Johns Hopkins vs. Virginia: Three things to watch
Since Dave Pietramala took the head coaching reins from John Haus prior to the 2001 season, the Blue Jays are 19-6 in the NCAA tournament and have made six final four appearances. Here are three game developments that could be critical for Johns Hopkins (10-4), which tangles with Virginia (14-2) on Sunday at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
1) Shut off the interior. Since surrendering 30 goals in losses to Syracuse and Virginia, the Blue Jays have allowed 71 goals in their last eight contests. But the interior of the defense has been vulnerable, especially last Saturday when Brown scored its last six goals from the area in front of junior goalkeeper Michael Gvozden. After permitting 12 goals to the Cavaliers in the first half of the teams’ regular-season meeting on March 21, Johns Hopkins surrendered just four the rest of the way. Junior defenseman Sam DeVore said the key in that second half – and in every game – is cranking up the volume on defensive chatter. "We all need to be on the same page at the same time," he said. "We need to communicate well and help each other out when needed."
2) Take advantage of the short stick. Virginia must decide how to distribute its four long-pole defensemen among the Blue Jays’ top five scorers in attackmen Chris Boland, Kyle Wharton and Steven Boyle and midfielders Michael Kimmel and Brian Christopher. If the Cavaliers elect to assign a short-stick defensive midfielder on Wharton – who is dealing with an injured ankle – it will be up to Wharton and his teammates to make the defense pay for that decision.
3) Get a boost in the faceoff game. When these teams met in March, junior Michael Powers sat out with an injured right arm, and Virginia won 22 of 34 (64.7 percent) of the faceoffs. Powers, who has won 60.8 percent (48 of 79) of his faceoffs, should be able to help sophomore Matt Dolente (51.3 percent on 120 of 234) battle Cavaliers senior Chad Gaudet (55.9 percent, 165 of 295), who won 21 of 32 in the regular-season meeting. "The fact that Michael Powers can play gives us another opportunity to change it up on the faceoff guy that we’re facing and maybe knock him out of rhythm a little bit," Pietramala said. "Any time you go to a gunfight, you don’t want to go with just one gun. You want to bring two guns."