Albany at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

The Baltimore Sun

Johns Hopkins has enjoyed a 10-2 advantage in its series with Albany, but the Great Danes pulled off a 10-9 upset last spring. The Blue Jays, who are 3-2 at Homewood Field this season, are trying to avoid three home losses for the first time since 1996.

No. 19 Albany (4-4) has alternated wins and losses in its last five games, but is still considered the favorite to capture the America East tournament for the second year in a row. While much of the national attention has centered on the starting attack of seniors Miles and Ty Thompson and junior Lyle Thompson, the offense has gotten contributions from a midfield that includes sophomore John Maloney (13 goals and two assists) and senior Ryan Feuerstein (11 goals).

No. 10 Johns Hopkins (5-3) is in the middle of a three-game skid and a three-game homestand. Although a pair of midfielders in senior Rob Guida and sophomore Connor Reed have combined for zero goals in their last three starts, sophomore Holden Cattoni has scored six goals over that same stretch.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field on Friday at 7 p.m.

1) Keep the Thompsons in check. Any scouting report on the Great Danes begins – and ends – with the Thompson trio at attack. Lyle Thompson leads Division I in points with 55, Miles Thompson ranks second in the country in goals with 33, and Ty Thompson has chipped in 19 goals. In last spring’s meeting, Miles Thompson recorded three goals and two assists, and Ty Thompson scored twice. Lyle Thompson was shut out and committed five turnovers against defenseman Tucker Durkin, who has since graduated. Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said the chemistry the Thompson trio has developed is unrivaled because they have been playing together for a long time.

“They’ve been doing this stuff for years,” he said. “So it is a daunting challenge, one that is exciting, but nonetheless very, very challenging. I think the approach has got to be that you have to try to limit their opportunities and try to control them. To think you’re going to go out and shut them down, the only ones shutting them down are themselves. That’s if they have a bad shooting day or they’re just not on.”

2) Attack the defense. As prolific as Albany has been on offense, the defense has been porous, surrendering an average of 11.8 goals which is tied for 53rd out of 67 teams. Only two opposing offenses have scored fewer than 10 goals against the Great Danes, who have relied on goalkeeper Blaze Riorden to bail them out. The sophomore ranks first in the nation in saves per game at 14.6 and made 20 saves in last season’s win against Johns Hopkins. Pietramala hasn’t forgotten Riorden’s performance from last year.

“He’s the same young man last year to whom we lost by one goal and he made 20 saves against us, and a lot of those 20 were near his stick and he saved them and created transition for them,” Pietramala said. “So he’s a good goalie.”

3) Win faceoffs. One avenue the Blue Jays could take to thwart the Great Danes’ offense is to keep the ball out of their sticks, and Johns Hopkins could accomplish that by winning faceoffs. Albany ranks 60th in Division I after winning just 39.3 percent (97-of-247) of its draws, and prior to his outing of 64.3 percent (18-of-28) and 10 ground balls in Saturday’s 20-9 rout of Vermont, freshman Connor Russell had won just 45.2 percent (33-of-73) this season. That could bode well for Johns Hopkins junior Drew Kennedy, who ranks third in the country at 69.0 percent (129-of-187) and first in the nation in ground balls per game (11.0). But Pietramala is all too familiar with the fickle nature of faceoffs. 

“A guy that wins 60 percent could go out and all of a sudden, just because there’s a guy with a different technique, you’re going, ‘What happened? We’re not at 60 percent. We’re at 49,’” he said. “Or their wings were very good and got involved. So I go to bed knowing that could change. But what I do take confidence in is knowing that we have a guy and a group of young men that work their tails off and are committed to their craft and I know that they’re going to do everything they can to be prepared to work on their techniques and do the best they can to be successful.”

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