March 20, 2014

Morning Jac: Small College Weekly Notebook

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Salisbury senior goalie Alex Taylor (above) had 15 saves in the Sea Gulls' 12-7 victory over Washington College on Wednesday, but he was helped by his defense. "Alex had a good game, but we did a good job of making them take shots that goalies can save," said Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman. (Kevin P. Tucker)

It had the same characteristics of the great War on the Shore clashes. Both Salisbury and Washington College were Top 10 teams dripping with All-Americans and high postseason aspirations. They entered this game treating it as a benchmark for what May could have in store for them.

The feel of the game was a little off, though.

As I wrote about in December, the War on the Shore is now played on a weekday during spring break instead of its usual place at the end of April because of scheduling conflicts. It didn't help that the game was pushed back a day due to weather, and switched from a night game to an afternoon start. A such, the atmosphere paled to past events.

"It was never like this," said Gulls head coach Jim Berkman of the modest crowd on hand to watch Salisbury defeat the Shoremen, 12-7. "We didn't have any students and I don't think they had any students here. I don't know if they were on spring break or they just didn't travel the distance because it was a weekday at 4 p.m. It was mainly a parent and local crowd, and it was a solid crowd, but it wasn't anywhere typical of that game. Usually the bleachers are filled on both sides when we play them, where it was more on the one side behind the benches yesterday."

While the crowd may have played a factor, it was tough for the folks who did show up to get too juiced. Using a suffocating defense and a methodical offense, Salisbury built a 7-3 lead at halftime and sapped the contest of any excitement.

The clinical precision of the Sea Gulls may not have been as fan-friendly as some of the other high-scoring marquee games this year, but it's still easy to appreciate what Salisbury accomplished.

The home team was manhandled on faceoffs – WAC's Michael Trapp went 17-for-23 with Gulls ace Chris Biank on the shelf with an injury – and the Shoremen had 22 more possessions (by Berkman's count) during the entirety of the game, but were never truly threatened.

"They didn't score off of one of the turnovers off the clear and they didn't score off faceoffs, and those were two of the objectives of the game," Berkman said.

For Berkman, the difference in the game was what the competing defenses allowed.

"Alex [Taylor] had a good game, but we did a good job of making them take shots that goalies can save," he said. "They weren't in on Alex on many in-tight shots. They had a couple, and he did come up with a couple of big saves, but we were pretty efficient in our shooting. We got a lot of shots from nine and 10 yards that makes them difficult to save. We did some good stuff against Washington College's sliding defense, moving the ball and getting it to the back side. Then either inside or for a great shot. We're definitely playing well on offense and extremely unselfish."

That a good sign for the Gulls. The defense has been a constant, but the offense, while not as dynamic as in years past, has found a cold-blooded comfort level. It has helped Salisbury improve to 8-0 heading into this weekend's clash at York – a game that could very well determine the No. 1 seed in the CAC tournament.

"Obviously, York has had a great season to date," Berkman said. "Other than the bump where they had Stevenson on the ropes on a cold February night, they've answered all comers. They had a tough battle last week where their goalie came up with [27] saves for them to beat Mary Washington in overtime. Obviously, we can't hit the goalie or shoot with that kind of efficiency to be successful. They have a good team and veterans at each position. They have a couple of stars with their attackman and the one middie. We've got to play well."

If they play like they did against Washington College, they'll be in good shape, regardless of the atmosphere.

The Cost of High Hits

There is no sane coach, player, fan or parent who doesn't like the new officiating emphasis on trying to rid the game of shots to the head. With the physical nature of the sport, it's impossible to completely eradicate contact to the head because it doesn't typically manifest itself with malicious intent.

Sometimes things just happen.

But what is clear is players will have to think twice about even bringing the potential for a blow to the head into play, because it can cost you a game.

Tim Boyle, the head coach at Dowling, has been on both sides of it.

With the Lions holding a two-goal, fourth-quarter lead against top-ranked Le Moyne – and on the cusp of pulling the biggest upset of the season – last weekend, Dowling was assessed a two-minute non-releasable penalty for a blow to the head.

"It was a bad hit. It actually stopped the game for 15 minutes because the young man was injured," Boyle said. "It's not a good scenario."

The Dolphins capitalized with a goal to cut the lead to one.

"That changes all of the momentum and we lose that game," Boyle continued. "The opposite happens against Merrimack [on Wednesday]. We're down a goal and they get a two-minute unreleasable and we go ahead and win the game."

The Warriors had a 7-6 lead entering the fourth quarter with Dowling, but Matt Crough used the two-minute man-up to pot a pair of goals to give the Lions the lead, the momentum, and eventually the victory.

"I'm sure [Merrimack coach Mike Morgan] would say the same thing: the timing of penalties is important," Boyle said. "You really have to talk to your boys about no contact to head. There is a time and place to take the body, but sometimes there isn't a time and place for that because the momentum can swing so quickly. Hopefully we continue to clean up these kinds of hits and make sure the kids are safe out there."

