The shot looked ticketed for the corner far and away, its final destination a mere formality. It was a shot that would go in for most players against most goalies.
Kaleb Stroman merely slid to his right and gobbled up the rocket with his stick before tossing an outlet pass to get the Denver Elite 2018 transition game going. For the Legend (Colo.) goalie and Denver commit, it was just another save at the prestigious Adrenaline Platinum Cup, but it also showed off everything that makes his goalie training unique.
Denver assistant Trevor Tierney and former Pioneers goalie Ryan LaPlante coach goalies a little bit differently than most. The main premise is that unlike the first step forward that most goalies take to cut down the angle and attack the ball, Tierney and LaPlante’s methodology focuses on moving laterally. The reason, LaPlante argued, is that it gives goalies more time to react to shooters and they can track the ball better. Because of that, they’re more likely to come up with the stop.
Makes sense, right?
“We have our goalies stand in one of five positions. All the way left, middle left, middle, middle right and all the way right,” LaPlante said. “One, it’s easier to teach younger guys that, as well as moving across rather than stepping forward. “
There’s a whole lot more to it, and Tierney and LaPlante get more into the details at their Goalie Evolution Academy in Denver, but the results are difficult to argue with. Denver’s reputation as one of the best programs in college lacrosse has been built on its innovative offense, but the Pioneers don’t often have to go far to find their goalies, and they’ve found success with goalies from non-traditional hotbeds.
LaPlante, who backstopped Denver to its 2015 national title and is the school’s career leader in wins (42) and saves (538), is a local Fort Collins product. Current starter Alex Ready is from Lancaster-area Manheim Township (Pa.), and Denver Elite has produced a 2018 DU commit in Stroman and a 2019 DU commit in Rock Canyon (Colo.) keeper Jack Thompson.
Combine the unique goalie training from LaPlante and Tierney with plenty of talent, and you’ve got some pretty good goalies. Stroman was tough to beat and both he and Thompson showed good explosiveness and lateral fluidity when they moved around. Thompson helped the 2019s to a championship, while MadLax knocked the 2018s out in the semifinals.
Either way, it’s unlikely that the Denver Elite goalie pipeline is drying up anytime soon.
Players Who Impressed at Black Card and Platinum Cup
Jackson Birtwistle ’20, A, Radnor (Pa.) / NXT
Birtwistle showed off a lot of the traits that allowed him to dent the Raiders’ starting lineup as a freshman. You’d like to see him develop a bit more consistency, but the raw tools and athleticism – he started for Radnor’s district championship soccer team in the fall – are impossible to ignore. In a quarterfinal game, he absolutely roasted his defender at X and stung a top-shelf rip. Birtwistle is confident with the ball in his stick and can beat you as a setup man or as a finisher.
Matt Chess ’20, G, Episcopal Academy (Pa.) / Mesa Fresh
Goalies who just finished their freshman year of high school aren’t always the best communicators, but it’s one of the traits that helped Chess stand out all weekend. He’s constantly directing traffic for his defense and you can hear him from the other end of the field. Chess was very difficult to beat low and he was great when he had to start the clearing game. Chess is transferring from Central Pennsylvania power Manheim Township and should contend for the starting job at EA next year.
Bayard DeMallie ’19, A, Deerfield Academy (Mass.) / BBL
DeMallie was an absolute monster at Black Card and followed it up with a strong performance at the Platinum Cup. He showed off that he can score in just about every way possible, including a sick behind-the-back shot, a textbook question mark snipe and a low rip while fading away. DeMallie is crafty and has good feet to go with a creative mind and makes for an incredibly difficult assignment for defensemen.
Ryan Dickson ‘18, FO/M/A, Penn Charter (Pa.) / NXT
Dickson’s path to being the main face-off guy at Penn Charter is blocked by 2019 standout Gavin Tygh (Virginia), so this spring, he played attack and had more than 30 goals. That’s helped him shore up his stick work, and the improvements were evident when he had a hand in two goals in about 10 seconds in the 2018 title game. With his team up two, he won a face-off, avoided a couple of checks and neatly dished off to Shea Dougherty (Downingtown West, Pa.), who scored. On the next face-off, Dickson won it again, but finished the job himself. With his size (6-3, 200) and improved stick, he’ll be a steal for someone.
Blake Erlbeck ’20, A, Torrey Pines (Calif.) / West Coast Starz
The scouting report on Erlbeck was that he’s an excellent finisher first, but at Black Card, his passing ability was on full display. He easily threaded passes through small windows to make his fellow attackmen look good. He can definitely finish, but adding another layer to his game makes him that much more dangerous.
Kamryn Gill ’19, attack, Riverhead (N.Y.) / Legacy
Gill showed off an advanced lacrosse IQ for his age, as well as an ability to use either hand to diversify his offensive game. He had a couple of great, no-look passes where he looked off the defense and zipped passes right on the money.
Cameron Henry ’19, LSM, McCallie School (Tenn.) / LB3
Henry looks the part of a top-flight LSM and has the game to back it up. He can cover anywhere on the field and has the athleticism to push the pace in transition. He’s got great size with the quickness, speed and footwork to match, and he’s far from a finished product. Expect him to be a hot commodity on Sept. 1.
