May 27, 2013

Rapid Reaction: Duke Downs Syracuse for National Title

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

Duke faceoff man Brendan Fowler won 20 of 28 faceoffs against Syracuse, keeping the possession in the Blue Devils' favor is it climbed out an an early 5-0 deficit to win 16-10.
© Lee Weissman

* Blue Devils Overwhelm Syracuse
* Fowler, Blue Devils' Steady Force, Dominates
* UnCensered: Why Duke Finished on Top
* Photo Gallery

PHILADELPHIA — Duke walked off the turf at Lincoln Financial Field with the NCAA championship trophy on Monday, downing Syracuse 16-10 to win the Blue Devils' second national championship in program history. The win came before 28,224 fans and a national television audience who were witnesses to Duke faceoff man Brendan Fowler's dominant day, winning 20 of 28 faceoffs. He was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

Fowler Goes Down in History

Fowler, a junior from Long Island who entered the game winning 64.8 percent of his faceoffs, at one point won 13 straight as Duke climbed out of a 5-0 first-quarter deficit and went on a 13-2 run spanning the second, third and early fourth quarters.

"Having Brendan at the faceoff X certainly doesn't hurt anyone's confidence," Duke coach John Danowski said.

In two games this weekend, Fowler won 36 of 59 draws (61 percent) and had 26 ground balls. He also extended his NCAA Division I single-season record for faceoff wins to 399. His 209 ground balls this year are the second-most in a single-season in Division I history.

"I got into a groove and felt good going out there every time," Fowler said after the game Monday.

Slow Start, Great Finish

Duke claimed the hardware after an inauspicious start to the season with a 2-4 record. The Blue Devils have a history of bad starts — in the last five years they are 10-9 in February — but Duke is now 19-5 in the post-season with two national titles in seven straight final four appearances under Danowski.

Danowski was asked in the post-game press conference if this was one of the better coaching jobs he's done, and he deflected the question, instead giving credit to the program's assistant coaches, players and support staff. But it's hard to deny that Danowski has a magic touch keeping tabs on the pulse of his teams and managing personnel. The Duke staff also treats the month of February as a pre-season of sorts in practice and game planning.

This team in particular had amazing balance on offense — three players scored at least three goals Monday, and six had at least two points — a great faceoff man and a sophomore goalie in Kyle Turri who finishes the season with a 14-1 record after taking over for Dan Wigrizer, who ended his career because of concussions.

Syracuse's Faceoff Woes Finally Caught Up to Them

Syracuse lived on the edge all season, having no faceoff success of any kind but earning the top seed in the NCAA tournament and pulling out seven one-goal wins along the way. Those wins including tournament triumphs over teams with talented faceoff takers such as Bryant's Kevin Massa, Yale's Dylan Levings and Denver's Chase Carraro. Syracuse was worst faceoff team ever to reach the championship game at 42.8 percent. The deficiency — widely acknowledged by Syracuse coach John Desko leading up to the game (he last weel called it "our faceoff situation" — finally caught up to the Orange.

Syracuse trotted out six different players, including two long-sticks, in an effort to slow Fowler down.

"I told John [Danowski] after the game to buy his faceoff guy a big steak, because he deserved one," Desko said after the game. "We just couldn't get the ball in the second half."

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