Brower, U.S. 'Dogs' Fuel Defensive Effort in U.S. Win over Haudenosaunee


Jake Caputo scored twice in transition in the U.S. U21 team's win over the Haudenosaunee Nationals.

LIMERICK, Ireland — Kenny Brower and Pat Hackler watched as David Anderson rolled into the right side of the offensive zone and toward a gap between the two U.S. defenders late in the second quarter of Saturday’s matchup with the Haudenosaunee.

What looked like a lane to the cage quickly closed. Brower came over the top of Anderson with a check and Hackler provided enough pressure to knock the Haudenosaunee attackman off balance.

“Hack did his job like we were practicing,” Brower said. “He kept the guy one way down the alley, slid and listened to the communication and it worked really well.”

Brower gobbled up the loose ball and sent the U.S. offense in transition — one of many turnovers that turned into opportunities on offense in a complete effort.

“That's just playing to our strengths and playing within our system,” Hackler said. “We communicated well on that play. It’s so much fun to play with these guys.”

The U.S. displayed suffocating defense against a talented Haudenosaunee attack unit, allowing names like Brennan O’Neill, Graham Bundy and CJ Kirst to bury timely goals on the other end. The result was the U.S.’s most complete effort of the 2022 U21 World Championship and a 13-2 victory in front of a packed house on Saturday night.

Bundy Jr, Kirst, O’Neill, Shane Knobloch and Jake Caputo each had multiple goals in the victory that will be remembered for the performance on the other side of the field.

The U.S. defense has allowed just 10 goals through three games, overwhelming opposing offenses en route to three straight victories. It’s the formula for success preached by Nick Myers and his coaching staff — pressure hard and turn defense into offense.

U.S. defensive coordinator Andrew Stimmel credited the offense with helping set his unit for success.

“We played defense with our offense,” he said. “We were very deliberate on offense, they worked for great shots and slowed the transition game. We had great arrival and great slide reads. We buttoned up some of the things we’ve been working on all week.”

Shortly after the U.S. wrapped up its matchup with the Haudenosaunee, Nick Myers stood in the middle of the huddle and praised his men for following the script — playing the U.S. national team way.

Although the neutral fans encouraged them to continue playing set offense, the U.S. held possession for much of the final few minutes. They had done enough to pull away from the Haudenosaunee early in Saturday’s matchup.

"We're not here for a beauty contest," Myers said. "We just held an explosive offense to two goals. That was a great team effort. I love you guys."

The defensive effort wasn’t beautiful from a visual sense, but the unit forced few high percentage opportunities and allowed just seven shots on goal. Defensemen like Brower, Jackson Bonitz and Jake Snyder clogged lanes and made shooters uncomfortable throughout the game.

However, the “dogs” of the U.S. U21 team produced their strongest performance of the tournament. The defensive midfield unit of Hackler, Jack Monfort, Danny Parker and Jake Caputo led the U.S. in transition and forced opposing dodgers into double teams.

When the U.S. was able to force turnovers, the “dogs” got to share in the offensive fireworks. Hackler scored on a running sidearm shot in the second half and Caputo (who finished with a pair of goals and three loose balls) received a feed from Cole Kirst to fire home a transition goal — both their first tallies in Limerick.

“We’re just blessed to have the opportunity to operate on both sides of the field,” Hackler said. “Today on offense, it was Jake and Monfort, and more me and Danny on defense. They were all over the place. It was a great team effort.”

Myers and Stimmel have spent plenty of time during practice in Limerick focusing on midfield play, making sure the U.S. transition is leading to high-quality opportunities. The unit fits the style that the U.S. hopes to continue as it heads toward knockout play.

“They’re dogs for a reason,” Stimmel said. “They play with incredible effort. We talked about it not being a talent game. It’s all about energy, effort and toughness — things that don’t take talent — with that group. They did a great job of keeping dodgers one way and forcing double teams.”

The U.S. is molding into the complete team that it hoped to be when it left for Limerick earlier this week. It’s not always pretty, but Myers is making sure his team wins the battle of effort.


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