The 5th ranked Duke Blue Devils jumped out early on the 12th ranked Delaware Blue Hens and coasted to a 12-6 victory. Duke was paced offensively by Zack Greer (3g, 2a) and Matt Danowski (2g, 4a), while the defense did an excellent job of shutting Delaware down. Delaware's offense couldn't get into a rhythm until late in the 3rd quarter, down 11-1. Delaware goalie Tommy Scherr was huge in net with 16 saves, while midfielder Alex Smith was superb at the face-off circle winning 18 of 21, both were needed.
Alex Smith set a great tone on the opening face-off for Delaware. He pushed the ball forward to himself. Sprinted downfield, ran through a check and ripped a shot, which hit the pipe. Unfortunately things went down from there for Delaware, while Duke fired on all cylinders. On their first possession, Duke worked the ball around with Matt Danowski being shut off. Midfielder Brad Ross drove down the side, tried to come back to the middle was forced under, tried to push up again only to be forced under again. Despite the nice defensive effort, Ross put a low percentage shot past Scherr high to get the scoring going. Their next goal came off a long possession where Danowski got himself free from the shut-off and found Ross again for his 2nd goal of the day.
It was evident early that Duke’s offense came to play. Their passes seemed sharper than they have in the other games this reporter has seen.
“It’s something we’ve been working on,” said Duke head coach John Danowski on their improved crispness.
“They certainly were going to try to deny Matt early, and some guys stepped up and made plays. They weren’t going to slide from Matt, so we put him on the crease, we had him set picks and other guys have to make plays. Brad Ross stepped up and made some plays, Ned Crotty made some plays. I thought that was pretty good. I thought Matt could have about 10 assists today. It looked like Zack Greer struggled on extra-man, he struggled in some situations. I thought overall despite the fact that they were shutting him off, Matt did a good job.”
With the shut-off still in place, Max Quinzani added Duke’s 3rd goal on a nice inside roll. Just six minutes in and Duke had a comfortable 3-0 lead. On the defensive end Duke didn’t give Delaware much breathing room and really made them work for opportunities.
“I thought we were very disciplined. We weren’t trying to check, we were trying to play great individual position and then play really well off the ball. I thought there were times could have been a little less disciplined and could have tried to make plays individually and didn’t try to do that. I was really proud of them for the discipline they showed defensively,” said Danowski.
“It really started in the 2nd half against Carolina where we held them to one goal in the 2nd half. It started against Georgetown, we only gave up one goal in the 2nd half. One goal today in the 1st half. Cornell, it was two goals at halftime. So defensively you can see that improvement. Guys are buying in to a new system. Fourth defensive coordinator in four years. New ideas, new ways of playing, new ways of looking at the game. We’ve got four or five seniors, and a freshman and a sophomore and a junior, it takes time to mesh.”
Delaware did manage to get a few shots off in the first quarter, but the shots were easily handled by Duke goalie Dan Loftus, who contributed 10 saves on the day. Duke’s defense didn’t give up many good looks at the cage all day. While Delaware was having trouble generating quality shots, Duke was not. Fortunately for the Blue Hens, goalie Tommy Scherr stepped up in a major way.
In the first quarter, with a flag down, Fred Krom drove and had a point-blank opportunity, save by Scherr with about 6:39 to play. On the ensuing man-up, Zack Greer got a pass with plenty of time on the crease, two or three fakes later, another point-blank save by Scherr. Those two were Scherr’s only saves of the period, but they kept hope alive for Delaware.
“Their goalie made a lot of saves and it was the shots we had that were really in-tight. It wasn’t like we were forcing shots and taking outside shots. We were getting good looks inside,” said Danowski.
