Sawyer, Pontrello Star in Loyola’s Rout of Duke

Duke thought that Mike Sawyer graduated last year. Well, they are right, he did. Unfortunately, for the Blue Devils, his brother Matt Sawyer did not. On Sunday, Loyola and Sawyer torched the Blue Devils in one of this weekend’s showcase games. Sawyer and junior Nikko Pontrello combined for 11 of the team’s 14 goals as the Greyhounds routed the Blue Devils 14-7. Sawyer scored six goals while Pontrello added five and senior Justin Ward scored a goal and handed out four assists to bring his season assist total to 22.

After falling behind 4-3 after the first quarter, the Greyhounds used a 5-0 second quarter run to capture the lead and rout the Blue Devils.

For Loyola, Sunday was a statement game that immediately puts the Greyhounds in the hunt for the National Title. Meanwhile for Duke, it sends the Blue Devils back to Durham scrambling for answers.

While Sawyer and Pontrello’s offensive explosion will grab the headlines, the biggest takeaway from Sunday’s game is how well the Greyhounds defense played. The Greyhounds were giving up eight goals a game before Sunday’s clash with the Blue Devils. The Greyhounds held Towson, Holy Cross, and Lehigh to four, four and seven goals respectively, after allowing 14 goals to Virginia and 11 to Penn State.

Therefore, it seemed as if Loyola would have been overmatched for a Duke offense that ranked in the Top 10 nationally in goals per game before Sunday. However, Loyola, led by standout defenseman Joe Fletcher, held arguably the nation’s top attack unit to a combined three goals and one assist. Considering what other star attackmen—i.e. James Pannell and Shane Sturgis—had done to them, this is an encouraging sign for the Greyhounds heading into the rest of the season.

On the other hand, Duke has some big questions heading into the rest of their season. The biggest question has to be what they are doing in goal? Kyle Turri, who led the Blue Devils to a national title last season, was benched earlier in the season for Luke Aaron. Aaron was playing well until he was rattled in goal by the Greyhounds. They went to Turri for the rest of the game and he played better. Now the question becomes who the goalie is for Duke? Do they go back to Turri or put Aaron back in there. This is important because a goalie’s psyche can be fragile and continuing to change goalies can be dangerous.

The other question Duke will have to answer is what they will do on midfield. While their attack unit of Jordan Wolf, Case Matheis and Josh Dionne is explosive, their midfield unit and young and inexperienced. It was exposed on Sunday as they couldn’t generate much offense from up top which makes their offense very predictable. Either Deemer Class or Myles Jones will have to emerge as a threat for the Blue Devils to succeed.

Finally, Loyola was able to negate any advantage that Duke had at the faceoff X on Sunday as Graham Savio went 10-23 on faceoffs. While it is nothing to brag about, to almost draw even with first-team All American Brendan Fowler was a big deal. On the season, Fowler had won around 63 percent of his faceoffs. On Sunday, he was held to 56 percent. Still pretty darn good, yes, but not as dominant as usual.

Duke should bounce back tomorrow night against a weak Marquette team before their rivalry game against North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Greyhounds will look to extend their winning streak against Army.