Photos/Story: First Round Slugfest West of the Mississippi

DENVER, CO - There was a smell of fresh grilled bratwurst, cold air from a late afternoon Rocky Mountain downpour, and a murmur of a crowd - ready to see the two highest-powered offenses in Division I lacrosse go to battle. And at least it didn't SNOW. For those who don't live here in the mountains, the lacrosse season has been plagued by a late season of snow, making practice and game scheduling an absolute mess.

First thought when the bracket was released: 'Man... Denver pulled the short straw out of the bunch.' Optimism quickly took over - this game promised to be one of the greatest offensive games in recent lacrosse history, with enough highlights to fill Monday's Sports Center Top 10 on ESPN. The exclamation point: It will be played at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver and become just the second post-season NCAA Division I lacrosse game ever played west of the Mississippi River.

Albany, with their flashy Onondaga Nation super-soph attack trio of Lyle, Miles, and Ty Thompson, were poised to give Denver all they could handle in what turned out to be a heavyweight slugfest. The teams traded uppercuts and right hooks for the 1st quarter, but Denver began to pull away in the 2nd, winning it by 3 and staying with the Thompsons' ability to create unfathomable scoring opportunities the rest of the game. As it was, Lyle just missed breaking Steve Marohl's all-time single-season scoring record of 114 points. Still a great achievement to earn 113 total points in one lacrosse season, bumping John Grant, Jr. out of the #2 spot on the list. And Lyle has two years left to top his own mark!

In the end, the trio of Wes Berg, Cam Flint, and Eric Law combined for 16 goals (and 18 total points), which over-matched the 14-point total of the Thompson trio. But other important stories of the game were Denver goalies Ryan LaPlante and Jamie Faus, who had a combined 15 saves, as well as the 22 of 36 (61pct.) face-offs won by senior midfielder Chase Carraro, who hails from Louisville, KY.

Photos of the venue and the game appear beginning at the bottom of the article.

It was a great show of how far skill development has come in the game of lacrosse. The fans got to see the flashy stick work of the Thompson family, the outright physical brute force of Cam Flint, the pure will-to-not-be-denied a goal displayed by Wes Berg, and the finesse and constant movement of the likes of Eric Law. One hopes that up-and-coming lacrosse players watching the game understood that anyone can become great at this game as long as they find what they are best at and hone that skill to near-perfection.

The record crowd (estimated at 2,621, 600+ in excess of Barton's capacity) got a sneak preview of what to expect from Team Canada and the Iroquois National team next summer, when the 2014 FIL World Championships are set to take place here in Denver at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. It will prove to be well worth the price of admission.

Mike Baldassare is the son of LaxPower's Director of High School Boys' Lacrosse, George ‘Baldo' Baldassare, and has been playing lacrosse since a young age. He currently resides in Denver with his wife, where he coaches at a local high school. If you would like to contact him or have ideas or questions, he can be reached at

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