Syracuse junior goalie Jay Pfeifer didn't even make the honorable mention list when All-America teams were announced yesterday. He did, however, make the all-NCAA tournament team after his impressive 15-save performance against Navy helped the Orange win its second national championship in three years.
The Gilman graduate has been one of Syracuse's most unheralded players. It has been easy to overlook him on a squad with perennially potent offenses and possibly the country's most exciting player in Michael Powell.
But his nine saves in the second half yesterday, including five in the third quarter and a kick save on a point-blank shot by Ian Dingman, were huge as the Orange held Navy to one goal in the third period and took a 10-8 lead entering the fourth.
"I thought Pfeifer came up big a couple of times, especially at the end of the game," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "We had a couple of chances and couldn't cash in."
In a game that featured 10 ties and five lead changes and in which neither team led by more than two goals at any point, Pfeifer's performance might have been as important as any.
"It took awhile to get going," Pfeifer said. "As soon as I started making a couple saves, I knew I could keep the momentum."
Playing in his hometown, Pfeifer joked that he heard the predominantly pro-Navy crowd chanting his name in an attempt to rattle him. But he made several saves on close-range shots in the second half.
He also led the team with six ground balls on a day when the Midshipmen otherwise dominated that category 60-39.
His 15 saves brought his tournament total to 55, surpassing the 46 he made in 2002, when he also was named to the all-tournament team.
"It would be nice to be an All-American," Pfeifer said. "But a national championship is just fine. I'd rather win a championship than be first-team [All-American]."
Yesterday's paid attendance was 43,898, easily breaking the record for a championship game (37,944) set last year.
More than 40,000 tickets were sold for yesterday's game before the start of Saturday's semifinals. That figure included upper-deck seating, which was not available last year.
Counting each game individually, the NCAA said the three-day paid attendance was 177,523.
Joining Pfeifer on the all-tournament team were defenders Dan DiPietro (Syracuse), Mitch Hendler (Navy) and Tim Sullivan (Princeton); midfielders Sean Lindsay (Syracuse), Kevin Dougherty (Syracuse) and Graham Gill (Navy); and attackmen Powell, Brian Nee (Syracuse) and Ryan Boyle (Princeton). ... Legendary Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. gave a pre-game speech to the Orange. ... Navy goalie Matt Russell was scheduled for a 4 a.m. flight this morning to Jacksonville, Fla., where he is assigned to an aircraft carrier. ... Navy won 20 of 30 faceoffs.
Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.