Now that the kryptonite has been taken out of the University of Virginia locker room, the man of Steele is on a mission.
UVA’s Steele Stanwick has scored a hat trick in each of Virginia’s tournament games, and has 20 points in 3 games (3G, 5A against Bucknell; 3G, 4A vs Cornell; 3G, 2A against Denver). The offense is running through Stanwick and he is calling the shots.
Stanwick faces a Maryland team that is playing well, and rallying around their Goalie Niko Amato. In tournament play Niko has an average of 5 goals against per game, and save percentage of 70%. Keep in mind that these numbers are against UNC, Syracuse, and Duke who averaged 11.2 goals per game combined. Niko is putting up ridiculous saves against some of the top scoring offenses in the nation.
I really see this game as a test to Stanwick’s leadership and on field direction (he looked like a traffic cop at points against Denver telling teammates where to go, etc). There is no doubt he’ll be able to slice up Maryland’s defense, but can the UVA shooters get past Amato. While the marquee matchup will be between these two players, it won’t rest all on their shoulders. Each has a supporting cast of characters on their teams that get the job done.
Maryland flat out dominates on face offs. Curtis Holmes is a quick face off specialist. In tournament play, Holmes has won 37 of 53 (70%) face offs. While he may be undersized (170 pounds compared to MD average of 190 pounds), he is quick on the draw.
Grant Catalino and Ryan Young also seem to be peaking at the right time. Catalino has 7 points in tournament games (5G, 2A). Young has 9 points (2G, 7A).
Helping out Stanwick on UVA’s attack is Chris Bocklett who has 11 goals in this tournament (0 Assists), and Matt White with 5 goals and 3 assists.
Virginia’s defense and Adam Ghitelman will have to be on their game when facing Maryland’s offense. While not playing poor by any means, the UVA defense has not had any spectacular games this tournament. Bucknell put up 12 against them, Cornell 9, and Denver 8 (average 9.7 GAA). Ghitelman has a save percentage of 55%. These are respectable numbers, but looking at what the Maryland defense has been able to do, Virginia needs to step it up.
Maryland is going to continue to own face offs. Holmes is dominant and UVA is barely winning 50%. UVA will have to win the Ground Ball battles and try to force turnovers (something Duke was successful at Saturday forcing MD to turn the ball over 11 times). Possession will be critical as Maryland might turn turtle again like they did against Syracuse. It may not be the best game plan as the refs seem to be calling stalls early and often in the two Saturday games. Not that that means anything since even if a stall call is in effect, the offense still has a 30yard by 30 yard area to just sit on the clock.
The hometown fans don’t really care about the stall call. The stadium was mostly Maryland fans as it is their town. The “We Hate Duke” chant could be heard multiple times all the way in the press box. It seemed as the energy from the crowd transferred to the MD defense as they looked REAL physical against Duke. I can only imagine what the crowd has in store for UVA (or the refs). Could a see of Terp fans affect UVA’s communication on the field? It could as Maryland fans are ravenous as the Terps have not been in a final since 1998, and have not won a championship since 1975. We could see an attendance record be broken on Monday.
This is an epic matchup between two different talented and well coached teams. With both teams playing at their peak level at just the right time it will be a shame to see one of them lose. I see Superman finding the achiles heel of Nick Amato and UVA winning in a close one (OT?).