February 21, 2014

Barrett Emerges in Goal as Virginia Sits at 3-0

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Virginia freshman goalie Matt Barrett got off to a weak start to the season but came up with 16-save performance in a one-goal win over Drexel.

Let us count the crazy turns that have marked arguably the most unusual, 3-0 start ever at Virginia.

In their season opener, the Cavaliers gave up a 9-0, fourth quarter run to lose an eight-goal lead against Loyola, but tied the game in the closing seconds of regulation and won in overtime. Two days later, Virginia welcomed Richmond officially to the Division I ranks by allowing a 7-0, first-half run to the Spiders then came back and held Richmond at bay effectively enough to survive, 13-12.

A week later, the Cavs got into what has become an annual February dogfight with Drexel, which opened its season by pushing Virginia to the brink once again. This time, senior attackman Mark Cockerton gave the Cavs the last word with 15 seconds left, and freshman goalie Matt Barrett, who had struggled mightily in his first two outings, lifted UVA with 16 saves to help it slip out of Philly with an 11-10 win.

"I've been part of my share of 3-0 starts, but never anything like this," said Dom Starsia, who escaped Drexel with his 250th victory in 22 seasons in Charlottesville. "Anytime you have a one-goal game, you go back and look at all of the little things that could have gone differently."

The story at Virginia is the way the Cavs have battled through wild inconsistency to secure three Ws by the slimmest of margins. Two of those victories (Loyola and Drexel) could prove quite valuable on NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.

Virginia has won only 43.2 percent of its faceoff attempts. It has been outscored in the fourth quarter, 14-5. It has allowed 11.67 goals per game. And Barrett has saved just 45.3 percent of the 106 shots he has faced – which indicates how unsatisfactory those first two games were for the newcomer.

Starsia said he was ready to replace Barrett with veteran Rhody Heller if the freshman got off to a rocky start at Drexel. But Barrett, a 6-foot, 220-pound product of Malvern Prep, responded with a performance that earned him the first ACC defensive player of the week honor by a Virginia player in two years.

"[Barrett] is a big, teddy-bear of a kid with a short memory, and he fills up the goal," Starsia said. "I talked him into playing football as a senior [in high school]. Then he tore his ACL. He built himself up slowly through the fall, and we felt like he had a chance to be our guy. He sealed the deal with our scrimmage against Navy. Over the course of 60 minutes at Drexel, if you asked who played the best game, it was Matt Barrett."

Over the course of UVA's living on the edge, the 1-2 scoring punch of Cockerton and sophomore James Pannell (younger brother of former Cornell superstar Rob) also have emerged as a godsend. Pannell, no longer hampered by the lower body injury that severely hampered him a freshman, leads the Cavs with 10 goals on 47.6 percent shooting.

Aaron to start in goal for Duke

Duke junior goalie Kyle Turri was not flashy, but he almost always did enough to win a year ago, when the Blue Devils got on an amazing roll and never stopped until they were the last team standing. But Turri also is the latest, prime reminder that players exist in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of world.

After pulling Turri following an unimpressive first quarter against Denver on Saturday and replacing him with sophomore Luke Aaron – he lifted the top-ranked Blue Devils (2-0) to a 14-10 win over Denver – Danowski said Aaron will get the call on Friday night against visiting Penn.

"The fact is Kyle made only two saves against Jacksonville and only had one against Denver. We thought we were playing some pretty good defense against Denver in the first quarter," Danowski said. "Luke gave us a spark. We're going to see how it goes with him against Penn."

Penn State needs a 'W'

Under normal circumstances, Saturday's Penn State-Notre Dame game would be simply an attractive, early-season, nonconference contest between two programs that preach defense and are in search of a potential boost in RPI and strength of schedule numbers. But these are not normal circumstances for No. 13 Penn State (1-1).

Since the Nittany Lions are headed for the Big Ten next year, and have been banned from this year's Colonial Athletic Association tournament as a result, this late February matchup is much more crucial for Penn State.

The Lions not only are trying to make their second straight NCAA tournament and win their first postseason game under coach Jeff Tambroni. They need every big nonconference win they can get, since an automatic qualifier is out of the question.

One week after losing to No. 9 Loyola at home in overtime, Penn State will travel to face the fourth-ranked, playoff-seasoned Fighting Irish. The Lions also will play at No. 5 Denver on March 10.

Penn State likely must win at least one of those games. Expect the Lions to play with a sense of high urgency in South Bend.

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