Albany at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

No. 12 Blue Jays are 10-1 against No. 19 Great Danes, but Albany boasts the top offense in Division I

April 05, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Johns Hopkins has won 10 of 11 meetings in this series with Albany. All 11 contests have taken place at Homewood Field.

The No. 19 Great Danes (6-3) have won five of their past six games and have secured victories over No. 9 Syracuse and 2012 Colonial Athletic Association champion Massachusetts. Albany entered the week ranked first in Division I in goals, points and assists per game.

The No. 12 Blue Jays (6-3) have dropped two of their past three contests. Sophomore attackman Wells Stanwick had a four-game streak of at least four points end with just a single assist in the team’s 11-10 overtime loss to No. 3 North Carolina last Saturday.

Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field Friday evening.

1) Albany’s Thompson trio. Any conversation about the Great Danes begins with the starting attack of the Thompson family – juniors Miles and Ty and sophomore Lyle. Miles Thompson has recorded 25 goals and eight assists despite missing three contests, and Ty Thompson has posted 24 goals and eight assists. But the clear leader of the group is Miles’ younger brother Lyle, who leads the country in points with 64 on 25 goals and 39 assists. Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said the key is not to craft a game plan with the intent of completely shutting them down. “I think we would be making a mistake if we turned around and said, ‘We’re going to shut these three down,’” he said. “Your goal is to try to contain them and limit their opportunities and limit the quality looks they get at the goal. That is a challenge, but you don’t do that with one individual. You do that with good, solid team defense with discipline, a good game plan, and execution of that game plan.”

2) Albany’s turnovers. As prolific as the offense is, the team also tends to turn the ball over frequently. The Great Danes are averaging 18 turnovers, which ranks 58th out of 63 programs in Division I. Pietramala said some of the giveaways have to do with the offense’s trust in the Thompson threesome to catch passes thrown into the heart of opposing defenses. “They skip it through, they throw it behind their backs, they do things that you just can’t simulate in practice because we don’t have those guys,” he said. “So the whole turnover thing is kind of the way they’ve defined the way they’re going to play. They’ve decided, ‘We’re going to open it up, we’re going to take the reins off, and we’ve got three really special young men at the attack, we’re pretty athletic at the midfield, we’re going to play a higher-reward, higher-risk style.’ Obviously, it’s benefitted them.”

3) Johns Hopkins’ man-up offense. The Blue Jays figure to have the advantage when their offense has the ball against an Albany defense that ranks 60th in average goals allowed. One glaring advantage is when Johns Hopkins gets extra-man opportunities. The man-up offense is converting 53.7 percent (22-of-41) of its chances. On the flipside, the Great Danes are surrendering extra-man goals 42.1 percent (16-of-38) of the time. If the Blue Jays get extra-man opportunities, turning those chances into goals will be critical. “You hope that will continue here, but you’ve got to get fouled,” Pietramala said. “You’ve got to be aggressive on offense and draw fouls. So if we want to utilize that extra-man unit that’s been pretty good, I think we’ve got to be a little more aggressive offensively and draw a few more fouls.”

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