White Bear Lake's Jared Bartz, left, is part of a Bears defensive corps that is allowing a sparkling 3.50 goals per game. Photo by Helen Nelson
White Bear Lake had allowed only 1.6 goals against per game until Monday night.
Sounds like a statistic from a soccer program. Hockey would be more believable.
Credit the upstart boys' lacrosse team with putting up eye-grabbing defensive numbers this spring. The Bears' goals-against average led the nation through last week, according to LaxPower.com.
Coach Brandon Husak credits everyone on the team and staff, but centered on the defenders, who limited shots on net and quality scoring chances.
The Bears haven't played the strongest schedule, but it still has been a proud statistic for a Minnesota team -- even if it's probably not something the Bears can sustain.
"I'm sure we can't," Husak said with a laugh. "There's some really, really good lacrosse teams in the nation. It's kind of funny. Our assistant coach found it. But it's also something to take note of because I don't know if any other team has been where we're at."
Husak, who began the program 10 years ago, made sure to make a copy of the statistic Monday before the Bears traveled to conference rival Stillwater. The Ponies boast one of the state's top players in All-America attackman Samuel Mathieu.
As expected, White Bear Lake's goals-against average jumped -- to a whopping 2.17 -- but it remaiins the nation's best.
More importantly, the increase wasn't enough to tarnish the Bears' undefeated record. Led by big games from Nick Timmons and Ted Ramert, the Bears held a 4-3 lead at the half before outscoring the Ponies 7-2 to close out the game. White Bear Lake's 11-5 victory put it alone in first place in the Suburban East. It also was the first time White Bear Lake had defeated Stillwater in the regular season.
"Going on Stillwater's turf and beating them would be huge," junior captain Trenton Gahm said a few hours prior to the game.
While it's been a bit of a down year for the conference, that shouldn't take away from the Bears' upside. They have steamrolled to five consecutive victories. White Bear Lake outscored opponents 72-8 to start the season.
The Bears boast a deep, talented and young squad. With just three seniors, Husak still has key pieces to work with at every position. A strong junior class is followed by sophomores pushing for playing time, and even a handful of freshmen champing at the bit.
That nation-leading defense is blossoming with juniors and even younger athletes, but Timmons anchors the unit. The long-stick midfield defender knows how to control attackers and anticipates the play. He is also quick for his size.
When the defense moves the ball up field, the offense usually hangs on to it for a while -- and quite often scores.
Ramert has led the Bears in scoring early in the season. Husak calls him a "smooth operator" with quickness and playmaking ability that has helped generate a powerful offense. Husak also called Gahm the smartest and hardest-working lacrosse player he's seen go through the program. He is a junior and one of the team captains.
Then there's junior midfielder Nick Truen.
"The kid is just massive. He's the fastest kid you will ever see," Gahm said of Truen. "He's a running back so if you try to play defense on him, he'll run by you. If you try to run with him, he'll run by you."
The view from the top of the Suburban East is a new one.
"We've been in the state tournament twice but we've never won the conference," Husak said. "I know this is a goal of ours."