Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic: No. 3 Cornell Takes on No. 1 Virginia

D HoldingCorrespondent IIIMarch 9, 2012

Top-Ranked Virginia will take on Cornell at 1:30 on Saturday
Top-Ranked Virginia will take on Cornell at 1:30 on SaturdayRob Carr/Getty Images

Saturday, six teams will make the trip to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland for the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic.

In the 1:30 p.m. time slot, Virginia will face Cornell in a big-time matchup between national title contenders.

For Cornell, Saturday will test the depth of their roster with All-American and Player of the Year candidate Rob Pannell sidelined. Pannell will miss at least six weeks with a broken foot, something that could be deadly for the Big Red.

Cornell has shown great versatility on offense, getting scoring from players other than their stud, Pannell. Their leading goal scorer is junior Steve Mock, who has tallied 10 goals to go along with two assists thus far. In addition, freshman Matt Donovan and junior Connor English have been crucial in Cornell's offensive production.

Without Pannell, who acts as a quarterback and distributor, Virginia will be able to spread their defense more. His absence will allow the Cavs defense to also take more risks, not having to double-team the All-American on every possession.

Junior AJ Fiore has been stellar for the Big Red in between the pipes. The goalie boasts a 67 percent save rate so far, anchoring a stellar defense.

Coming into the big weekend, the exciting matchup between Player of the Year Candidates Steele Stanwick (UVA) and Rob Pannell was big story. With Pannell not playing, Stanwick can make a statement on a big stage against a quality opponent.

The reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner, Stanwick leads the No. 1 Cavaliers as they endure a quest for another National Championship.

UVA is 6-0 on the season, averaging over 15 goals in their contests this year. They struggled in the season opener against Drexel, escaping Philadelphia with a one-goal victory.

Since that game, Virginia has been on a roll.

With Stanwick demanding constant attention from the opposition, score-happy Chris Bocklett and the midfield duo of Colin Briggs and Ben Emery have been in high gear.

Stanwick leads the team in points (26), with Bocklett behind him (22).

Briggs and Emery have been huge so far. Their ability to beat defenders from up top cause an early slide and room to move for the attack. They can both pass and shoot extremely well, causing the opposition to take a gamble on every play.

This game will test both squads, although Virginia has the edge with Pannell's unfortunate injury.

If Cornell can possess the ball and take advantage of an early lead with some long stalls, they could grind out a surprising victory over the top-ranked Cavaliers.