USAFA, Colo. – Led by a five-goal performance from junior Wesley Berg (Coquitlam, B.C.), the No. 4 University of Denver men’s lacrosse team topped the Air Force Falcons, 14-8, on Saturday afternoon from Falcon Stadium in USAFA, Colo., to open the 2014 season.
Sophomore transfer Jack Bobzien (Littleton, Colo.) led the Pioneers in points as he finished with four goals and two assists, while senior Jeremy Noble (Orangeville, Ontario) posted five points off one goal and four assists. Freshman Zach Miller (Steamburg, N.Y.) finished with three goals and an assist in his debut, while freshman Tyler Pace (Mission, B.C.) scored one goal and tallied two assists.
“With the opening game of the season, we knew there was going to be those opening-day jitters,” said head coach Bill Tierney. “We also knew that Air Force was going to come with a lot of energy. They are always great athletes and really good lacrosse players. I think the important thing was that we fended off their charge. We got down and our guys just kept their composure.”
Senior Bailey Dodds (Eden Prairie, Minn.) netted one goal, while senior Harrison Archer (Washington, D.C.) and junior Sean Cannizzaro (Cazenovia, N.Y.) both tallied an assist each.
Sophomore Chris Hampton (Bethesda, Md.) won 6-of-19 face-offs, while sophomore Christian Thomas (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was 3-of-5 from the X.
“I’m really proud of our performance in the second-half of the second quarter and also the entire third quarter,” Tierney said. “I thought Jamie was really good in goal, as well as Ryan. We still have a lot to work on, but we spread the ball around and I think our scoring was really spread out.”
Senior Jamie Faus (Lakeville, Conn.) made eight saves, while allowing five goals in three quarters, junior Ryan LaPlante (Fort Collins, Colo.) tallied three saves and allowed three goals in the fourth quarter.
Tommy McKee led the Falcons with three points off three goals, while Keith Dreyer finished with one goal and two assists for three points. Goalie Doug Gouchoe made seven saves in 49:53 minutes of action.
Air Force led the advantage in shots (44 to 33) and ground balls (25 to 24), while also winning 16-of-25 face-offs.
Denver opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game as Pace teamed up with Miller to score a man-up goal. Air Force answered with three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead in the final three minutes of action. Denver cut the deficit to 3-2 less than two minutes into the second quarter as Bobzien scored a man-up unassisted goal.
After the Falcons scored with 12:30 left to play before the half to take a 4-2 lead, Denver strung together three straight goals to take a 5-4 lead off tallies from Bobzien, Berg and Miller. The Falcons tied it at 5-5 with 3:57 left before the half, but the Pioneers answered with three straight to head into the locker room with an 8-5 cushion. Dodds, Berg and Miller all found the back of the net in the closing 2:16 of the quarter.
The Pioneers continued their scoring run in the third quarter, scoring five goals in the third quarter, while holding the Falcons scoreless. Denver continued with the momentum heading into the fourth quarter as Berg netted his fifth of the game with 8:19 left to play.
Air Force scored the final three goals for the game in the last six and a half minutes, but it wasn’t enough as the Pioneers took a 14-8 win to start the 2014 season.
Denver continues play next Saturday at defending national champion Duke on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. in Durham, N.C. The game will be live on ESPN3.com.