Denver, Berg Outlast Thompson, Albany in Shootout
|Wes Berg scored eight goals and
Eric Law finished with four goals in Denver's 19-14 win over Albany
© Marc Piscotty
DENVER — The fourth-seeded Denver Pioneers knocked off Albany, 19-14 on Saturday in a first round NCAA matchup that lived up to expectations.
Pioneers sophomore Wes Berg finished with eight goals, one shy of tying the NCAA tournament single game record, while Albany sophomore Lyle Thompson had five points to finish his season one point shy of the NCAA all-time single season points record of 114. The teams combined for 23 goals 80 shots.
"We knew it was going to be a track meet," said Pioneers senior attackman Eric Law, who finished the game with four goals and one assist. "Albany can put up goals at will, we took the opportunities that they gave us."
Albany came to Colorado looking for an upset and started strong, jumping out to a 3-1 lead behind the offensive firepower of Lyle and Ty Thompson, who tallied one each in the first quarter. But the Pioneers were able to tie the game by the end of the first quarter.
Albany 's Tim Cox opened scoring in the second quarter, but then Denver's Wesley Berg caught fire and scored two in quick succession off of assists by Eric Adamson and Gordie Koerber. The latter, coming in a man-up situation, marked a hat trick for Berg, who would finish the game as the leading scorer from both teams with a Pioneer record-setting tally of eight goals in a NCAA playoff game. Berg also chalked up one assist for a total of nine points on the day.
Berg's outstanding effort helped the Pioneers pull away from the Great Danes. While Albany was able to stay close in the first half, which ended 9-6 in the Pioneers favor, Albany never would get closer than that as Denver controlled the second half thanks to excellent faceoff work by Chase Carraro.
In fact, while Berg will get all the glory for his offensive efforts, it was Carraro's gritty and tough play from the start — the senior midfielder won 22 of 36 faceoffs — that allowed Denver to essentially play keep-away from the Great Danes.
"If they had had the ball a little more, it might have been a different story," admitted Pioneers head coach Bill Tierney after the game. "Chase winning all those faceoffs was the key. Once we were 3-3, we were able to settle down."
"Glueckert seemed to have a better feel for the ref's whistle," said Carraro of Albany faceoff man Kevin Glueckert, who finished the day 14 of 36. "I didn't want to give up on any play."
But while the Pioneers were able to capitalize on their opportunities, the Great Danes leave the Mile High City feeling that they let one get away, particularly after they were able to close the gap in the second half and come back within three.
"I still had faith that we could tie it up and send it to overtime," said Lyle Thompson, who finished with four goals and one assist.
But the getting any closer proved elusive.
"We knew they were a good team," Albany head coach Scott Marr said. "But we were never able to get on a run."
Still, with a young squad and the return of Lyle Thompson, one of five Tewaaraton Award finalists, Marr will be looking to bounce back from this loss next year.
"We're going to be better next year," said Thompson.
"We now know what we are capable of," added Albany freshman goalie Blaze Riorden, who finished with 12 saves on the day. "We never want to feel this way again."
The Pioneers for their part will try to keep the good feelings going, as they move on to a NCAA quarterfinal matchup with North Carolina.
"Its thrilling to be in three straight quarterfinals," Tierney said. "This senior group is a group that I was blessed to come into. The first three years we had incredible talent, but this is the first year we've had real leadership."
Denver will need that leadership as it goes up against a talented UNC team that dismantled Lehigh in their first round matchup. The Tar Heels bring a 10-game winning streak into the matchup.
Saturday's matchup with Albany could be a sign of things to come against North Carolina. Last year, in a first-round thriller, the Pioneers and Tar Heels combined for 30 goals in Denver's two-goal victory.