Many teams would be hard-pressed to win at a consistent rate without their conference’s Specialist of the Year and one of the top midfielders in the country. But that’s exactly what Denver is doing.
Despite the right knee injury that has sidelined senior Chase Carraro, the Pioneers have picked up three straight victories and risen to No. 8 in The Sun’s rankings. Coach Bill Tierney said the posterior cruciate ligament in Carraro’s right knee is improving to the point where he has returned to running on the practice field.
“He can run, he can do some things, and he’s chomping at the bit, but until we’re 100 percent sure he can at no risk of further injury and as close to 100 percent as he can be, we’re not going to put him on the field,” Tierney said Friday afternoon. “Watching him run yesterday at practice, he looks phenomenal. So we’ll see. But we’re not going to spring him on anything. The beauty of Chase is he can come back and be a player for us without being a faceoff guy if that’s what transpires with his knee. Or he can come back and be full tilt. We’ve got a conference to try to win and a conference tournament to play in and hopefully, an NCAA tournament to play in, and that’s still a ways away.”
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Carraro, who registered 14 goals and six assists last season, has been replaced on the first midfield by sophomore Eric Adamson, a converted attackman who was bumped up from the second line. Adamson has scored six goals on seven shots in the three starts he has made for Carraro.
“He’s probably one of the rare, truly ambidextrous kids,” Tierney said of Adamson, who ranks second on the team in goals (12) and third in points (15). “He can shoot, he can feed, he’s a wiry and quick, and he’s done a phenomenal job. Playing in between [senior] Cam Flint and [junior] Jeremy Noble isn’t the hardest assignment in life, but I give Eric a lot of credit for moving into them and being respectful of them and yet taking advantage of the attention that they receive.”
Senior Chace Calkin has taken the majority of the faceoffs in Carraro’s absence and has won 47.9 percent (34-of-71) of his draws, scooped up eight ground balls, and recorded one assist. The biggest difference between Calkin and Carraro is their offensive potency, according to Tierney.
“Chase was a win-the-draw, get-a-goal type guy,” Tierney said. “He was also a win-the-draw, keep-the-other-team’s-faceoff-guy-on-defense type guy because we put our first midfield out there. So we’ve had to come back to being a little more conventional by putting a pole out there. Chace Calkin, who is a senior, has done a very good job of battling and doing what we need to do. If you think about it, dominance in facing off can really be a factor. But if you can kind of hang in there between 45 and 55 percent, then you’re going to be OK in a game if you can stop the impact type, fastbreak type faceoffs.”
In addition to Carraro, Denver will meet No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday without freshman attackman Gordie Koerber. The Baltimore native and Gilman graduate will sit out his second consecutive game due to post-concussion symptoms. Tierney said he is hopeful that Koerber, who tied for fourth on the team in both goals (10) and points (10), will be able to play in the Pioneers’ home contest against No. 3 Notre Dame on March 16.