The Delaware Blue Hens overcame some lapses early to overcome Lehigh, 9-5. Delaware's highly touted face-off guy, Alex Smith, was limited in the middle of the game, but later used his motorcycle plunger move to near perfection jumpstarting Delaware's fast-break. Senior attackman Adam Zuder-Havens scored 3 of his 4 goals in the final 9 minutes of play. Lehigh junior goalie Eric Spirko was huge in goal with 18 saves, just 12 shy of his 30 for the 2006 season.
Delaware jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead on goals from Jordan Hall, Adam Zuder-Havens and Martin Cahill. Both goalies played well in the first quarter limiting any further scoring. Lehigh’s Spirko had five 1st quarter saves, while UD’s Tommy Scherr had four.
The tide changed in the 2nd quarter. Delaware struggled to get any sort of flow on offense. They only were able to generate five shots in the quarter, as opposed to 15, 15, and 16 in the 1st, 3rd and 4th quarters, respectively.
“It’s still a little early, it seemed like we tightened up a little bit. We got 3-nothing, and then they got it to 3-2, then 3-3. We seemed to be playing a little tentative,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw.
”That’s our next step, is not to play that way. To play a little bit more with confidence. I’ll take this win. I thought we made the surge when we had to.”
The Delaware offense created its own problems. At one point, everyone affiliated with UD was screaming a “yellow” call to get subs off. UD attackman Chris Hichborn, however, saw an opening and ripped a 12-ish yard high-to-high shot right into Spirko’s stick much to the dismay of Shillinglaw. Other mistakes included nice defensive efforts by Lehigh longpoles to pick off a couple of passes. At the times when things weren’t clicking it looked like the Delaware players were, as Shillinglaw pointed out, playing tentatively. The offense looked a bit scripted, off-ball players were lazy, and their passes didn’t have the same crispness. All that being said, the Delaware defense stepped up to limit Lehigh’s scoring. The defensive unit as a whole pressured and forced Lehigh into making a slew of turnovers. It’s hard on February 21st to pinpoint whether the errors came from Lehigh’s lack of game experience or Delaware’s defensive efforts, but did they did apply the pressure.
Regarding the goalie play, Shillinglaw said: “Tommy Scherr is ‘Steady Eddie’. You always know what you get, he’s very consistent. He’s a captain as a fourth year junior. He’s extremely intelligent, total direction of the defense. He’s got a great presence and command out on the field. Making a save, he’s pretty consistent across the board.”
Scherr was overheard talking with a teammate about a little run-in with a Lehigh player who apparently talked trash. Scherr’s reaction? “I couldn’t say anything, I mean come on I’m 5’5”.”
While Delaware looked sloppy for a bit in the middle of the game, Lehigh should also be credited for its efforts. Delaware face-off extraordinaire Alex Smith wound up with impressive numbers, going 13 for 18 for 72.2%, but in the late 1st and early 2nd halves, Lehigh did a nice job of limiting the looks off the draw. Smith showed what he was capable of in the 4th quarter as he blatantly (sometimes decoying) directed his wingman before the face-off and proceeded to dominate the draws into fast-breaks.
“Across the board in any game, possession is key. That little time period where Lehigh got back into it, again credit them. They made plays. But we lost possessions in clearing. Not that it was drastic, but you know we had three or four times we misplayed a ball or didn’t get a good pass. Things along those lines there,” said Shillinglaw.
“Alex is just one aspect, a big aspect, don’t get me wrong, but the more times you get the ball the better opportunities you’re going to end up having and the less the other team has. We harp on it with turnovers; we harp on it with clearing, efficiency there. Obviously we have a good advantage with Alex there.”
Offensively, Lehigh struggled a bit to penetrate and get the looks they wanted. Their best opportunities came on one-on-one dodges with players going to the goal. Their 4th and 5th goals both came on one-on-one’s initiated from X. They had trouble creating looks off feeds. Delaware had more success in one-on-one match-ups than team sets as well. Adam Zuder-Haven’s three 4th quarter goals were all unassisted and generally began with him dodging from X to either beat his man top-side or inside roll with no slide coming. Chris Hichborn’s 2nd goal of the game came with 1:37 left as Lehigh was double and triple-teaming the ball. Hichborn tucked his stick and ran through what looked like the entire Lehigh defense to add the 9th and final goal.
Lehigh doesn’t have much time to re-coup as they now head home for a match-up with up-start Drexel, who everyone has heard by now upset top-ranked Virginia on Saturday. The Lehigh defense, led by some tough poles, will need Spirko to play big in net again to overcome the Dragons. Hopefully the defense can buy some time so that the Lehigh offense can work out the February kinks and get back on track as they’ll need to be able to generate more than 5 goals a game to be competitive in the Patriot League this year.
As for Delaware they host Manhattan on Saturday for the Jaspers’ 1st game of 2007. The last time those two teams faced each other was in 2005, where Delaware escaped with a 9-8 win. Shillinglaw pointed out that today was the first day the Blue Hens were able to use their turf field since last week’s snow storm. They’ll welcome Manhattan and look to gain more confidence as they get set to enter March which sees home games against Rutgers, Georgetown and Hofstra, and road trips to Albany and Duke.
|Adam Zuder-havens||(4, 0)|
|Chris Hichborn||(2, 1)|
|Vincent Giordano||(1, 1)|
|Martin Cahill||(1, 0)|
|Dan Deckelbaum||(0, 1)|
|Jordan Hall||(1, 0)|
|Tommy Scherr||11 (0.688)|