Shane Holmes ’20, D, Rye Country Day (N.Y.) / Predators
A lefty, Holmes did a great job of staying low and steering his matchup wherever he wanted him. He wasn’t overly flashy – in a good way – and appears to have an advanced technical knowledge of the game.
Kyle Hoff ’20, M, Southern Lehigh (Pa.) / NXT
Hoff has the look of a big-time midfielder and he backed it up with a strong weekend. Already six feet tall with the athleticism – he’s also a good soccer player – to go with it, Hoff had a renewed sense of confidence. He scored with either hand and was a vacuum on ground balls. He can score, but he’s also unselfish and can run with anyone in transition. You can tell that being a freshman starter for the Spartans helped him elevate his game. His brother, Colin, is an under-the-radar 2018 UMBC commit, but the younger Hoff has even more upside.
Stevie Jones ’19, M, South Lakes (Va.) / Madlax
It’s a well-known fact that D-middies are the backbone of America, and Jones might have been my favorite one to watch. He’s got exceptional speed and if he gets a ground ball on his side of the field, it’s ending up on your side in about five seconds. The Villanova commit has great functional strength, which, coupled with his speed, will make him a welcome addition to the Wildcats’ SSDM group.
Collin Loughead ’19, D/LSM, Episcopal Academy (Pa.) / NXT
Loughead had a great first year as a starter as EA’s No. 1 close defenseman and he carried that game over to the weekend. He’s a relatively quiet cover guy who’s at his best when asked to keep attackmen away from the net, but he did cause a couple of turnovers and also took some runs at pole. Loughead is also a soccer player who’s grown significantly in the past year, and he’s just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
Marshall McGuire ’20, M, Lake Oswego (Ore.) / West Coast Starz
McGuire stands out from the pack right away with his height, but he’s also got the coordination and athleticism to run up and down the field. He’s at his best when he uses his size to get downhill and also showed off a slick handle in tight and good vision. Named the midfield MVP at Maverik Showtime last year, McGuire made an early commitment to Syracuse.
Jake Naso ’20, FO/M, Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) / Legacy
Blink and you’ll miss Naso winning the clamp on nearly every face-off. His hands are so quick and he’s got a lot of tools in his bag at the X. Don’t call him just a FOGO, because he’s a very good athlete who can handle the ball and can stay on the field as a midfielder. Boston University has a good one on its hands.
Ryan Niggeman ’19, LSM/D, Haverford School (Pa.) / Mesa Fresh
You could make a strong case that Niggeman was Haverford’s top close defenseman this spring, and he parlayed that experience into a strong weekend at Adrenaline. In Sunday’s quarterfinal, he ripped a high bouncer in transition and later added a coast-to-coast snipe while Mesa was down a man. An athlete with quick feet, he’s also got a bit of an edge to his game and isn’t afraid to muck it up.
Dodson Piotrowski ’19, D, South Lakes (Va.) / Madlax
Players that look like Piotrowski shouldn’t be able to move as well as he does. The big, strong lefty covers a ton of ground and has a very active stick. When attackmen try to dodge on him, he does a terrific job of getting low to take away leverage, and when he gets the ball, he’s very good at pushing transition.
August “Mustang” Sally ’19, M, Denver East (Colo.) / Denver Elite
Mustang is the perfect nickname for Sally because he’s an absolute horse for Denver Elite. Simply put, he’s an athletic mismatch for anyone he goes up against. Blessed with great size and explosiveness, the lefty had a goal where he outraced everyone for 50 yards and showed off a great handle on the finish. He’s got a while to go before he’s a finished product, and it’s no surprise to hear that he’s getting some serious high D-I interest.
Nick Woodard ’20, LSM, North Stafford (Va.) / Madlax
Woodard doesn’t throw a ton of checks, but that’s because he doesn’t really have to. Blessed with good footwork, he can track midfielders anywhere on the field. Once he gets the ball in transition, you’re probably not catching him, but you should slide to him. He had a great snipe under the bar at Black Card.
Lake Baker ’21, FO/M, Henderson (Nev.) / West Coast Starz
Avery Buote-Porter ’20, M, Bainbridge Island (Wash.) / West Coast Starz
Dane Crowley ’20, FO/M, Pelham (N.Y.) / Predators
John Fitzhenry ’20, D, Oregon Episcopal School (Ore.) / West Coast Starz
Jonathan Ford ’19, LSM, Torrey Pines (Calif.) / West Coast Starz – Notre Dame
Cole Hiller ’19, G, Tatnall School (Del.) / NXT
Aidan Hubbard ’21, D, Morristown (N.J.) / BBL
Ben Hutchinson ’20, M, Holderness School (N.H.) / 3D
Ricky Miezan ’18, M, Episcopal (Va.) / Madlax – UNC
Alex Pistorius ’19, A, Torrey Pines (Calif.) / West Coast Starz
Ian Reilley ’19, M, Hatboro-Horsham (Pa.) / Mesa Fresh
Connor Shellenberger ’19, A, St. Anne’s Belfield (Va.) – Virginia
Michael Simone ’20, G, Smithtown West (N.Y.) / Legacy
Richie Striano ’20, A/M, Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) / Igloo
Zach Vigue ’20, G, Apex (N.C.) / Madlax