With his eye-opening 22-of-30 performance in Denver’s 16-14 upset of No. 8 seed North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Saturday, Pioneers junior Chase Carraro ranks fifth in Division I with a 62.9 faceoff percentage.
But as important as faceoffs are to determining possession, it’s what Denver does after the faceoffs that has caught the attention of No. 1 seed Loyola, which will face the Pioneers in a quarterfinal contest at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis this Saturday.
Denver turned six of Carraro’s faceoff wins in the first half in which the Tar Heels did not regain possession or force a turnover into goals. Greyhounds junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff said the key is recognizing that Carraro is flanked by junior Cameron Flint and sophomore Jeremy Noble on faceoffs.
“So it’s their first line midfield out there,” Ratliff said Wednesday. “If you want to sub your faceoff guy out, it’s hard to get him out without giving up an odd-numbered break. … The last time, [Loyola senior] J.P. [Dalton] did a good job of tying him up and making it a 50-50 ground ball. [Junior short-stick defensive midfielder] Josh Hawkins is huge on the wings. He wins most of those 50-50 ground balls. If we do lose, it’s just sit down and defend and try not to give them that transition situation because that’s when they’re so dangerous.”
Hawkins agreed, adding, “You have a FOGO [Face-Off, Get-Off] that must stay on defense, and that’s what they try to do. They’re all fast, they’re all shifty. Two of them are Canadians, and they have that certain style of play, which is difficult to defend. They’re a very good group of guys, and Coach [Bill] Tierney has done a great job by keeping them on the field on faceoffs. It creates a huge problem for the other side when you try to get your FOGO off. We’ve proved that we’ve been able to combat that in the last two games, and I think that’ll definitely be an important part to nail down again.”
Carraro won 68.5 percent (37-of-54) of his faceoffs in two meetings against the Greyhounds this season, but Tierney pointed out that those wins did not translate into marks in the win column for the Pioneers.
“They beat us by three goals the first time when we won 21-of-25 faceoffs. So to me, that can sometimes you how little of importance dominating faceoffs can be in some games. What I think is more important is if you look at the last game, do you score off of those faceoffs? They certainly did. That’s how they won in overtime [14-13 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament semifinal on May 2]. So I think in the first game, we may have, but in the second game, I don’t think we did. That’s the more important thing. At the end of the day, if there’s 25 faceoffs and one team wins 15 and the other team wins 10, I don’t think that means a whole heck of a lot. It’s about what happens after the faceoffs.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times