ALBANY — After Connor Fields participated Friday in some non-contact portions of the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team’s practice, Great Danes head coach Scott Marr said the senior attack is a “game-time decision” to play 1 p.m. Saturday against Hartford.
If Fields — who was considered doubtful to play earlier this week after re-injuring his right knee last weekend — doesn’t play? Well, No. 5 UAlbany (4-1, 11-2) has faced that situation already this season, and are prepared to face it again, if needed, when it meets Hartford (0-5, 3-9) in the America East regular season finale for both teams.
“We know we have a really strong team,” UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy said. “We have a lot of talented players.”
But when it is without Fields, UAlbany — which needs a win against Hartford to clinch home-field advantage for next week’s conference tournament — has played like a much different team.
Twice, he has sat out an entire game. Five times this season, Fields’ right knee injury has kept him to playing approximately half a game’s minutes or fewer.
In those five games, UAlbany is 3-2. The Great Danes are 8-0 with Fields at full strength.
So, how are the Great Danes different when Fields, their leading scorer, is not on the field?
Here are a few keys areas, comparing statistics from those five games in which Fields has missed at least approximately half the action vs. UAlbany’s other eight games played with Fields.
Fewer possessions, more turnovers
That is not a good combination, but that has been the reality for the Great Danes when they don’t have Fields at full strength.
In those five games, UAlbany has averaged 3.1 fewer offensive possessions than in its other eight games . . . and despite having fewer offensive chances, UAlbany has committed 0.7 more turnovers per game in those five games without Fields.
That makes sense on a couple of levels.
First, UAlbany commits fewer turnovers when it runs its offense through Fields, who has generally been one more of the most efficient players in the country these past couple seasons.
Second, when Fields is running the Great Danes’ offense, it’s easy to see why UAlbany garners more possessions. Fields’ ability to generate UAlbany scores gives sophomore faceoff specialist TD Ierlan more opportunities to start up possessions for the Great Danes.
All that feeds into the number that really matters: That’s 5.9, the number of extra goals UAlbany has averaged per game this season with Fields at full strength compared to when he is not.
When Fields doesn’t play a majority of a game this season, two Great Danes see a significant jump in shot attempts per game — especially one player, in particular.
That is junior Sean Eccles, who has averaged 8.6 shots in those five games and only 4.3 shots in the Great Danes’ other eight.
Meanwhile, McClancy goes from 3.8 shot attempts to 5.4 attempts.
The player who sees his involvement in the offense decrease without Fields? That is sophomore Jakob Patterson, who has averaged 5.1 shots per game in which Fields plays at full strength and 4.0 shots in the other five games.
If Fields doesn’t play against Hartford, UAlbany plans to shift Patterson from midfield to attack. That change, if it is made, should help increase Patterson’s scoring chances.
Can’t go it alone
While Fields leads UAlbany in assists by a wide margin, the Great Danes have actually assisted a higher percentage of their goals in the five games the senior’s right knee has affected his availability.
In those five games, UAlbany has assisted 66.0 percent of its goals. In the other eight, that figure moves down to 61.4 percent.
The reason for that is fairly obvious. This season, Fields has scored 28 goals and 15 of them have been unassisted. Besides Fields, only one other double-digit-scoring Great Dane — McClancy — has scored more unassisted goals than assisted goals this season.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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Categories: College Sports, Sports