Syracuse at Loyola: Three things to watch
While the No. 19 Greyhounds’ goalie dilemma involving Jake Hagelin and Alex Peaty will be a significant story line Saturday, here are a few more factors that could help determine the final outcome.
1) Although Loyola has allowed a modest 8.4 goals per game, the unit has not faced an offensive juggernaut like the one the No. 2 Orange brings to town. Syracuse is averaging 14.1 goals per contest, which ranks second in the nation behind No. 1 Virginia’s unit (14.2). While mindful of the Orange’s offense, Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey pointed out that a good portion of Syracuse’s success is rooted in the team’s ability to score goals and maintain momentum by going on runs. The Orange has recorded a 3-0 run in each of its seven games this season and bursts of 6-0 in five contests. "One thing that Syracuse thrives on is three- and four-goal runs," Toomey said. "You don’t want to get into an up-and-down when you’re playing from behind."
2) Loyola’s biggest advantage is in face-offs, where junior John Schiavone ranks 11th in the country with a .586 face-off percentage. The Orange’s best face-off specialist, Jake Moulton, is out for the season with a hand injury, and none of his four back-ups is above .500. More faceoffs mean more possessions and – potentially – opportunities to score goals and keep the ball out of Syracuse’s hands. "We need to get out on the goalie quick," Greyhounds fifth-year senior attackman Shane Koppens said. "We’ve got to have the ball right away and get great looks at the cage. We’ve got to get eight- to 10-yard looks and get them into good spots on goal. I think we can attack their defense. Our offense, when it clicks, can be dangerous."
3) Loyola is widely considered the underdog in this match-up, but you won’t find any players admitting to that. They’re still smarting from Saturday’s loss to Massachusetts, and tensions boiled over on Tuesday during practice when a fight erupted among several offensive and defensive players. There’s an air of anticipation around Diane Geppi-Aikens Field for Saturday’s game, and the last time the Orange paid a visit to Loyola’s campus, Syracuse went home with a 11-10 loss. "It’s our home field, and we play great here," Koppens said of a Greyhounds program that is 12-6 at home under Toomey. "It’s going to be a great crowd, and it’s going to be a great day. We love putting on our white jerseys and getting after it."