OAC Championship Showdown: No. 3 Capital vs. No. 1 John Carroll

No. 3 Capital seeks its first OAC Tournament Championship this Saturday, May 6 when it travels to take on top seed and defending champion John Carroll.
No. 3 Capital seeks its first OAC Tournament Championship this Saturday, May 6 when it travels to take on top seed and defending champion John Carroll.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2017 Ohio Athletic Conference Men's Lacrosse Tournament Championship is set for Saturday, May 6, 2017. No. 3 Capital University will travel to University Heights, Ohio to take on the defending OAC Champion and No. 1 seeded John Carroll University at Don Schula Stadium at 2 p.m. Capital is vying for its first OAC Tournament Championship, while John Carroll seeks a championship defense.


What: OAC Men's Lacrosse Tournament – Championship
When: Saturday, May 6, 2017  |  2 p.m.
Where: Don Schula Stadium  |  University Heights, Ohio 44118
Links: Live stats  |  Video  |  OAC Tournament page


HOW THEY ARRIVED HERE

Capital earned the three seed to this year's tournament after defeating Ohio Northern University, 12-8, on the road. John Carroll ran the table through the conference schedule, winning the regular season title and earning the number-one seed.

The Purple and White rolled out five of the first six goals of the game in its semi-final match with No. 2 Baldwin Wallace. The Yellow Jackets had no answer for the Crusaders' fast-paced offense in the first half, finding themselves down 9-3 after 30 minutes of play. The game slowed down in the second half after adjustments were made, but Baldwin Wallace never came within five goals of Cap. Brennan O'Callaghan recorded a hat trick in the fourth quarter alone to seal the victory. Despite being outdone on faceoffs, Cap held advantages over BW in ground balls (33-24) and shots (38-32), helping control the tempo. Capital has now won six straight matches leading up to this game and eight of their last nine.

John Carroll is currently on a nine-game winning streak, which began with a win over - who else, but Capital. The Blue Streaks have won the close games, winning three games decided by three or fewer goals in that time. Prior to that, JCU had lost three straight, all by three or fewer goals.

The first half of John Carroll's semi-final matchup with No. 3 Otterbein was dead even, though the hosts held a slim two-goal advantage going into the locker room. Otterbein scored the first goal of the half for a second time, but that disturbed the nest of John Carroll and led to nine straight Blue Streak goals. Declan O'Grady scored three of those nine. Five of the remaining six goals were scored by different players. JCU held advantages in shots (44-23), ground balls (39-17) and faceoff wins (20-5) against the Cardinals.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

These two teams met at Purmort Field at Bernlohr Stadium on March 25 in both teams' OAC opener. Capital made a big statement by scoring three goals out of the gate, two of those coming from sophomore Ryan Rampi. The script was flipped later in the game when Cap lost its lead and John Carroll four unanswered goals to take a 9-6 lead. With under five minutes to go, Brennan O'Callaghan and Brent Walton scored twice in less three minutes to make for a one-goal game. John Carroll gave Cap two more chances to score after committing a faceoff violation and a turnover. Carson Paull made one final drive as time was ticking down but was hit on his move to the cage, sending a shot that blocked down out in front. John Carroll won by a 9-8 final.

John Carroll held slim advantages over Capital in shots (41-38) and ground balls (25-21), and a large margin in faceoff wins, 15-6. Walton finished with three goals and two assists to lead the Crusaders on offense. Cole Palmby made 11 saves, despite the loss. His counterpart, Kyle Lake, made nine saves while Collin Rice led JCU with three points (2g, 1a).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Cole Palmby will be vital to Capital's success but is playing some of the best lacrosse of his collegiate career. He is coming off his third straight 10-plus save performance and made his 400th career save in the team's win over Ohio Northern, last weekend. He made 11 stops in the first go-round with John Carroll and 14 against Baldwin Wallace on Tuesday night.

Offense drives Capital, and they have established they possess plenty of that. Brennan O'Callaghan continues to lead the conference with 57 goals, and elevated to second in points (71). He is in the midst of a run in which he has scored seven goals in a game twice and has 32 goals in his last six games (5.3 gpg).

Opponents should not sleep on freshman attackman C.J. Hughes (46-14-60), who is also in the midst of an impressive run having scored 22 goals in his last six games. He posted one goal and two assists in the semifinals. Sophomore Ryan Rampi has by far surpassed his career highs in all offensive categories and against John Carroll earlier this season posted two goals and one helper on the offensive end.

The common themes for success between these two teams has been winning the battle for ground balls and faceoffs. This is where JCU's Kyle Patterson and Braden Kaib may have the most value. In the first meeting between these two teams, Patterson won 15-of-21 faceoffs. Kaib has come on to take a majority of the draws over the last four games, and is a combined 58-15 over that stretch. Against Otterbein, he went 19-for-22 on the 'X'. 

Skyler Blake (40-13-53) and Declan O'Grady (31-17-48) pace the Blue Streak offense, but the 'O' has six different scorers with 10 or more goals this season. Nine different players scored goals in JCU's 15-6 win over Otterbein on Wednesday night. Senior defenseman leads the 'D' with 30 caused turnovers and 56 ground balls. Between the posts, senior Kyle Lake allows just 7.33 goals per game, ranking just ahead of Palmby (7.60), and has a save percentage of .535.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS

The all-time series between these two teams sides with John Carroll, which has won four of the six meetings since 2014. Both of Capital's wins came in their undefeated OAC run and into the OAC Tournament championship match in 2015.

John Carroll will be playing in its third OAC title game in three years. They lost to Otterbein in 2014 (the first year the OAC sponsored a men's lacrosse championship) and defeated the Cardinals in last year's title tilt. Capital will be playing in its second OAC championship game after matching up with Otterbein in 2015, falling 8-5 at home that year.

This marks the first OAC title game in which Otterbein will not be present. John Carroll defeating Otterbein on Wednesday night to eliminate them from contention.

The winner of Saturday's championship contest will receive the automatic qualifying bid to compete at the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Tournament.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME

If you cannot make it to the game in University Heights, live stats and video will be provided by John Carroll University. 

ADMISSION

Single Event/Championship - $8
Seniors (62)/Military - $6
OAC Students – Free
Non-OAC Students - $3

OAC lifetime passes will be honored for all championships (regular-season passes will not)