March 15, 2014

Massa, Waldt Key Bryant Slowdown of Albany

by Andrew Santillo | | Twitter

Prolific faceoff man Kevin Massa won 22 of 27 draws and goaltender Gunnar Waldt made 14 saves as Bryant held Albany to a season-low 11 goals. (Bryant)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Mike Pressler's team is still fighting for national respect.

Bryant's 12-11 victory Saturday at Albany, in a battle of Top 20 teams, may go a long way in giving the Bulldogs some of the credit they currently deserve.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the effort of our guys," Pressler said. "Everybody played well today."

Bryant (5-2) has already posted three wins over ranked opponents, but the defending Northeast Conference champions may have just picked up the signature victory of what has been a solid start to the season.

"It's huge for our program and our confidence," said sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt.

It was Waldt who finished off Albany (2-3), with a few of the 14 saves he made on the afternoon, as the Great Danes tried to rally late.

Waldt and junior faceoff man Kevin Massa were the two keys to Bryant's victory. Massa, one of the top faceoff takers in the country, won 22 of 27 draws. That kept the ball away from the Great Danes' dangerous offense, which leads the country in scoring and was coming off a 25-goal outburst against UMass.

"He does an incredible job every game," Waldt said of Massa. "It makes my life a lot easier, as well as the rest of the defense. If he keeps doing what he does, we're going to be very successful."

Massa was third in the country in faceoff percentage, as a freshman and tops last year, as a sophomore, winning 72 percent of draws and breaking the single-season record for ground balls.

"Every day I go out and practice," he said. "[Assistant] Coach [Casey] Brodersen is on me every day and making sure I'm getting better every day."

Like every good faceoff man, Massa's goal isn't to ever lose a draw.

"I take it one at a time," he said. "You hope you win every one, but you can't always do that."

The Bulldogs knew they'd have to control possession and Massa's faceoff prowess did just that.

"It played a big role," Massa said. "We talked about that all week, saying how we'd have to limit their possessions."

When Albany finally did get the ball, it was Waldt and the defense standing tall. The Great Danes were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.

"We had to hold Albany to their season-low," Pressler said. "We hoped to make it a single-digit game."

A top-notch defensive club, one of the best statistically in the county, Bryant was bent on not allowing this game to be played at Albany's breakneck pace, which upset Great Danes coach Scott Marr. The slow pace of play and Massa's pinching of the ball in the X, were two things that Marr voiced his displeasure with.

"They are playing within the rules," he said. "But I hope this summer we change the rules because that style of play is ridiculous."

The Bulldogs took their first lead, midway through the third quarter, when they scored three goals in 2:31. They also scored four of the six fourth-quarter goals.

"That's quite an accomplishment for the team in black," said Pressler.

Each of Albany's three losses has come by a single goal, meaning they are frustratingly close to being an undefeated 5-0.

"That's all woulda, coulda, shoulda stuff," Marr said. "We have to regroup."

Still an upstart program, just in their sixth season at the Division I level, Bryant is hoping that wins like this will continue to raise its profile. Pressler knows the NEC will be tough this season, but he has high expectations for this group and with good reason, following this result.

"We've been great down the middle all year and it starts with No. 40 and No. 41," he said, motioning towards Waldt and Massa.

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