February 9, 2013

Denver Mounts Big Rally, Downs Duke on Adamson's Career Day

by Kelly Parsons | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Sophomore goalie Ryan LaPlante made a career-high 18 saves while sophomore atackman Eric Adamson tallied a career-best five goals in Denver's 14-12 win over Duke. The Pioneers outscored Duke 7-0 in the third quarter.
© Charles Mauzy/US Lacrosse

DURHAM, N.C. — In the first quarter of No. 6 Denver's comeback thriller against No. 3 Duke, a game the Pioneers would win 14-12, Denver head coach Bill Tierney yelled at offensive coordinator Matt Brown to take sophomore attackman Eric Adamson out of the game.

Tierney thought Adamson, a California native, looked nervous out there on a chilly afternoon at Duke's Koskinen Stadium, and he'd dropped a few balls in the early going.

Tierney, however, eventually decided to leave Adamson in and let him play through the jitters. And when the game clock hit zero less than two hours later, with Denver running off the field victorious for the third straight time against the Blue Devils, Tierney was glad he did.

On Saturday, Adamson had five goals and an assist to lead Denver to a win in its season-opener. Three of the scores came consecutively in an eight-minute span.

"He's one of the rare, true ambidextrous kids in the game and he's got a little savvy to him now that we weren't sure he had," Tierney said. "I'm glad he could do it against a great team like Duke."

But it wasn't easy for Denver all day on the Blue Devil turf. Duke, which at one point early had a 5-1 advantage, led the Pioneers until the 10:29 mark of the third quarter. The Blue Devils scored six goals in the first quarter alone, three of which came in a three-minute span.

Denver's offense was getting plowed over by Duke's sheer size and athleticism.

"Even one of my defenseman said when they walked in, 'They are men,'" Tierney said. "You're used to playing against guys that are pretty good athletes, pretty strong, but they are men out there. It takes a while to get used to that jolting type checks."

Denver scored three consecutive goals in the second quarter, but Duke still led 8-5 at halftime. Adamson, though, wasn't too worried about the deficit.

"We're kind of a third-quarter team. So once we got in the locker room, we knew what we needed to do and how to get it done," said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound second-year player from Foothill-Santa Ana (Calif.). "We knew we could. It was just execution that we needed to get."

For most of the next 20 minutes, it was all Pioneers, all the time. Denver began wearing down the Blue Devil defense, and the Pioneers tacked on seven goals in the third quarter. They kept the Blue Devils, who finished with the advantage in shots on goal, ground balls and faceoffs, from scoring for the entire period.

In the final minutes of the third quarter and the first couple of the fourth, Adamson scored three unassisted goals, and senior attackman Eric Law, who contributed one goal and three assists, had the final score of the afternoon for the Pioneers with 11:46 to go.

Sophomore goaltender Ryan LaPlante made a career-high 18 saves, three shy of Denver's single-game record, while freshman Gordie Koerber finished with three goals in his collegiate debut.

Adamson attributed his success to his teammates' ability to open up the field for him. And in the Californian's mind, there's no doubt where Saturday's game ranked for him.

"It's probably the top," said Adamson, whose point total was a career-best. "When I was little, [I was] looking at Duke, looking at these guys, how big they were. And then when you step on the field and you can do that against such a great team like Duke is, it's really special."

Duke was penalized six times to Denver three times, but both teams allowed a pair of extra-man goals. With 7:31 to go in the game, Denver midfielder Garret Holst had to sit for a minute for cross-checking.

Duke, trailing then 14-8, used the man-up opportunity to punch in its first goal of the half. With less then a minute to go, Denver's lead whittled down to just four, and the Blue Devils tacked on a pair of goals in a 13-second span. But the home team simply didn't have enough time to finish its comeback.

Junior attackman Jordan Wolf led the Blue Devils offensively with four goals and three assists. Christian Walsh added three goals and an assist.

In the end, Duke finished the game how it started it — with an unstoppable offensive surge. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, by that point, it was too little, too late.

After the game Tierney walked out of the locker room, from which the sounds of celebration rang out, and remarked about how proud he was of his team's accomplishment. At the same time, he couldn't say enough about the touted team they just toppled.

"They're going to be great," he said. "If this is their slow start for the season, I wouldn't want to play them again later on."

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