Both teams are 4-1. Both teams have only lost to an undefeated #1 ranked team (at the time), and are ranked #4 & #5 (Duke and Loyola respectively).
And in the NCAA tournament last year, Duke eliminated Loyola in double over time on their way to a national championship.
This year Duke is 4-1 with wins over Denver and Penn, and a loss to Maryland.
Leading Duke’s offense is Jordan Wolf 12G/10A; Josh Dionne 12G/2A; Deemer Class 6G/6A; and Case Mathias 7G/4A
Taking face offs for Duke is Brendan Fowler, arguably the best FO specialist in the game right now (63%).
In net for Duke is Luke Aaron who has proven a solid goalie so far as a Freshman with a 6.9 Goals Against Average, and save percentage 65.3%
Loyola is 4-11 with wins over Penn State and Lehigh, and a loss to Virginia.
Loyola’s top scorers are Nikko Pontrello 19G/5A; Justin Ward 4G/15A; Brian Schultz 9G/6A; Kevin Ryan 11G/1A; and Brian Sherlock 6G/4A.
Taking face-offs for Loyola is a Freshman, Graham Savio, and so far he is holding his own with 59%
In net for Loyola is Jack Runkle who has a 7.6 Goals against average, and save percentage of 58.5%
Keys to the game:
1) Will Duke’s Brendan Fowler take Graham Savio’s candy at the Face Off X? Even though Graham has done well, he is only a Freshman and has not faced the machine that Fowler is. Fowler will win the war, but it won’t be a landslide.
2) Loyola moves the ball fast and gets defenses out of position, with virtually anyone on the field in a Loyola uniform able to finish. Duke’s defense is quick, but will they be able to shut down all the threats, especially Nikko who is on fire so far this year?
3) Turnovers. Duke has turned the ball over 87 times so far, with only 34 caused by their opponents leaving 53 unforced turnovers. That is too many in only 5 games. Loyola has only turned the ball overall a total of 53 times, with only 20 unforced. Duke always hustles and has great groundball numbers, but they need to hold onto the ball.
4) Offense. Loyola has 16 more goals than Duke on only 5 more shots. This could partly be due to the fact Loyola has converted 8 of 14 Extra Man Opportunities compared to Duke’s 3 of 14. Loyola’s Pontrello is on pace for 50+ goals this year and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
I think Loyola gets some sweet revenge in this one and pulls away at the end by 4.