Johns Hopkins enjoys a commanding 39-4 advantage in this series, but Towson won last year's meeting by a score of 7-5, snapping a 19-game losing skid. The Tigers are seeking only their third sweep of the Blue Jays, Loyola Maryland and UMBC, but Johns Hopkins has not lost to Towson at home since April 17, 1996 – a span of nine consecutive games.
The No. 6 Tigers are one of just three teams with 5-0 records. (No. 2 Denver and No. 16 Rutgers are the others.) The offense has raised its output from 8.6 goals per game in 2015 to 10.8 this season and has enjoyed at least a hat trick from an individual in all five games. Junior attackmen Ryan Drenner (Westminster) and Joe Seider (Hereford) have posted two hat tricks each, and senior attackman Spencer Parks (St. Paul's) and senior midfielder Ben McCarty (South Carroll) have one each.
The No. 14 Blue Jays (2-2) ended a two-game slide with Saturday's 17-7 shellacking of Princeton. Of those 17 goals, 14 were assisted, marking their most helpers in a contest since May 14, 2005, when that squad also had 14 assists in a 22-6 rout of Marist in an NCAA tournament first-round matchup. Sophomore attackman Shack Stanwick (Boys' Latin) ranks second in Division I in total assists (14) and assists per game (3.5).
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday at 2 p.m.
1) Grinding against Towson. The Tigers play a deliberate style that has been maximized by a defense that ranks second in the country at 5.6 goals against per game and a faceoff unit that ranks 15th at 58.9 percent. With the ball, the offense can stay patient and wear down opponents. That formula worked last spring against Johns Hopkins as coach Dave Pietramala said the Blue Jays had just 20 possessions compared to the usual high 20s to low 30s they usually enjoyed.
"So now they get stops, they get the ball at the X, and they play offense," he said. "They're not a team that just takes the first available shot. They take the best available shot. So they're not going to rush and say, 'We're going to come down and shoot the 15-yarder.' They're going to work to get the shot from who they want to and where they want to."
2) Defending Johns Hopkins' Ryan Brown. In three previous meetings, the senior attackman has compiled seven goals on 20 shots and two assists. Widely regarded as the most dangerous shooter in the game, the Sykesville resident and Calvert Hall graduate's 37-game goal-scoring streak came to an end against Princeton, which assigned junior defenseman Bear Goldstein to shadow only Brown. While paying attention to Brown is always a good idea, Towson coach Shawn Nadelen pointed out that the other Blue Jays players scored 17 times.
"That's a pretty balanced output, and Ryan wasn't really a part of that," he said. "So I don't know if that's really the formula. I think Ryan is the best Division I shooter in the country. He can shoot equally with his right and left hands, and he can create his own shot. He mixes up his shots, and he's definitely a terrific talent, and he's dangerous at all times. So our defense has to be mindful of him, but we can't just worry about him. They've got a lot of guys out there who are pretty good offensive players and dangerous. So we've got to be aware of him as well as the other ones."
3) Scoring on Towson's Tyler White. Yes, Johns Hopkins put up a season-high 17 goals on Princeton, but Tigers sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Blaisdell made a career-high 20 saves. Scoring will only get more difficult against the 6-foot-3, 230-pound White, who ranks third in the nation in goals-against average (5.24) and fourth in save percentage (.643). He made 12 saves in last year's win against the Blue Jays, and Pietramala knows the offense will have to be more efficient this time.
"Finishing possessions is really critical because for us, we had 46 shots last week and had 17 goals, but he had 20 saves," he said. "We're facing a very good goalie this weekend. We obviously had very good opportunities to finish the possession, and the goalie walked away with 20 saves. We've got to finish those possessions better at that end."