Faceoffs? Saves? meh. (AKA The D1 Recap)

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Championship game photos available here – all proceeds benefit local lacrosse charities.

By McNutty

If I told you Saturday morning that in the D1 Championship, Issaquah would win 75% of the faceoffs and save 62% of the shots, while Bellevue would only stop 6 shots the whole game, who would you have predicted to be the winner? Issaquah all the way, right? I’m starting to think that GSGVOGSSG (Goals Scored in a Game Versus Opponent’s Goals Scored in the Same Game) is the only stat that can accurately predict victories.

The Issaquah Eagles faced off against the Bellevue Wolverines in Saturday night’s Main Event. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Bellevue won 8-0, achieving the rarest of rare events in Championship play, a shutout. Tony Olney, doing a fine job on the broadcast for StudentSports.com, says that he’s never heard of another shut out in the 33 years he’s been involved in WA state lacrosse championships. Although there’s a few state finals left to be played around the country, I can tell you that so far, no other division in any state has had a shutout in their State Championship this year. Not one. And Issaquah had apparently never been shut out while under Coach Brandon Fortier.

I’ve now watched the game three times, trying to develop an angle from which to write a balanced recap. I wanted to find a way to point out how well each team played and how everyone ended their season on a positive note, but it was just a little more positive for Bellevue than Issaquah.

But I’m giving up, because it was not a balanced game.

Bellevue put on a defensive shellacking and I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it would happen if they played again. And I firmly believe if they played 10 times the series record would be close, and I’m unsure who would come out on top. In fact I think if you spent all of June playing a round robin between Bellevue, Issaquah, Mercer Island and Eastside Catholic, you’d probably have an even split of wins and losses. (BTW, that sounds like a pretty fun way to spend June.)

Mikey Giannopolus (#4) won 75% of the face-offs in the game

But on this night, it was a lopsided mess. Just look at the Seattle Times’ statline for Issaquah. If you take out Mikey Giannopulos’s dominance on faceoffs (he won 9 of 12 and had 6 ground balls) and Jordan Dondoyano’s ridiculous 13 saves, here’s the rest of Issaquah’s highlight stats of the night:

Zach Fitz, 3 ground balls
Spencer Webb, 2 ground balls
Tyler Ulrich, 2 ground balls

 

I promise you, I am not a good enough writer to craft a balanced recap around those highlights.

Issaquah’s Jordan Dondoyano (#0) was on fire with 13 saves in the game, assisted here by Adrian Pydych (#34) trying to defend a shot from Bellevue’s Augie Fratt (#5)

Okay, enough caterwauling, here’s what I can tell you about the game. Both teams played decent defense to start to game. In the first quarter both teams had extended possessions and did nothing with them. Issaquah found a couple of pipes and nothing came of it. Bellevue’s Hank Bethke hit a pipe, slipped around his defender, caught the rebound and dunked it for the only goal of the first quarter.

In the 2nd quarter Issaquah came out in a camouflaged zone defense, which is more like a packed man-to-man. (I call it “camouflaged” because it I can’t ever really see it.) This worked for them in the regular season matchup as Bellevue showed an inability to feed their middies from X, and the middies showed an inability to step in and shoot effectively. This time though, Bellevue utilized freshman middie Augie Fratt who made the Eagles pay by ripping one past Dondy who ended up on his tailfeathers trying to make the save.  Later as the defense compensated and pushed out towards midfield, Campbell Alexieff found a softspot at the crease and Hank Bethke found him and made it 3-0.

3-0 is nothing in lacrosse and no one in the stadium thought the game was over at that point. Issaquah had extended possessions, they just couldn’t get the ball near the cage very often.  To be precise, they were only on cage six times in the whole game, and Bellevue’s Cole Cansler stopped every one of them. Whether backed in on defense or running hard on a ride, the Wolverines were always up in Issaquah’s hands, and they couldn’t do anything effective with the ball. The turnovers seemed constant and loose balls seemed destined to end up in Bellevue’s sticks. (Attackman Hank Bethke led the game with six ground balls and he never took a faceoff.)

