February 20, 2016
Denver's Max Planning shoots as part of a fourth-quarter flurry Saturday in the Pioneers' 14-12 win over Duke at Kennesaw State. (Cecil Copeland)
Denver's Max Planning shoots as part of a fourth-quarter flurry Saturday in the Pioneers' 14-12 win over Duke at Kennesaw State. (Cecil Copeland)

Denver Outlasts Duke in Cobb County Slugfest

by Bill Trocchi | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

KENNESAW, Ga. — The calendar read Feb. 20, but there was a little Memorial Day weekend flavor to the second half of the Cobb County Classic at Kennesaw State University on Saturday.

No. 2 Denver outlasted No. 3 Duke 14-12 in a highly entertaining affair that could very well be a precursor to the 2016 NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship game.

"It was a great Division I game for Feb. 20 and it is obviously an honor to play a team like Duke," Pioneers coach Bill Tierney said. "It is nice to have one in the bank."

Connor Cannizzaro scored three second-half goals and Tyler Pace had one goal and three assists as the defending national champions moved to 2-0 on the season.

Duke's Myles Jones, a leading candidate for the Twaaraton Award, had three goals and two assists, and midfielder Deemer Class had four goals. Jones, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Blaze and will play his MLL home games later this summer on this field, has six goals and six assists through three games.

It was a game of punches and counterpunches, as Duke (2-1) would fall behind and then tie the score on six different occasions, the final one being with 6:10 to play. Justin Guterding finished a feed from Jones to knot the score 12-12.

[No. 1 Notre Dame Opens With Win Over Georgetown]

Trevor Baptiste, who struggled early on faceoffs against Duke's Kyle Rowe but finished 18-for-30, won the ensuing faceoff for Denver. Pace finished the possession by converting a feed from Jack Bobzien from behind the goal to give the Pioneers a 13-12 lead with 5:13 to play.

Baptiste won the next faceoff, and then Denver caught a big break. In a rush to beat the shot clock, Colin Woolford scrambled after a loose ball and fired a shot from about 25 yards out that skipped along the ground and somehow beat Duke goalie Danny Fowler with 3:05 left.

"When you win big games, sometimes you're just lucky," Tierney said. "I think it hit off one of their players' feet. We got lucky. "

Baptiste won yet another faceoff, and Denver was able to salt away the game, aided by freshman goalie Alex Ready's big stop during a Duke man-advantage with 1:30 left. Ready made nine saves in his second career game.

Playing in the same venue where he will make his professional lacrosse debut later this spring, Duke's Myles Jones scored three goals Saturday. (Cecil Copeland)

"I'm delighted with our effort overall," Duke coach John Danowski said. "I thought we were somewhat tentative in the first quarter both offensively and defensively. We won the first five faceoffs and we didn't score a goal. Against a team like this, you need to take advantage of those opportunities."

Duke fell into a 3-0 hole before mounting one of its many rallies on the day. Jones tallied twice to get Duke started and Class tied things 3-3. It was 5-4 Denver at halftime and 9-7 at the end of the third before a flurry of goals midway through the fourth quarter, including three by Duke in a span of 1:20 that tied the score at 12-12.

"It was havoc out there," Tierney said.

In the end, Denver had one last push that allowed it to extend its winning streak to 15 games.

"We knew coming out they were going to be a tough team," Cannizzaro said. "We were going to throw some punches and they were going to hit us right back. We are just happy to come out with the win at the end of the game."

No. 1 Notre Dame defeated No. 10 Georgetown 12-7 in the opener of the Cobb County Classic doubleheader, an event that drew a 4,651 fans at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

"We will be back here for the ACC tournament in April, so that is why this type of game is so neat to play in so early in the year," Danowski said. "Now the freshmen know what it is like to play against the defending national champion in front of a big crowd."

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