Tade Wynn, a West Coast Starz product who’s one of THREE elite goalies that will see time for Culver this year, made five saves in the second half of a 12-7 win over McDonogh. Photo via Matt Chandik.
There are enough stars on NLF No. 4 Culver Academy (Ind.)‘s goalie depth chart that looking at the list makes you feel like you’re in a planetarium.
The Eagles might have recruited the position better than most college programs in recent years. It’s downright ridiculous. Adam Blind, a Harvard commit ranked as the No. 6 player in his class by the NLF, is usually the starter. Colin Vickrey, a junior headed to Princeton, is the No. 62 player in the 2023 class. Tade Wynn, tabbed as one of the first five-stars in the 2024 class, is, in theory, THE THIRD-STRING GOALIE. You can’t be serious with this.
It’s safe to say that Eagles coach Jon Birsner doesn’t worry much about whomever’s in the cage, but the dynamic in the cage changed when Blind went down with an injury and has not yet returned. He’s expected to be back at some point, but Monday’s 12-7 win over NLF No. 5 McDonogh (Md.) showed that Culver is likely the only school in the country that can be out an elite goalie and not even blink.
Birsner and his staff recently decided to split Vickrey and Wynn evenly with the future Tiger getting the starts and his understudy coming in to close things out. It worked to perfection against the Eagles, with Vickrey stopping seven shots and Wynn denying five of his own. While there’s no doubt that both would rather be the unquestioned starter – as would literally any other goalie – it’s a tandem that could help backstop the Eagles to the No. 1 spot nationally by the end of the year.
“With Adam hurt, it’s been a big step up,” Vickrey said. “Tade’s been playing out of his mind and so have I, and we both deserve some playing time. I really like sharing time with him, he’s a great guy and a great goalie, and I can’t wait to see what he has plans for college. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time. My freshman year, we lost to McDonogh by one goal, so it’s great to come here and beat them. I was hurt last year, so I know exactly what Adam’s going through, so it’s been good to get back and get going.”
“I think we’re the No. 1 team in the nation, no doubt about it,” Vickrey continued. “These guys are unbelievable. Our defense is young, but holy smokes, we’re locking down every single team. We’re locking down players that score numerous goals. I love the defense in front of me. They’re doing what they’re doing and they’re giving me good shots to save.”
Vickrey’s claim that the Eagles deserve the top spot isn’t without some merit, and they’ll have plenty of high-level opportunities to back it up. It sure helps to have an incredibly-talented defense in front of him. It’s a relatively young group with two juniors and a sophomore on close defense and a senior at pole in Michigan-bound Jimmy Pisani.
McCabe Millon and Rowan Clay locked horns all game long. Photo via Matt Chandik.
Culver Defense Stands Tall
Monday, it was NLF No. 27 ’23 Rowan Clay, another future Wolverine, who took center stage. Clay mostly drew the assignment of shadowing NLF No. 1 ’23 McCabe Millon (Team 91 Maryland / Duke), and while holding a player of Millon’s ilk completely off the scoresheet would be nearly impossible, limited him to a goal and two assists. It takes a team effort to slow down an offensive as explosive as McDonogh’s, and that’s exactly what the Culver got. Clay, Zach Mesa (Lehigh) and Nikolas Menendez, one of the best sophomore defensemen in the country, were in sync all day.
“(New Culver defensive coordinator) Coach (Ryan) Terefenko is the best defensive coordinator in the country,” Clay said. “We just have a team motto called ‘seven,’ because we’re seven, not one or two guys. It’s just really playing as one group, not one individual player. (Millon) is a great player and it was obviously tough, but with my teammates lifting me up and using my fundamentals, it was a good challenge.”
It’s a stark change in the spring for Clay, too. A year ago, he earned second-team all-state honors at Forest Hills Central (Mich.)… at attack. He’s always known that defense would be his position in college, though, so transitioning to playing that position full-time has its advantages both now and in the future.
“It’s a good feeling,” Clay said with a smile. “Going from attack to defense was a decent transition, but it was good. I just grinded the whole year out and got back in the defensive form. Offense is a good time and who doesn’t want to score goals, but my mindset has all come from my defensive game.”
Balanced Offense Fuels Culver
The other end of the field wasn’t so bad for Culver, either. Sophomore Aidan McDonald led the way with a goal and four helpers, junior Nick Roode (Michigan) finished with four tallies and junior Gabe Sorichetti (High Point) had a hat trick and an assist. Griffin Scane, the NLF’s No. 30 senior and a Penn commit, paired two goals with two assists. Roode really gave Culver some momentum going into halftime when he pocketed a pair of goals nine seconds apart, and Culver never looked back from there.
For its share, McDonogh hung right with Culver until the Indiana Eagles pulled away in the second half. The Baltimore Eagles held an early lead when freshman Bogue Hahn (Team 91 Maryland) finished off a pretty pass from sophomore Luke Miller. Andy Hilgartner‘s group drew even for the final time late in the second quarter when sophomore Ben Firlie (Team 91 Maryland), one of the premier midfield shooters in the sophomore class, split to his left and ripped one home. Miller then took a pretty feed from Millon in transition and wired one home, but that’s as close as McDonogh got.
