NORTHFIELD, Vt. - For the second year in a row, the Norwich University men's lacrosse team will play in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship, this year as the number two overall seed against the top-seeded Lasell College Lasers this Saturday afternoon.
The Cadets come into the title game as winners of seven straight under Head Coach Neal Anderson. In his eleventh season at the helm, the three-time GNAC Coach of the Year (2012, 2013, 2016) notched his 100th career win against Emmanuel on April 20th, the first Norwich lacrosse coach to reach a triple-digit win total. In his 11 seasons, Norwich has seen 31 All-Conference recipients and 31 All-Academic selections while posting a 58-19 record against conference opponents. In the last four seasons, Anderson and his team have posted a 26-7 record against conference opponents.
One of the other top coaches in the conference and region, Bill Mason leads the Lasers in his fourth season at the helm. Mason has posted a 30-3 record within the GNAC during his tenure and took home both the GNAC Championship and Coach of the Year award during the 2017 season. Lasell earned the top seed in this year's tournament by going a spotless 8-0 within the conference, along with a 16-1 overall record and riding a 15 game winning streak coming into today. Their only loss this season came in their second contest of the year, a 9-5 defeat at the hands of Roger Williams University.
Cody Moore is the focal point of the offense, as the senior midfielder leads the team with 43 goals and 57 points this year. His 13 man-up goals this year rank him second in all of NCAA Division III out of the 250 ranked athletes. He'll end his career in the top-ten in Norwich history in goals, assists, and points, and already owns the fourth best single-season points total in Norwich history with his 58 points last year.
Another point of strength on this Norwich team is in the faceoff circle, where the faceoff unit posts a conference-best 62.7% winning percentage. The effort is spearheaded by senior Joseph Santangelo, who boasts a 70.3% (196-279) mark this year, the fifth best single-season mark in program history and the 12th best of 250 ranked players across NCAA DIII. His 117 ground balls on the season lead the conference, and he shattered the single-season program record of 99 set in 2013 by Nate Fortezzo.
The defensive unit is ranked 19th in the country in scoring defense at an even 8.00 goals against average this year. Led by senior team captain Jake Giannelli, classmate Jacob Center, and sophomores Sean Wallace and Jake Trainor, Norwich averages 8.94 caused turnovers per game.
The other aspect of the defensive unit, goaltending, has been a revelation this year, as a trio of goalies has placed Norwich at or near the top in every statistical category. Ian Kriger, Nick Kandra, and Brandon Milburn have combined for a 59.97% save percentage, best of any team in the conference, and allowed just 188 goals this year, the second-lowest total in the GNAC. All three took home GNAC Goalie of the Week at different points during the regular season, the first time three different athletes have taken home the conference honor in a single season. Kandra leads the GNAC individually with a 60.8% save percentage.
Similar to Norwich and Cody Moore, the focus of Lasell's offense is senior midfielder Ryan Madden. He ranks second in the GNAC in both goals (47) and points (68) and has seven goals and three assists so far in the playoffs.
Freshman James Anderson is another premiere scoring option in a lineup that boasts five different players with 20+ goals on the season. Anderson has 35 goals and 13 assists for 48 points this season. Right behind him is senior Mike Susi who has 28 goals and 18 assists for 46 points.
Junior Ben Werner is the faceoff man for the Lasers, and one of the few players this year to get the best of the Cadets' faceoff unit. He went 15-19 against the Cadets in the regular season and has gone 165-257 (64.2%) on the year.
The Lasell defense has been phenomenal all year, ranking fourth in the nation in scoring defense with a 6.41 goals against average. For good measure, Lasell ranks second in the nation with a 89.0% clearing percentage.
Freshman Alex Beauchemin has come on strong for the Lasers in his first season in goal. He's logged 809:47 in goal with a 6.45 GAA and a 54.0% save percentage this season.
Lasell historically has the upper hand against Norwich, commanding a 17-5 overall record against the Cadets all-time. This year's regular season matchup went to Lasell by an 11-5, with Norwich's Nick Kandra making a remarkable 27 saves in the losing effort. Ryan Madden had four goals for the Lasers, and five different players notched a single goal for Norwich. Norwich defeated Lasell in last year's regular season by a 14-11 final score, prior to that Norwich had not beaten Lasell since the 2013 season.
The Cadets and Lasers have met four times in playoff history, all four times in the semifinal round. Lasell defeated Norwich in 2011, 2016, and 2017, and Norwich's victory came in 2012 by a 5-4 final score.
KEY TO THE GAME
For Norwich, the key to this week is getting shots on goal. In their regular season matchup, Norwich was outpaced in the category by a 38-12 and in overall shots 58-20. Those are by far the lowest in a game for the Cadets this year, as they made freshman Alex Beauchemin make just seven saves. Norwich will have to possess the ball and give some relief to their netminder, who had to make 27 saves to keep the Cadets in the game. Norwich's season mark of a shooting percentage of 30.2% matchups up favorably with Lasell's 30.3% mark, if Norwich can find a way to establish themselves in the offensive zone.
2:00 PM, May 4th | Grellier Field | Newton, Massachusetts
#2 Norwich University University at #1 Lasell College