Asher Nolting vs Ben Randall

How will the Waterdogs guard Asher Nolting?

By Wyatt Miller

Sep 10, 2023

Cannons attackman Asher Nolting is in the midst of a breakout sophomore season. Racking up 48 points on 24 goals (including playoffs), Nolting has more than doubled his point and assist total from last season.

In the Waterdogs and Cannons’ last matchup, Ben Randall held Nolting to two goals on six shots and two assists in the Dogs’ largest loss of the season. They only scored eight points in that outing, which will need to improve on Sunday. In a playoff setting, the Dogs should be aiming to limit Nolting to that level of production again, especially after he led the Cannons with seven points on three goals last week. 

Yet, much has changed since the last matchup. Dillon Ward wasn’t available in the regular season showdown, and the Dogs are 6-0 with him between the pipes. The starting goalie determines a lot in terms of defensive matchups, as each communicates their view of the field differently. Yet, Randall’s success against Nolting last game, and Colepan’s confidence in him, indicates that he’ll be on the big man once again.

“He’s been our No. 1 defenseman ever since we brought him into the locker room, and we have a ton of belief and faith in him,” Copelan said of Randall. “I know he’s doing everything he can right now to be up for his toughest matchup of the year.”

Nolting’s Role

Despite playing beside the 2023 attackman of the year and one of the most accomplished scorers in the sport, Nolting is the centerpiece of this Cannons offense. He ranks 11th in the league and second on the team in touches, and he’s shown the potential to score every time he cradles the rock.

“In a lot of ways he kind of stirs the drink for those guys,” Copelan said of Nolting. “I do think it probably starts with Asher, but with that said, they got a slew of options there that we need to prepare for.”

He can power dodge, slip double teams and is one of the best feeders in the league, ranking third in regular season assists. In short, there isn’t much he can’t do inside the arc.

Randall vs Nolting Round 1

With Randall as the closest defender, Nolting shot 1-for-4 and turned the ball over twice, finishing with four points on two goals last game. The attackman routinely uses his physicality and surprising bend to ambush the middle of the defense. Randall’s constant belligerence and balance is what makes him the best combatant for that, and he put that on display just three minutes into their last bout. 

From behind the cage on the left side, Nolting curled toward the middle and put his shoulder into Randall, backing up when he met firm resistance. As he tried muscling through to the middle for a second time, Randall executed a strong wrap-chack that stopped Nolting in his tracks. 

When he spun back, Matt Whitcher was already in the midst of laying a massive hit on the righty attackman. Doubled with no escape route, Nolting fired an off-balance shot that hit off Whitcher’s head before he eventually picked up the ground ball.

This is the type of fast, smothering defense that the Waterdogs will likely employ against Nolting on Sunday. Short stick slides will need to be a regular occurrence in this game with the dual-threat of Nolting and Marcus Holman at attack. Even with Randall’s dominance this season, Nolting’s presence is simply too big to take on alone. 

“Give Asher a ton of credit, that jump from year one to year two is obviously very real,” Copelan said. “He has turned the ball over with far less frequency, he’s really well-balanced in terms of scoring and passing.”

His turnover total from last season (32) was cut in half this year, making it nearly impossible to win 1-on-1 matchups with the big man consistently. Eventually, something will give. There needs to be help, and the Waterdogs’ short sticks are aggressive enough to make the difference in that matchup. Guys like Whitcher, Jake Higgins and Christian Scarpello, who seek out contact, will be significant in the effort to contain Nolting.

Matchup Prediction

It seems fairly obvious that Randall will be the matchup here, but he won’t be on an island. 

The massive leap in production and ball security in Nolting’s second pro season has definitely caught the attention of Copelan and company. That said, Copelan has complete confidence in Randall, who the head coach has repeatedly praised as one of the most underrated players in the sport.

“Ben is a guy that probably the last 2-3 years should have been up for some defensive accolades and just hasn’t been,” Copelan said. “I don’t know if it’s his understated nature or what.”

In a playoff setting, this will be a battle of physical wills, and Randall can’t win that on his own. If the 6-foot-3 defenseman embraces contact as he did last game, he’ll be well-equipped to mute Nolting’s presence. But still, he’ll need some smart slides from the Waterdogs short sticks to contain one of the biggest attackmen in the sport. Expect a meticulous plan for the Dogs’ defensive slides on Sunday.

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