Slides & Rides

- No. 7 Tufts brought a 21.0 scoring average and a one-game winning streak to No. 2 Stevenson on Tuesday. After the Mustangs 15-9 win, the Jumbos were left with less ostentatious scoring stats and their first loss of the season. Stevenson raced out to a 5-2 lead in the first quarter, and the 'Stangs would never lose the edge.

"We played within the system and we haven't always been doing a good job doing that," said Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene.

The ability of the Mustangs defense to neutralize the Tufts offense that appeared nearly unstoppable in the first four games of the season was the difference.

"We didn't hurt ourselves giving up easy goals," Cantabene said. "For the first time this year we knocked down a lot of passes. We did that a lot last year and we haven't done it much this year. Dmitri [Pecunes] played his best game of the year [in goal]. He hasn't been great for two games in a row, but we thought he played great getting back into the groove of things."

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Mustangs play was the overall poise they showed during the entirety of the game. There was none of the frantic pace or undisciplined play that had turned early leads into contests that were far closer than maybe then should have been.

"That's something we've talked to the guys about. We've been up on a lot of teams and we've let them back into the game and we have to do a better job of understanding the situation and making plays, not compounding one mistake by making a second or third one," Cantabane said. "We've done that a lot to let teams back into games. We played with the lead much better. We learned from previous mistakes and learned from the past. This game we did a much better job of applying that. We did a great job with it."

- Fresh off its win against Merrimack, Dowling will be back in action in yet another critical game, this time against ECC foe NYIT on Saturday.

"It's crazy," Dowling head coach Tim Boyle said. "These in-region games, you hope to get them under your belt, and then as we said in the past, you win one and the next one becomes that much more important. Then you win another one and it becomes that much more important again. You've just got to keep going."

Dowling, which is now 4-1, is taking a page out of NYIT's 2013 notebook. The Lions have half the players most teams they line up against possess, and there aren't a whole lot of subs being run out there. That's how the Bears operated last year, leaning on a core group of guys to do the heavy lifting every game.

"Our depth is not strong," Boyle conceded. "We're down to dressing 28 guys and that's it. We've got to stick together and we have to play as a team at all times."

Dowling's plight is exacerbated by an unrelenting two-week run that consists of Le Moyne, Merrimack, NYIT and Merychurst.

"This turnaround isn't pretty and I'm still trying to figure out who the smart guy was who did this schedule," Boyle said with a laugh.

And don't think that Boyle or the Lions are fooled by Tech's 5-2 record at this point.

"We know what New York Tech has," Boyle said. "I don't' even look at those two losses they took because we know how good they are and can be."

- Eastern and Whittier both lost games on Tuesday night – the Eagles to Ursinus and the Poets to Albright – as they prepare for the important Pool B clash between each other on Friday afternoon. It's not an elimination game, per se, but these games make comparisons very easy for the committee, and the more head-to-head wins (like Eastern's over Colorado College last week) the better. Another Pool B contender, Otterbein, also lost to Wittenberg on Tuesday, making it a dark day for the independents.

- After holding off Stevens last weekend and routing St. Mary's, 18-9, on Wednesday, Denison is a game with Dickinson away from an impressive spring break clean sweep. Not only would a win over the Red Devils almost assuredly send the Red Devils into the Top 5 of the weekly rankings, but it would keep them in the hunt for a lucrative seed in the South region if they can handle their business in the NCAC. Michael Caravana has weapons at every level of the field, and all of them are playing at top form presently.

Division II: Conor Whipple had for five goals and six assists in Tampa's 21-13 triumph over Florida Tech...Jesse Wood had four goals and one assist in Mercy's 10-8 win over St. Michael's...big days for Nick Watson (6g, 1a) and Sal Tuttle (4g, 3a) in the 19-6 rout of winless AIC...Daniel Caddoo (4g, 3a) led Colorado Mesa to 2-0 by blasting Rockhurst...St. Anselm picked up its first win of the season by knocking off No. 14 Molloy, 13-11. Ryan Mee (5g, 3a) led the Hawks while Andy Budz (4g) chipped in...Ross Bowman made 17 saves Mount Olive stunned Saint Leo on Wednesday, 10-9, in overtime. Dan Shields completed his hat trick with 12 ticks left in extra time to win it.

Division III: Clarkson improved to 4-1 after upending No. 15 Wesleyan in Florida, 12-9. Pete Goss with four goals for the Knights...Eastern's Grant Ferguson scored his 100th goal, breaking the school's career mark in the Eagles' 9-4 loss to Ursinus...St. Lawrence rebounded from its loss to Ithaca in Florida by taking down Middlebury, 14-7. Conor Healey (4g, 1a) led the way for the Saints. The Panthers are now 1-4...Greg Majno had 19 saves in Amherst's 16-15 shootout win over Western New England in Florida on Tuesday...Ryon Lynch scored midway through the second overtime, giving No. 14 Springfield a 13-12 victory over No. 20 Endicott...Conn. College dealt Plattsburgh a blow to its Pool C ambitions with an 8-7 win in Maryland...Colorado bounced back with a solid, 11-5 victory over Babson...Salve Regina is up to 7-0...Stevens snapped its streak of five straight losses to ranked opponents by upsetting No. 11 Montclair on Wednesday, 10-7.

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