Bellevue’s Cole Cansler (#24) waits to make one of his six saves on a shot by Issaquah’s Matt Thomas (#40) and Michael Medzegian (#25) helps on defense

I watched the game sitting with Issaquah supporters who were lamenting their team’s lack of crispness. “They just don’t have it today,” they said “it’s just one of those days where they can’t catch and throw.” Finally, another Issaquah alum with us burst out, “We can’t catch and throw because Bellevue isn’t letting us catch and throw. It’s not because it’s just ‘one of those days’.”  You could never really point at anything Issaquah was doing wrong, it just felt like they weren’t doing anything right.

Championship game photos available here – all proceeds benefit local lacrosse charities.

Emotion aside, here’s the stats from Bellevue’s numbers guru, freshman team coach Martin Pascal:

  • Clears:
Issaquah – 7 of 12 58.3%
Bellevue – 19 of 21 90.4%
  • Goalies
Dondoyano – 13 saves on 21 official shots
Cansler – 6 saves on 6 official shots
  • Bellevue 5 of 8 goals were assisted

It was certainly a dominant performance by the Wolverines. Even though they only scored eight times, Issaquah had only given up an average of less than three throughout the season.

Coach John Baumann seemed to make just enough offensive adjustments to slowly expand the Wolverine’s lead. He was unafraid to go young, often using two freshmen, Fratt and Justin Angelel, on offense, and he got a great game out of sophomore d-middie, Jack Albrecht. Albrecht cleared well through the Eagle defense and picked up couple of key ground balls.

A few minutes into the fourth quarter the dam kind of burst. Eric Haehl ripped a 15 yard lefty for his second, senior middie Nick Hutson made himself a memory with nice far pipe bounce shot, and sophomore Joe Bethke, heir apparent, got two past Dondy. It was 8-0 and the only drama left was the shutout.

Bellevue’s Eric Haehl (#4) prepares to score a lefty rip.

On the air announcer Olney was treating it like a perfect game in baseball. It’s very rare, but he didn’t want to jinx it by talking about it. Afterwards, Bellevue’s Cole Cansler was lauded for his 8-0 shutout over Issaquah and he should have been. Not so many saves, but big parts of his job are directing the defense and making good clearing decisions. Bellevue’s defense performed so well that Issaquah only got six shots on cage the whole game. Think about that. Cansler could have played the whole game standing BEHIND the net, not able to make any saves, and Bellevue would have still won by two. That’s a good effort by the defense.

The talk now moves to next year. Issaquah should be an early season favorite, as they retain the most starters of any of the top tier teams. They lose their top two scorers in Jake Fritz and Matt Thomas, but they got production from the players behind them. Bellevue loses two All-Americans in Haehl and  Hank Bethke, but returns brother Joe as well as some promising underclassmen. Their question might be on defense, as they lose two All-Conference defenders in Riley Gulrajani, and Chris Medzegian, as well as two LSM’s,  Ryan Eskanazy and Jason Monahan. All of these long poles had big games in the Championship and it will take a lot of reloading for the Wolverines to four-peat.

But if they do, you can be sure we’ll be there, taking pictures and writing screeds.

Until  then,

McNutty

2 Responses to "Faceoffs? Saves? meh. (AKA The D1 Recap)"
  1. gREAT ARTICLE! WORTH THE WAIT. YOU’RE RIGHT IN GIVING CREDIT TO BELLEVUE’S DEFENSE. IT ALSO SHOWED UP THE GAME BEFORE WHEN THEY SHUT DOWN EASTSIDE CATHOLIC’S MACILVENNIE POTENT OFFENSE.

  2. Hank Bethke is, always has been, and always will be a groundball machine. Totally underrated in his uncanny ability to find and get away with the ball. Also, probably loves playing the game more than anyone I have ever watched. Just look at the ear to ear grin he is wearing in almost every picture you have of him.

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