Brendan Nichtern is the new all-time Points and Assists Leader for Army Lacrosse. As predicted earlier this week, the Black Knights needed every bit of his record breaking performance to steal victory against Loyola on this road this past Saturday. What better way to do it, too, than against the team that held him pointless on that same field just a season ago?
The Black Knights found themselves down early again this past week, but as with the win at Syracuse, Bobby Abshire, Brendan Nichtern, and the rest of the Army offense found a way to get it done in the second half. It helped a lot that G Wyatt Schupler collected his seventh 10+ save performance this season, and that the defense overall stood strong when it counted. Even Stevie Grabher had a good day against Loyola FOGO Bailey Savio. Though the overall faceoff numbers don’t necessarily reflect it, Grabher had an answer to many of the Greyhounds’ moves.
Friends, your Army Black Knights needed this win. Having gotten it, they are now well set up for a big-time run at the Patriot League title.
Army Looks to Dominate Bucknell
Army faces a very good Bucknell this week. At 7-2, the Bison have become one of the Patriot League’s most surprising teams, with wins over Penn State and Colgate and quality losses to Loyola and nationally-ranked Boston University.
Bucknell has a sensational group of underclassman on offense. Freshman A Conner Davis has put up unreal scoring numbers with an outstanding 35 goals plus 4 assists through his first 9 collegiate games. By contrast, sophomore A Dutch Furlong tends more to distribute the ball and facilitate the offense, having put up 21 goals plus 11 assists. Meanwhile, freshman M Cam Doolan has 11 goals and 10 assists. On defense, goalie duo Max Nolan and Rich O’ Halloran have combined for 86 saves against 91 goals allowed, yielding a save percentage right at 50%.
The Bison are set to battle No. 13 Army West Point this Saturday at home.— Bucknell Men's Lax (@Bucknell_MLAX) March 29, 2022
Game Preview ⤵️https://t.co/2AuslHSYZu
When Army is on Offense
Per Inside Lacrosse, the Black Knights sit in the top 15 nationally in goals scored/game and in the top 20 in overall Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. We know what Nichtern can do. More importantly, we’re now seeing offensive consistency from midfielders Reese Burek and Bobby Abshire as well. This presents a balanced attack from both behind the net and from the dodge up top, too, making it impossible for opposing defenses to key in on any one player or play. That kind of offensive versatility will be crucial as we head into Army-Navy and the Patriot League Tournament.
Brendan Nichtern (@bnichtern23) leads the nation in points-per-game in college lax. His @ArmyWP_MLax team beat @LoyolaMLAX 14-12 over the weekend. Nichtern had 3G and 4A in that one.— Lax Sports Network (@LaxSportsNet) March 29, 2022
Watch his FULL interview tonight on #lacrosse Now on https://t.co/RXh8DyN3kN. pic.twitter.com/PZE0wGHkqU
When Army is on Defense
Army’s overall scoring defense has come down a bit this year. G Wyatt Schupler has been able to make up the difference so far with good communication and excellent play between the pipes, but Bucknell’s high-powered offense presents a seriously tough test. The Black Knights will need good on-ball defense and excellent off-ball cross-talk to limit the Bisons’ scoring opportunities.
In both of Bucknell’s losses this season, they’ve failed to score more than 10 points. That makes this week’s defensive goal pretty damned clear.
.@ArmyLaxCoach says A.J. Pilate is the first freshman defenseman to start in his 17 years @ArmyWP_MLax.— Inside Lacrosse (@Inside_Lacrosse) March 30, 2022
He says Pilate is a bit of "different cat, but he's been terrific."
(via @kevbrown89): https://t.co/lnyNL10jIF pic.twitter.com/PtWT25h0lz
Some Keys to Victory are Not-So-Glamorous
Army’s most prominent issue against Loyola came on ground balls off of faceoffs. Stevie Grabher and Will Colleti have given opposing FOGO’s all they can handle for much of this season, creating ground balls rather than allowing clean faceoff wins. Alas, Loyola won a bunch of those opening ground balls. From here on out, Army’s wings will make or break games based on their play on ground balls off faceoffs.
The Black Knights also need to work on causing more turnovers. They’re not allowing a ton of points, but they’ve given up a good number of shots and have seen a lot more shot clock violations than straight caused-turnovers. In fact, the Black Knights sit well outside the top 25 in caused turnovers/game this season.
That needs to change.
If Army can avoid getting down early and can clean up ground balls, they ought to win this weekend at Bucknell. There are only a few Patriot League games left this season, so at this point, every win counts a lot.
Faceoff is set for 1 p.m. Eastern. ESPN+ has coverage.
Go Army! Beat Bucknell!!!
*Cover image via Donna Tamasitis (Smugmug).