Face-Off Classic: 3 goalies take it and dish it out, too

March 05, 2010|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

Playing goalkeeper on the Division I level should come with hazard pay. Just ask Scott Rodgers, Tyler Fiorito and Brian Phipps.

During a scrimmage this past fall, Rodgers, a senior at Notre Dame, absorbed a 105-mph shot off his right biceps. Fiorito, a sophomore for Princeton, started all 16 games last season despite a bruise running the entire length of his inner left thigh. And Phipps, a Maryland senior, has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees in four years.

"It definitely wears on you," Fiorito said of the position. "By the end of the season, your body takes a toll from standing in there every day. It isn't always fun for a goalie, but it's how you get better."

When these three are in goal, it usually isn't fun for opposing offenses, either.

Rodgers, Fiorito and Phipps will take center stage Saturday when the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic descends on M&T Bank Stadium. The tripleheader includes Phipps and the No. 7 Terps taking on Atlantic Coast Conference rival and No. 6 Duke at 11 a.m.; Fiorito and the No. 8 Tigers trying to upset No. 5 Johns Hopkins at 1:30 p.m.; and Rodgers and the No. 4 Fighting Irish meeting No. 10 Loyola at 4 p.m.

The three goalies have contrasting styles and physical frames, but there is one common thread, according to ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich.

"All three have a pretty good presence, a certain confidence and swagger," said Kessenich, an All-America goaltender who helped Johns Hopkins capture the 1987 national championship. "The type of presence that a quarterback has in the huddle, and I think all three guys have that sense about them."

Just a second-year starter, Rodgers is considered the top goalie in the country. Succeeding former All-American Joey Kemp, Rodgers finished last season first in Division I in both goals-against average (6.14) and save percentage (.663).

Rodgers, 6 feet 4 and 260 pounds, is a huge obstacle for opposing shooters. In Notre Dame's season-opening 11-7 upset of the then-No. 1 Duke on Feb. 20, several Blue Devils were taken aback by his size.

"I've known [senior attackman] Ned Crotty from the All-American game back in our senior years at high school, and the first thing he said to me when we talked before the game was, '[My God], the rumors are true,' " Rodgers said. "I was just laughing it off. But I think it can be kind of surprising to a shooter. I had four or five stuffs inside of 5 yards against Duke where I used my size and played the angles. I just think guys aren't used to seeing that, so when they shoot, I don't think they're prepared for it."

If the Fighting Irish intend to silence last year's critics who questioned the strength of the team's 15-0 regular-season record, they will likely need strong performances from Rodgers, who has not surrendered 10 goals in a game since becoming a starter at the beginning of the 2009 season.

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said Rodgers is not feeling anxious about being scrutinized.

"I think the most pressure comes when you feel like you're not prepared or you haven't done something or you're unsure about something," Corrigan said. "We've got an experienced defense in front of him. He's done the work that he needs to do, and the guys around him are working extremely hard. So I don't think he'll feel any too great of pressure."

If Rodgers is the king, Fiorito has been tabbed as the heir apparent.

The native of Phoenix in Baltimore County and a McDonogh graduate ranked fourth in goals-against average (7.40) and 11th in save percentage (.587) in his first year of college lacrosse.

While honored to be included in the conversation on top players in the nation, Fiorito pointed out that he allowed 14 goals in the Tigers' three-goal victory over then-No. 8 Hofstra on Saturday.

"This past weekend, I didn't have my best game, and it's all about learning from that and making up for it," he said. "I know a lot of people have high expectations for me, but I think I have higher expectations for myself than anyone can possibly give me. I had a pretty good freshman season, and I'm looking to build off of that. So all the people who have been building me up, it's great that they've noticed, but from Day One since I stepped onto campus, my first goal was to start and my second goal was to improve as much as I can. That starts with save percentage, and that starts with goals allowed."

Princeton coach Chris Bates said he has been impressed with Fiorito's temperament .

"Different guys have different personalities, especially in goal," Bates said. "Tyler doesn't get rattled. He didn't play a wonderful game in our first game, but he doesn't lose his composure. Yeah, he's pretty mature from that standpoint. He's got a very short memory, and he's been a very good goalie for a lot of years."

Like Rodgers and Fiorito, Phipps is entering his second season as a full-time starter, but he has taken a different route.

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