Another area that Duke really excelled at was riding the ball. With under 2:00 to go in the first, Duke rode the ball back, but overthrew it on their own clear. Quinzani came up with the ball and got it to Danowski who drove lefty and beat Scherr high for Duke’s 4th goal. Duke’s 5th goal came on a pass from Greer that he lofted to Peter Lamade. Lamade made a great jumping catch coming through traffic tucked his stick and ran through a couple of checks to beat Scherr one-on-one. That goal game with just :03 left in the first. On the day, Duke was perfect clearing the ball, 22 of 22, while Delaware was only successful on 17 of 25 attempts. Credit Duke for their tenacity riding, every clear Delaware had, they had to earn.
The 2nd quarter wasn’t much different. Alex Smith dominated the face-offs, but Duke controlled the pace of the game. While Scherr fought to keep Delaware in the game. Less than three minutes into the period, Scherr made a big save, followed by a point-blank shot from Greer that went wide followed by a pipe shot. Despite having great possessions and quality opportunities, Delaware’s defense held tight. Defenseman Rob Smith made a nice strip of Zack Greer with about 8:30 to go and pushed with a nice clear.
Duke wouldn’t get their 6th goal until under two minutes to play when Brad Ross found Zack Greer for their 6th. On the ensuing face-off, Alex Smith again won it forward and pushed it into a fast-break. This time he took a shot which Loftus saved. On the clear, Duke pushed the transition chance. Defenseman Tony McDevitt carried it over midfield and into the box where he hit Zack Greer. Greer hit midfielder Mike Catalino who finished the fast break with 1:17 to go in the half.
Delaware wouldn’t head into the locker room scoreless as Dan Deckelbaum made a nice effort on a diving shot with just :34 to play in the half. Duke would add another last second goal, however. With :19 in the half, Duke called a timeout. Following the whistle, they generated a good look, but it was wide. :06 left. Following that whistle, Danowski drove at X. He looked inside and found Ned Crotty who put in their 7th with just :01 to play.
The third quarter wasn’t much different from the previous three, as repetitive as it sounds. Smith was a perfect 5-for-5 on face-offs, Scherr had 4 nice saves, and Duke won the quarter 3-1. Late in the quarter, Delaware’s man-down unit did a nice job of almost surviving a three-minute illegal stick penalty assessed to attackman Beau Davis. The penalty was assessed at 4:58, and they held on to the 2:30 mark where again Scherr made a point-blank save. Only this time Danowski came up with the rebound and ripped Duke’s 11th goal in. Giving them the 11-1 lead.
Delaware fought the entire way. Freshman midfielder Kevin Kaminsky made two nice individual plays to notch two 4th quarter goals just over a minute apart, while sophomore attackman Nick LoManto notched two goals, one off a Jordan Hall feed. Delaware’s other goal scorer was Jordan Hall, who almost didn’t make it into the box on a 10-second count, but just lowered his shoulder through the Duke defense and found the back of the net.
“Well certainly, I thought we came out and got a lead. It’s been awhile since we’ve done that. So that was important. I thought that we knew coming in the face-off battle was probably not going to go our way, it didn’t hurt us. We cleared the ball really well with a lot of poise. I thought we rode well. I thought we created some turnovers, got the ball back, and got after some groundballs. You know, at the end, you get a lead, there’s such a tendency to look at the scoreboard and think that it was easy to get there. But it wasn’t easy. You forget how hard you worked to make it 11-1 at one point. But you also have to give Delaware credit for hanging in there and fighting and not giving up. I thought they did a great job in the 4th quarter,” said Danowski.
For three quarters, it may have been Duke’s most complete game.
“I thought for three quarters, guys, despite that we were getting our butt whipped facing off, I thought that clearing, riding, team offense, team defense it was probably our best effort for those first three quarters,” said Danowski.
Duke tried six different face-off guys, none were able to win more than one.
Duke returns to action tomorrow against Bellarmine, while Delaware looks to get back on track next weekend against conference foe Drexel.
|Matt Danowski||(2, 4)|
|Zack Greer||(3, 2)|
|Brad Ross||(2, 1)|
|Ned Crotty||(2, 0)|
|Peter Lamade||(1, 1)|
|Max Quinzani||(1, 0)|
|Mike Catalino||(1, 0)|
|Dan Loftus||10 (0.625)|