March 22, 2012

MD1 Notebook: Syracuse Still Finding Its Groove

by Gary Lambrecht |

Matt Lerman (above) and Dominic Lamolinara are still flip-flopping in goal for the Orange.
© John Strohsacker/ 

To watch the No. 9 Syracuse Orange lumber through its 11-7 loss at second-ranked Johns Hopkins on Saturday was to watch a proud program hitting the reset button with predictably shaky results this early in the season.

The Orange was slow and tentative on offense, pedestrian in the faceoff game, unsteady in the cage. The vaunted transition game was absent (credit that in part to an attentive, athletic Johns Hopkins defense). The youthful defense was behind on slides and switches. The game got so one-sided that Hopkins, up 10-4 after dominating for most of three quarters, seemed a little bored in the fourth quarter.

The Orange lost seven starters and a stack of All-Americans, including LSM extraordinaire Joel White, close defenseman John Lade and goalie John Galloway. Syracuse (4-2) is very inexperienced, and the Orange will grow in time. But watching the Orange take only 29 shots and get no offensive spark from anyone other than sophomore attackman Derek Maltz (three goals) made you wonder.

Will the Orange grow up fast, or unravel in the manner of that 5-8 team in 2007? Right now, Syracuse can't win faceoffs with any consistency. It had won only 20 of its last 69 draws heading into Wednesday's 10-6 victory over Providence. Right now, Syracuse can't produce sustained offensive runs, is still flip-flopping goalies Matthew Lerman and Dominic Lamolinara, and remains in search of its first quality win of 2012.

"Right now, if we're 50 percent [on our faceoff attempts], I'll take it," Syracuse coach John Desko said after the Hopkins game. "We're going to have to be very efficient offensively. We might even have to play [slow] like some other teams, as far as holding the ball more and resting our defense."

Who are these guys? Believe it or not, this is Syracuse.

Irish Doing It Their Way

Notre Dame is ranked No. 7 this week. The Fighting Irish ought to be ranked first in "Most Economical and Least Margin of Error."

The Irish (5-1) did it again on Wednesday by capturing an 8-7 victory at unranked Ohio State. This was vintage Notre Dame, which has won four consecutive, one-goal games. Notre Dame has been involved in five straight one-goal affairs for the first time in program history.

At Ohio State, the Irish were outshot, 41-21, won just seven of 19 faceoffs, failed on five of 19 clears, lost the ground ball battle, 31-25 and whiffed on all three extra-man attempts.

No problem. Notre Dame turned to its ultimate equalizer – a defense anchored by junior goalie John Kemp. He racked up 17 saves in another stellar effort that further entrenches Kemp as the top goalie in the country as the season reaches its midpoint.

And the resourceful Irish really made their shots count again. Three days after eight different players scored in a 10-9, triple-overtime thriller over Denver, seven different players scored on an 8-for-21 shooting day. Notre Dame, which had been getting off nearly 35 shots per game two weeks ago, has struggled mightily to find the net. The Irish have upped their shooting percentage to 21.3 percent.

"We're not slowing the game down like some people think," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "If we were playing bad offense, we wouldn't be giving up four or five goals a game [actually 5.5]. We're settling for a lot of shots that are just OK, and our shooting has been just OK."

Hobart's Dattilo Tops on Faceoffs

This week's Wasted Effort Award goes to Hobart senior faceoff man Bobby Dattilo, who has been nothing short of brilliant. In five games, Dattillo has won 73.6 percent of his draws, tops in Division I. Yet, all the Statesmen have to show for it is a 2-4 record, with victories over Binghamton and Canisius.

Turnovers have been the main culprit. Hobart is averaging 20 miscues per game.

So Close, Yet So Far

In a postgame press conference following its 11-6 defeat at the hands of fifth-ranked Loyola on Wednesday, Georgetown head coach Dave Urick looked ahead to Saturday's important game against No. 10 Duke.

Urick expects another competitive contest between the two schools, which typically battle for recruits. One that got away was Blue Devils senior LSM C.J. Costabile, who scored the game-winner over Notre Dame in the 2010 NCAA final after winning a faceoff. Costabile has won 56 percent of his attempts in 2012, while the Hoyas have hovered around 50 percent for most of the season.

"[Costabile] was this close to coming to Georgetown," said Urick, holding his thumb and index finger barely apart. "Ouch."

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