Johns Hopkins has won 54 of 67 games in this series, including the last six meetings. Army (7-7) lost to No. 11 Lehigh in Friday’s semifinal of the Patriot League tournament, which the Mountain Hawks eventually captured. The Black Knights likely won’t play in the NCAA tournament, but the Blue Jays (10-3) could use a victory to cement a seed and a home game in the first round. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field on Saturday.
1) Johns Hopkins’ attack. After a pair of unimpressive showings in back-to-back losses to Maryland and Navy, the starting attack of junior Zach Palmer, sophomore Brandon Benn and senior Chris Boland got back on track in last Saturday’s 10-9 overtime upset of then-No. 1 Loyola. Palmer recorded two goals and two assists, and Boland added two assists. Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala knows that an aggressive and proactive attack can benefit the team in other areas, too. “If we can get to a situation where we’re attacking from both spots and just doing it a little bit more than we have in the past with the attack, you hope you become a little more versatile,” he said. “You hope you become a little more difficult to defend. We hope we can force the defense to step down a little bit and honor those dodges from the attack, and maybe that will open up some things for the middies.”
2) Army’s Thul. The Black Knights are averaging 10.4 goals this season thanks to the play of Garrett Thul. The junior attackman leads the offense in goals (38) and points (42), and he is tied for 10th in Division I in goals per game (2.7). Thul uses his 6-foot-3, 229-pound frame to his advantage, Pietramala said. “A lot of guys can shoot from 12 to 13 to 14 yards. Garrett Thul is a guy who extends that range to 16, 17 yards,” Pietramala said. “He can let it rip with a lot of velocity and accuracy. So that changes things. He becomes a more dynamic guy to cover.” Thul could see a lot of junior defenseman Tucker Durkin, who limited Loyola junior attackman Mike Sawyer to just one goal on six shots last Saturday.
3) Army’s Henderson. Thul has been the beneficiary of an opportunistic transition game. The fastbreaks have usually been keyed by senior long-stick midfielder Tim Henderson, who has recorded three goals, three assists, 56 groundballs and 20 caused turnovers. Henderson, who was recently named the Patriot League’s Defensive Player of the Year, will be someone Johns Hopkins plans to account for. “You’ve got to find him off a save, you’ve got to find him in transition, and if you take a poor approach or don’t approach him with the level of respect that a stick handler like him deserves, then he runs by you and creates a slide or he creates time and space for himself to let it go,” Pietramala said. “I think their transition starts with him and their goalie, and that’s certainly an area that we’re going to have to be very aware of.”