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Battle for first place

By SJU Lacrosse, 04/15/14, 5:30PM CDT


St. John's, North Dakota State meet for conference top spot

St. John's midfielder Owen Barkley (left) dodges against North Dakota State University's Louie Clifton during the Johnnies' regular season victory in 2012. Photo by Steve Sanner

If there’s a season that shows how far the North Dakota State University lacrosse program has come, look no further than 2014.

Back in 2007, the Bison posted an overall record of 2-7 and were 1-6 in conference play. This season, they have an overall record of 7-2, are 3-0 in conference play and hold the No. 2 ranking in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA).

“As an advocate of the sport in the state, it’s been great to see their recent success,” St. John’s University coach Derek Daehn said. “Their program has become one of the best in the MCLA. You can’t overlook them and they’re not an easy out anymore.”

The Johnnies have historically had the upper hand against North Dakota State. Since 2006, St. John’s leads the all-time series with a 12-1 record and the Johnnies have outscored the Bison in those games, 145-58.

However, those impressive statistics don’t interest St. John’s.

“We’re not looking back on the past,” Daehn said. “We know they’re a better program than they were and they’re having a great season. We are focused on the here and now.”

North Dakota State has posted impressive victories over Grove City College, Indiana Tech University and the University of St. Thomas this season – teams ranked in the MCLA DII Top 10. The Bison have scored 138 goals this season (15.33 goals scored per game) and have allowed 60 goals in nine games (6.67 goals allowed per game average). North Dakota State’s losses have been to No. 5 Grand Valley State University and the No. 1-ranked University of Dayton.

St. John’s is coming off an emotional rivalry game and overtime victory over St. Thomas on Friday, April 11. The Johnnies have also defeated Grand Valley State, Indiana Tech, and DePaul University. Only Grove City and Dayton have defeated St. John’s this season – Grove City in overtime and Dayton in four overtimes. The Johnnies have scored 119 goals this season (13.22 goals scored per game) and have allowed 63 goals in nine games (7 goals allowed per game average).

The winner of the matchup between the Johnnies and Bison will result in the top spot within the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference and will strongly increase the chance for an invitation to the 2014 MCLA National Championship Tournament in Orange County, Calif.

"We won a big game last week but we have to put that behind us," Daehn said. "Our entire focus is on the Bison."

The No. 3-ranked Johnnies will take on North Dakota State on Tuesday, April 22 at 8:30 p.m. at Dacotah Field in Fargo, N.D.

The Johnnies

St. John's currently holds a 7-2 overall record and a 3-0 record in the UMLC. The Johnnies kicked off the year with a pair of victories over No. 5 Grand Valley State University on Feb. 28 (15-11) and Lindenwood-Belleville University on March 1 (14-8). Following an overtime loss to No. 6 Grove City College on March 28 (11-12) and a four overtime loss to No. 1 University of Dayton (8-9), the Johnnies have won four straight including wins against DePaul University on March 30 (17-3) and conference foes St. Olaf College on April 6 (20-2) and Bethel University on April 8 (15-3). St. John's also beat Indiana Tech on March 29 (9-5). On Friday, April 11, the Johnnies defeated the University of St. Thomas in overtime, 11-10. Led by a powerful offense and traditionally strong defense, St. John's has outscored its opponents 119-63 during the 2014 season.

Senior captain Jake Helmer (20 goals, 11 assists) leads the Johnnies in goals and points following a six-point effort against St. Thomas. A close second in points, junior midfielder Ben Martynec (14 goals, 14 assists). St. John's has eight players in double digits for points: Helmer; Martynec; Andrew Fairbairn (12 goals, 10 assists); Brooks Armitage (11 goals, seven assists); Cole Armitage (seven goals, eight assists); Michael Culshaw-Maurer (12 goals, three assists); Miles Armitage (10 goals, two assists); and Jake Senta (eight goals, two assists). Junior midfielder Owen Barkely is another contributor on offense with seven goals and two assists. Senior captain Luke Eggerichs anchors the St. John's defense and sophomore goaltender Tyler Olson has started eight of the Johnnies' nine games posting a .624 save percentage.

The Bison

North Dakota State is currently riding a four game winning streak with wins against Grove City on March 29 (13-4), Indiana Tech on March 30 (10-9), St. Thomas on April 5 (12-9) and Bethel on April 6 (19-3). The Bison have also defeated Lindenwood-Belleville (18-10) and St. Olaf (32-4) on Feb. 28 as well as Missouri Baptist University on March 8 (19-3). Only Grand Valley State on March 2 (9-7) and Dayton on March 28 (9-8) have been able to take down the Bison. North Dakota State has outscored its opponents 138-60 on its way to the No. 2 ranking in the MCLA.

The Bison have six players in double digits for points scored starting with senior captain and attackman Kyle Sturgeon who has scored 25 goals and added 16 assists for his team-leading 41 points. Also contributing on offense are a trio of freshmen attackmen: Dane Senn (26 goals, eight assists); Jack Hughes (22 goals, 11 assists); and Mike Kukulski (27 goals, three assists). Sophomore midfielder and faceoff specialist Jake Mortenson has scored 14 points (nine goals, five assists) and has also won 50 of 79 face offs. Freshman midfielder Mac Nadeau has scored 12 points (seven goals, five assists). Freshman goaltender Brenden Nadeau has posted a .657 save percentage and junior goaltender Jacob Justen has posted a .585 save percentage.


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