May 25, 2014

Schoenhut's Loss Can't Slow Tufts Juggernaut

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Ben Andreycak (above) had a pair of goals in the stead of Chris Schoenhut -- the nation's leading goal-scorer -- who wasn't able to play in the national championship game because of an injury suffered in the semifinals. (John Strohsacker)

One of Mike Daly's favorite boasts is that his Tufts team doesn't have a 'Plan B.' The Jumbos have their approach, and nothing will ever chase them out of their system.

But surely when a team loses the leading goal-scorer in the country, the scheme would have to be altered. At least that was the conventional wisdom when it was learned just before the start of Sunday's Division III championship game between Tufts and Salisbury that Chris Schoenhut, the Jumbos' crease attackman who had scored 80 goals and dished out six assists entering Sunday, would not play because of an injury suffered in the semifinals against RIT.

"I don't know that we ever talked about it or noticed it," Daly said of Schoenhut's absence after Tufts beat the Sea Gulls, 12-9.

On its face, it sounds pretty callous, but that's all part of the Tufts system.

No one is irreplaceable.

Earlier in the season, the Jumbos played Bates and Cole Bailey, who was named the Most Outstanding Player on Sunday after a one-goal, five-assist performance, couldn't go because of an injury. Even though he amassed more than 100 points this year and was eventually named the conference player of the year and a first-team All-American, Tufts just moved on.

"We have great players top to bottom and that's a pretty big help," Daly said. "When we lost Cole, nobody panicked and nobody cared, and we went on to put up 20-plus goals or whatever in that game."

Even Schoenhut's teammates know the deal.

"It hurts Chris more than it hurts the team because we have so much confidence in the guys behind him," Bailey said.

"We're always talking about 49 guys stepping up and being the difference-maker," added John Uppgren, who had two goals and two assists against Salisbury.

Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman didn't notice much of a difference without Schoenhut, either.

"They did the same thing they've been doing all year," he said. "Nothing changed."

The player who ostensibly took over for Schoenhut was sophomore Ben Andreycak, who amassed all of 18 goals and 10 assists this spring. More importantly, he had the full confidence of the rest of the team.

"There isn't a guy who works harder than Ben Andreycak, even when he wasn't playing earlier in the year," Daly said. "Every time he scored over the last couple of games, I was just screaming, 'Karma!' That kid is the hardest working kid in the program. That's where opportunity meets the road."

Although the Jumbos quickly moved passed Schoenhut's presence on the field, they were there for their stricken teammate.

"He was pretty heartbroken when he heard from the doctors that he wouldn't be able to play, as we all would be if we couldn't play," said Patton Watkins, who made 17 saves for the Jumbos. "Some of the guys from his house sent out a text saying, 'Guys, we need to be there for Chris because he's feeling pretty down.' Instead of going back home to his family, he said, 'No, this is my family and I'm going to be here.'"

Because he stayed with the team, Daly added him to the sideline roster list as a coach.

"The kid was devastated," Daly said. "He's as tough as they come and earned everything to be on that field and soak up that moment. But because of who he is, we had him dress like a coach and he was in Coach [Sean] Kirwan's ear the whole day, and he participated and contributed. He was a huge factor helping with eyes where they needed to be and more about the team than about him."

"A lot of kids in his position would be sulking," Uppgren said. "When you get injured and can't play in the national championship game, that's real tough. But all week he was teaching the kids how to play inside and how to play that position and going through some of the plays we run for him. He did an unbelievable job. It was amazing to see how engaged he was."

"He definitely fulfilled his role," added Bailey. "He was talking to the crease guy the whole time about the two slides, just letting him know where he should be. He was a huge part of our success today."

Because Schoenhut is just a junior – one of the many key cogs from this year's team that will return in 2015 – he'll get another chance at making a title run. And even though he was quickly replaced on the field, Schoenhut's willingness to fill a different role speaks to the kind of roll the Jumbos were on this spring.

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