How Far Will Penn’s Goalie Pipeline Extend?

(Photo Courtesy of Penn Athletics)

No team has seen quite the level of play in between the pipes as the Penn Quakers have over the past half-decade. From Reed Junkin’s freshman season in 2016 to Patrick Burkinshaw, who is heading into his junior year (second season at Penn) in 2021, the Quakers have had the pleasure of housing two of the most elite goalies in college lacrosse.

Junkin arrived in Philadelphia as part of a highly-touted 2016 recruiting class. And it didn’t take long to see that he was by far the best and most college-ready player in that class, emerging as their number one option in goal almost immediately. He became the first freshman to be a full-time starter in cage for the Quakers since Brian Fenney in 2011, who also ended up being a four-year starter at Penn.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound netminder played in all 60 of the Quakers’ contests during his time at Penn. And of those 60 games, there were only two instances where he didn’t start. He ended his career at Penn with his name at or near the top of almost every record in the book. Junkin is first in career minutes (3,475), second all-time in career saves (647), and his 2019 season ranks fifth all-time for saves in a season (204) in program history.

Upon Junkin’s graduation, many speculated if the Quakers had anyone on their current roster or coming in the 2019 recruiting class that could fill the very large hole that Junkin left. But ultimately, the Quakers would rely on the Transfer Portal to deliver them another high-caliber goalie. And just like Junkin, he was more than ready to hop in the cage as a starter during his freshman season. That goalie just happened to be Virginia transfer, Patrick Burkinshaw.

Burkinshaw arrived in Charlottesville as one of the nation’s best goalie prospects. And he showed that, emerging as a more than solid backup during his freshman season in 2019. He made his first career start on the road against Princeton, where he recorded a venue-record of 24 saves. Burkinsahw then started the next week against Syracuse and helped the Cavaliers to a 15-14 overtime victory in their ACC-opener in the Carrier Dome.

Following that Syracuse game, Burkinshaw never saw another start at Virginia, and Alex Rode took back that spot. Burkinshaw ended his freshman season with a total of eleven game appearances, those two starts, and a national championship ring. But after putting his name in the Transfer Portal mid-season, he decided to take his talents north to Penn.

Burkinshaw’s arrival at Penn coincided with Junkin’s exit. The former Virginia Cavalier stepped on campus as a starter. In the five games that the Quakers played during the shortened 2020 season, Burkinshaw posted a 44% save percentage. He and the Penn defense struggled a bit in their first three contests of the season, allowing 17, 14, and 17 goals against Maryland, Duke, and Penn State. But then again, who didn’t struggle against those high-powered offenses?

Burkinshaw posted save percentages each of those three games that were in the 30s. But he went 52% and 58% against Villanova and Saint Joseph’s in their final two games, and if the season would have finished he would have very likely finished somewhere in the mid-50% range and likely been the top goalie in the conference.

With two seasons left, Burkinshaw is expected to keep his starting position and continue playing like one of the best goalies in the Ivy League and the nation.

But what is after Burkinshaw? Who will step in and continue this tradition?

The answer to those questions will be unveiled over the next few seasons and is certainly not set in stone. But from where we sit right now, the future of the goalie spot at Penn post-Burkinshaw looks very, very promising.

In the 2020 class, the Quakers signed Emmet Carroll out of Rye, N.Y. He was rated as a four-star prospect by Inside Lacrosse. They also have a commitment in the 2021 class from Archbishop Spalding, Md., netminder Jake Oliver. While either of those guys could very well step into that starting spot when Burkinshaw graduates, there is another Quaker commit that is in the same boat and who’s arrival at Penn will coincide with Burkinshaw’s departure.

That player would be 2022 commit Thomas Ricciardelli out of Taft, Conn. The younger brother of 2021 Penn attack commit Jeffrey Ricciardelli, the netminder has generated a lot of buzz on the high school scene already and is rated as a five-star by Inside Lacrosse, and the highlight of Penn’s 2022 class.

Ricciardelli started on varsity for a loaded Taft squad as a freshman in 2019. He posted a 64% save percentage while helping the Rhinos to a 10-6 record. If you were watching his freshman tape and didn’t how what grade he was in, you wouldn’t guess he was a freshman. He just showed so much poise and the ability to save whatever came near him right away as a high schooler.

And while he didn’t get a sophomore season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, this summer at the National High School Lacrosse Showcase (NHSLS) he looked like the best goalie there. Not only did Ricciardelli show improvement in cage with his ability to stop shots from various angles and ranges, but he played very well out of cage, and made very smart plays post-save with the ball in the clearing game.

It is way too early to tell if Riccardelli will be able to step onto the field at Penn and start as a freshman. He still has plenty of room for improvement as a high school player. But if he does continue to improve the way he has over the first two years of his high school career, many could be expecting Riccardelli to possibly be that next elite level goalie in this recent line of All-Conference and All-American level players the Quakers have deployed at that spot in recent years.

The future can’t be predicted, but it is fairly safe to say that the Penn Quakers currently have a solid goalie pipeline laid out through, at least, the 2022 season and it could hold up as far out as the 2025 or 2026 seasons.

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