NCAA Lacrosse 2014: Duke beats Denver 15-12, returns to championship final

Jack Tarr, TSN via Jack Tarr

Jack Tarr, TSN via Jack Tarr

Peter Koutroumpis – editor@trianglesportsnet.com

BALTIMORE, MD. – The Duke Blue Devils continued defense of their title as they earned a 15-12 win over the fifth-seeded Denver Pioneers in semi-final play in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Six total scorers led the Duke offense as Kyle Keenan (4 goals, 1 assist), Jordan Wolf (3 goals, 2 assists), Deemer Class (3 goals), Myles Jones (2 goals, 1 assist), Chad Cohan (2 goals), and Christian Walsh (1 goal, 3 assists) all contributed to the victory.

The Blue Devils managed to outdistance themselves from the Pioneers for the second straight time this season, winning the two teams’ earlier season matchup 14-10 in Durham on Feb. 15.

Brendan Fowler battled Chris Hampton at the faceoff X, winning 15 of 29 draws in a game that was as even as it could be with both team’s committing only six turnovers apiece, with the Pioneers winning the ground ball game by a narrow margin (22-21) as each took advantage of the ball possessions they claimed.

Keenan’s career-high scoring performance helped fill the void up front as a result of attackman Josh Dionne being lost for the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered in Duke’s 19-11 win over Johns Hopkins in last week’s quarterfinal.

A compact and powerful offensive performance from the Pioneers’ Wesley Berg (5 goals), Jack Bobzien (3 goals), Tyler Pace (3 goals), and Zach Miller (1 goal, 2 assists) was not enough to break down the Blue Devils defense that relied on both goalkeepers, Luke Aaron and Kyle Turri, to solidify the win.

Following a string of three straight Denver goals that cut Duke’s four-goal advantage down to only one, leading 11-10 in the fourth quarter, Duke head coach John Danowski made a change in goal that brought Turri in to relieve Aaron with 13:46 to play.

While the Blue Devils offense turned it up to outscore the Pioneers 4-2 for the next seven minutes, it was Turri’s work in the cage for the remainder of the game that denied Denver a successful comeback bid.

With 6:29 to remaining to play and Duke leading 15-12, it was Turri’s four critical stops on dangerous shot attempts from Berg, Miller and Jeremy Noble, including one that hit the crossbar, that helped finish the job.

Earning its second straight entry into the national championship final game and third in five years, top-seeded Duke will now face the sixth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 11-6 winners over seventh-seeded Maryland in the day’s other semifinal game.

Monday’s final game will pit Duke and Notre Dame against one another in the NCAA final game at M&T Stadium for the second time since 2010 when the Blue Devils beat the Irish 6-5 with an overtime goal from C.J. Costabile that earned the program its first-ever NCAA trophy.