced an injured Jamie Faus last season, returns as the starter and owns a 13.50 GAA and 52.6 save percentage through two games.
Denver leads the all-time series, 2-0, winning a pair of tight games in 2001 (14-12) and in Lehigh’s most recent trip to the Face-Off Classic in 2010 (8-7). Three current Mountain Hawks had a point in that game as Alex Drake scored a goal while Fantoni and Brian Hess added assists.
Ranked in the top 25 of Inside Lacrosse’s Face-Off Yearbook, Air Force hasn’t disappointed. The Falcons are 2-1, falling at North Carolina before defeating High Point and Rutgers. Like Denver, Air Force is in the ECAC. The squad is led by Mike Crampton, who owns 11 points (nine goals, two assists). Tommy McKee also had nine goals while Erik Smith owns eight points (five goals, three assists) and Keith Dreyer seven (one goal, six assists). Smith is the primary faceoff man as well, winning 43.5 percent (20-of-46) with a team-high 20 groundballs. Alex Warden leads the way with six caused turnovers. Austin Fox has started all three games in goal, owning a 9.99 GAA and 50.0 save percentage.
Lehigh owns a 6-1 all-time advantage against Air Force, winning six in a row after dropping the first-ever meeting in 1984. The Mountain Hawks beat the Falcons in their last trip to Denver as Lehigh came back from a late 13-10 deficit to win 14-13 on a Cameron Lao-Gosney goal with no time remaining. Current Mountain Hawks DiMaria and Fantoni each posted four points as DiMaria tallied four points and Fantoni three goals and an assist.
Following this weekend, Lehigh returns home to host VMI next Saturday (Mar. 2). Faceoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
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