McDonogh Looks to Fly in MIAA
McDonogh will regroup and will have a fresh slate to compete for the MIAA title starting next week. This loss, as well as a season-opening defeat to Gonzaga (D.C.), gives them opportunities to see what they need to work on to compete for a title in one of the country’s toughest leagues.
“We’re just working on getting better every game. If we lose, we’ll take what we did wrong and go back to practice this week and have a good one,” said defenseman Malachi Jones, the NLF’s No. 46 ’22 and a Virginia signee.
Jonny Cool ’22, LSM, McDonogh / Team 91 Maryland / Ohio State – NLF No. 23 ’22
Cool has turned down some of his youthful overaggressiveness, but the future Buckeye is still a pain to go up against. He’s got good size and still has an excellent stick and his 1v1 coverage has improved. Cool communicated well with his teammates and any time there was a ground ball, it seemed like he was there front and center for McDonogh.
Cool knows that the Eagles have some work to do on the defensive end after struggling to deal with both Culver and Gonzaga’s pick-heavy offenses.
“I think this game showed that our defense has to get a lot better at establishing our hot guy when they’re going through sets,” Cool said. “A lot of times early on, we didn’t have that guy set to go. Gonzaga ran a lot of picks, too, and Gonzaga and Culver both ran two-man offenses and that’ll help us get better for when we see that later.”
Aidan McDonald ’24, attack, Culver
Culver coach Jon Birsner was effusive in his preseason praise for McDonald… and he might have been underselling it. The British Columbia native was in total control of the offense, and his vision, passing ability and IQ are as advertised. He’s not big at all and is very
one-handed Canadian with his right hand, but his box background – McDonald was the No. 1 pick in the BCJALL draft – shines through with how he handles the ball. McDonald plays a step ahead mentally and knew when and where his teammates wanted the ball. Perhaps his best of his four assists – to go with a goal – came when he tossed a dime to Frank Coyle (Hamilton), who promptly buried a heavy stepdown.
Griffin Scane ’22, midfield, Culver / Cherries / Penn – NLF No. 30 ’22
The tone-setter for Culver, Scane scored the first goal of the game with a hard take to the rack that he finished off while still taking a hit. He finished with two goals and two assists, including a superb bardown rip on the run late to cement the Culver win, but it was that opening marker that established how Culver gave McDonogh fits throughout.
“That was absolutely huge,” Scane said. “I got a shortie matchup and went underneath and looked back to freeze the defense. Starting off the game like that is such a momentum starter, which I think we carried out through the rest of the game.”
That marked a change for Scane, too. As one of the best midfielders in the country, he usually draws the pole. Locking an SSDM in his sights? That’s a gift to him.
“The first possession they put a short stick on me, I was a bit shocked, I’m not going to lie,” Scane said. “I try to dodge the same and not take anyone lightly, but yeah, my eyes do light up because I don’t get a shortie a lot.”
Anthony Wilson was a force in the McDonogh cage. Photo via Matt Chandik.
Anthony Wilson ’22, goalie, McDonogh / Crabs / Villanova
Wilson was arguably McDonogh’s best player throughout as he held down the fort early and gave his team a chance to come back before Culver pulled away. He’s got a great frame that allows him to take up a lot of the net, he communicates well and he’s also got a flair for making some impressive saves. Wilson’s best stop of his 11-save day was an incredible high denial on a Nick Roode 1v1 attempt on the doorstep. For a bigger goalie, he came away with some nice low stops, including saves on snipers like Luke Macaluso and Haydn Sommer. The Villanova signee even came away with a rare goalie faceoff ground ball when the ball squirreled its way into his area and the big man outran a couple of Culver players to give LSM Paul McLucas one of his seven faceoff wins on the day.
Culver 12, McDonogh 7
Culver 3 3 2 4 — 12
McDonogh 2 2 1 2 — 7
Nick Roode ’23 (Michigan) 4 goals
Gabe Sorichetti ’23 (High Point) 3 goals, 1 assist
Griffin Scane ’22 (NLF No. 30 ’22 Cherries / Penn) 2 goals, 2 assists
Aidan McDonald ’24 1 goal, 4 assists
Haydn Sommer ’22 (NLF No. 40 ’22 / Team 91 Maryland / Air Force) 1 goal, 1 assist
Frank Coyle ’22 (Hamilton) 1 goal
Luke Macaluso ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 assist
Spencer Reagan ’24 (West Coast Starz) 5-for-10 faceoffs
Tay Rodriguez ’25 8-for-11 faceoffs
Colin Vickrey ’23 (NLF No. 62 ’23 / Princeton) 7 saves
Tade Wynn ’24 (West Coast Starz) 5 saves
McCabe Millon ’23 (NLF No. 1 ’23 / Team 91 Maryland / Duke) 1 goal, 2 assists
Luke Miller ’24 1 goal, 2 assists
AJ Marsh ’23 (NLF No. 18 ’23 / Crabs / Navy) 1 goal
Matt McMillen ’22 (NLF No. 18 ’22 / Crabs / Penn) 1 goal
Ben Firlie ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 goal
Bogue Hahn ’25 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 goal
Chase Green ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 goal, 1-for-2 faceoffs
Paul McLucas ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 7-for-18 faceoffs
Malachi Jones ’22 (NLF No. 46 ’22 / Team 91 Maryland / Virginia) 0-for-1 faceoffs
Anthony Wilson ’22 (Crabs / Villanova) 11 saves