Villanova vs. Air Force
February 18, 2006
The Game Story:
Villanova, PA - Villanova University (1-0) dominated face-offs, played aggressive defense and a patient offense en route to an 11-6 season-opening win over the United States Air Force Academy (0-1) this afternoon at Villanova Stadium.

Villanova held a 14-6 face-off advantage, used stifling defense to limit quality scoring chances and to create transition opportunities for the offense, and waited patiently for good looks in Air Force's zone defense.

The Wildcats opened the scoring just 37 seconds into the game when senior co-captain Matt Starker (Summit, N.J.) scored on a man-up opportunity after Air Force's Griffin Nevitt was called for holding. USAF's Nevitt quickly posted the equalizer after the Falcons' Kyle O'Neill won the ensuing face-off.

But Villanova reeled off three unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead with 6:09 to play in the first quarter. Wildcat freshman Matthew Fritts (Dallas, Tex.) scored his first collegiate goal at 11:58 off a feed from junior Chris Mercer (Severna Park, Md.). Villanova scored again at 8:15 after sophomore Matt Panneton (Niskayuna, N.Y.) checked the ball out of USAF's Daniel Breiding's stick, creating the opportunity for sophomore Chris MacDonald (Westfield, N.J.) to find the back of the net.

`Nova's final tally of the quarter came at 6:09 when junior Safi Najdawi fed Panneton for the score. Air Force stemmed the tide with a goal from Kevin Crumrine, assisted by Will Meister that made it 4-2. The Wildcats controlled the ball for most of the second quarter. Panneton's goal, the only second quarter goal of the game, at 7:58 kicked off a 4-0 run by the `Cats. Starker scored at 13:11 in the third quarter, MacDonald at 9:24 off a feed from junior Eric Webber (Denver, Colo.), and Starker posted his third goal at 4:58 to give Villanova an 8-2 lead.

Air Force scored its third of the game with 2:12 left in the third when Nevitt found the back of the cage. Villanova had three quick opportunities in the final minute, but Falcon goalie Justin Pavoni saved the first and the last two shots went wide and high.

USAF's Justin Kuchta opened the fourth quarter with a goal at 13:27 before Villanova went on its third run of the day, knocking in three unanswered to take an 11-4 lead with 7:47 left. Freshman Dan Liva (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) scored his first collegiate goal at 11:28, Starker his fourth of the day off a pass by junior Mike Haas (North Wales, Pa.) at 10:20, and Mercer at 7:47 after a feed by MacDonald.

Air Force scored two late goals, one by Crumrine at 5:33 and the other by Meister with 37 seconds left for the final score.

Villanova held a narrow edge in shots, 27-23, and groundballs, 21-18, for the game. Pavoni made nine saves for the Falcons, while Villanova goalie senior co-captain Joe Canuso (Moorestown, N.J.) made eight for the Wildcats.

Next up for Villanova is Duke University on Saturday, February 25 at 3:00 p.m. in Durham, N.C.