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Lacrosse Preview: Michigan at Air Force

The Wolverines are returning to ECAC play and will head to Colorado Springs to face the Air Force Falcons on Saturday.

After winning two in a row against Furman and Bellarmine, Michigan has now dropped their last two games to #1 Maryland and to Saint Joe's. This week will see Michigan start a three game stretch against ECAC foes, starting with Air Force.

The Time and Place

Date: March 29

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Place: Colorado Springs

Coverage: Gametracker

The Opponent

Air Force Falcons (5-3, 1-0 ECAC)

Attack: The two words that best describe Air Force's attack are--senior leadership. Mike Crampton led the Falcons in points in 2013, with 53 on 34 goals and 19 assists. His 18 goals and 9 assists have him leading the team in 2014, while Tommy McKee is right behind Crampton with 23 points on 17 goals and 6 assists. McKee's 29 goals in 2013 were good enough to put him in second place, and he also had a very good .649 SOG%. At .628 this year, he is on pace to match last year's performance. The Falcons are also seeing good things out of junior attackman, and assist machine, Keith Dreyer, who had 26 assists in 2013 and has now helped out 13 times so far this year.

Midfield: as if there wasn't enough senior leadership on attack, Air Force also boasts some at the midfield in seniors Kyle Cassady and Erik Smith. Keep an eye on Smith and his .667 win % at the dot (34 of 51). Senior Bryan Price is also solid at the face-off, taking 62 of 125 chances for a .496 win % in 2014. Senior Marcus Walker's four goals may not be impressive, but Michigan will have to be aware of his ability to pick up the ground ball; Walker has 15 GBs this year, after grabbing only six last year.

Defense/Goalie: I love caused turnovers. If you love them, watch out for junior defenseman Kyle O'Brien. After finishing third on the team with 15 in 2013, he leads the team in 2014 at 11. Ground balls are also a specialty for O'Brien, who has picked up 30. With the departure of Austin Fox from last year's squad, the Falcons are young at goalkeeper, using two sophomores. Doug Gouchoe has played 365 minutes, has 47 saves on 179 shots faced for a save % of .456 and is 5-3. Brett Dadiego has also seen time in the net, facing 55 shots and saving 16.

Michigan (4-6)
Air Force (5-3)
Goals-shot attempts 100-386 88-328
Goals scored per game 10 11
Shot % .259 .268
Shots on goal-attempts 219-386 167-328
SOG% .567 .509
Total Goals 100 88
Man-Up Opps 15-40 (.375) 9-22 (.409)
Ground Balls 301 233
Turnovers 148 104
Caused Turnovers 76 55
Face-Offs 133-259 (.514) 97-186 (.522)
Clears 173-194 (.892) 107-126 (.849)
Saves 99 63

The Outlook

Michigan has played two more games than Air Force has this season, but I have to think that the Air Force experience will take huge advantage of Michigan's shaky defense and goalie Robbie Zonino. Although Michigan is 3-3 on the road this year, I just can't see them beating the senior-laden Falcons. If Michigan is going to stay in this game, they will need to suppress the Air Force first-quarter scoring. The Falcons have 35 goals in the first quarter at a 4.36 goal clip per first quarter over these first eight games, while their opponents have scored only 18 times in the first quarter for a 2.25 average. Michigan is averaging 2.3 goals per first quarter, which is right where the Falcons want them.

The Wolverines will also need to be more solid on the face-offs and will need to create more pressure defensively; Michigan caused only five turnovers last week. Get the trail-check going and pick up the GBs. If Michigan can do that and turn the clears into good offensive possessions, they'll be in it. They may still lose, but they'll go down swinging.