Walax Rundown for Week Two
Welcome back to the Walax Rundown for Week Two. Of course, this week’s big action among heavyweights in Division I was the 6th Annual Northwest Invitational. Some surprises this year as teams from all over the region compete in exhibitions to gain experience back in their respective states. Rankings and DII to follow shortly.
Division I Rankings
1) Mercer Island- Point differential in first two games, strong midfield- top of the pack
2) Bainbridge- Wow. Tapps and Tahoma aside, these guys came to play at the NW Invitational. Two big wins and lots of season for maturation.
3) Issaquah- Despite an OT loss @ NW Invitational, Issy stands atop the division 3-0 scoring 94 points in just three games.
4) Bellevue- Tops in points against, showed strong against Lincoln @ NWI and Palo Verde. Easy wins against non-league opponents and Eastlake shows them a top contender.
5) King's Way- The clear #2 team in the Southwest, Strong against divisional rivals great game coming this week against MI, though missing several starters.
6) Skyline- Paid for not having Pruitt and West, though we see talent, and their bout with Northshore showed grit as well.
7) Tacoma- Big win over non-league Northshore, the only strong opponents on the schedule include Curtis, Bainbridge and King's Way. They have a charmed schedule.
8) Curtis- New coach in Scott Bloom. Got a pair of easy wins, will see what happens when they meet Prep this week.
10) Northshore - Looks like Foster and Tosoya are getting some work done - a one-goal loss to Skyline and a 15-9 win over Lake Washingtonmeans they are still a strong contender.
Northwest Invitational and Division I
The state’s top teams all played in the Invitational this weekend. Last year’s state champion Bellevue won both of their games against Palo Verde and Lincoln in low scoring contests. Their young squad showed their defensive strength with Sam Leggett, Blake Backer and Clayton Federspiel. While on offense; some fine tuning is needed to get more production. The two islands emerged as the top performers last week. Mercer Island showed their athleticism and talented in midfield, the Bull Colton Knebel, the Stallion Doug Mahony and Pit bull Connor Bernal. They handily won all their games against Oregon’s finest- Lakeridge, Sunset and Lincoln. Meanwhile, Bainbridge Island showed their skilled scorers behind a solid offensive line-up as well as glimpses of a playoff worth defense. Cam Parker is a force to be reckon with, Alex Crane and Jacob Goodman proved to be tenacious on ball and field leaders. Their senior leadership was on exhibit during their comeback win over O.E.S. 9-8. They’re a team with a lot of championship potential and room for maturation throughout the season. In the Invitational they also became the first American team to beat one of the Canadian hybrids from British Columbia in the Invitational history. As for Issaquah, an early game blitzkrieg from Sunset pushed the Eagles to an overtime loss. However, Kevin Powers remains a point leader and challenge for any team to contain. Attackman Matt O'Neil stepped up in their loss to Sunset. Questions emerged over the defense on whether they can handle big games. Issaquah will need to tune up their defensive communication and slide packages to keeping their winning ways, especially when they head to New Jersey for spring break.
In addition, Skyline continues to fight hard despite an injured and short roster just like their Spartan mascot. Without seven of their original starters, including Jack Pruitt and Brennan West Skyline fights hard and doesn’t give up. Freshman defenseman Spencer Noonan is coming into his own as a starter, a player teams should have their eye on in the next couple of years. Max Saffle and Ryan Benz emerge as Skyline’s go to guys during the absence. King’s Way continues to dominate their opponents and sophomore Jack Beall is a young stud that teams will definitely need to account for, a prodigy player in his own right. He sits as point leader in the league with 21 goals and 15 assists. Overlake's young Owls got their first win of the season over Mukilteo. Sophomores Erik Risa and Barrett Jenness are emerging as quality players. Foster Wisman is carrying his Northshore squad on his back, they will need to gain confidence to balance out as well as solidify their defense to move up the totem pole ranks.
In a stark surprise Division II's Blancet blasted Division I's Lakeside in an embarassng 18-3 loss. Taylor Schmutz led the Braves with five goals and one assist in a game that is definitely a head scratcher. Blancet boosted thier stock as a real contender. Lakeside drops in an overall record of 0-5, with the Blancet loss capping off losses to Mukilteo and Seattle Prep last week- ouch!
In Division I this week there will be a bloody battle in Bellevue on Thursday night. Perhaps on the level of Gettysburg- as the Wolverines host cross town rival Mercer Island. Both teams are fierce competitors and this will be a rematch of last year’s state final where Bellevue downed Mercer Island 8-7 in overtime. Key match ups with be whether Bellevue will be able to handle the Islander midfield. Some glimpses of brilliance from the Islander attackmen this past week, but can they hold themselves against a tough season Bellevue defense? Look for it to be an electric atmosphere as two neighbor towns go to battle on field and perhaps in the stands as well. This is also the last week before the teams take spring break. So look for great performances to usher a well needed midseason break. On the same night a good inter-division match-up with be Northshore at Sammamish on Wednesday. It will be a gauge in parity among the top Division II and mid-Division I.
Kudos to Connor Bernal for earning Baller of the Week for Week Two. In three exhibition games against quality opponents, Bernal amassed 15 points on eight goals and seven assists. He switched this season from attack to the midfield to balance out what appears to be top line in the state, arguable with Bainbridge’s midfield line. They’re reminiscent of the 2005 Mercer Island midfield squad. Bernal is a complete offensive threat from drawing and dumping, to shooting on the run and finishing a feed this kid can ball. Perhaps it was the ribs this weekend…
In what looked like an Aardvark victory late in the third, BI proved that it’s never over till its over. They over came a four goal deficit in the fourth quarter despite penalty problems. Great team rides and a tested defense make the Spartans a post season favorite. Their catalyst was midfielder Jacob Goodman, accounting for three goals and one assist in the comeback, including the game winner. Great performances from Alex Crane on the face-off circle and Cam Parker at the midfield. Looks like Bainbridge is back and ready to make a title run. A close runner-up was the Stealth v. Boston game. Washington shutdown the league top point leaders in Casey Powell and Dan Dawson. It was a neck and neck game until literally the last second. Washington got a power play with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. In that 1.7 second Craig Conn picked up the ball, passed to Rhys Duch, who shot it right through the legs of Boston goalie Anthony Cosmo- with a tenth of a second to spare…sick. With the win the Stealth secure a playoff berth and a much needed win for morale.