Bucknell at Navy: Three things to watch

Factors include Mids offense sharing ball, defense sliding to shooters and getting faceoffs back on track

March 03, 2012|By Edward Lee

Navy leads this series between Patriot League rivals, 7-4, but the two sides have split the past four meetings. Seven of the games have ended in one-goal decisions. The Midshipmen (1-2) have won four of five of these contests in Annapolis, but Bucknell (0-3) is the preseason favorite to repeat as league champion. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.

1) Sharing the wealth. Of the offense’s 29 goals thus far, 13 have been assisted. That’s not bad, but after sophomore attackmen Sam Jones (six assists) and Tucker Hull (five), no other Navy player has more than one assist. Coach Rick Sowell would like to see the unit move better and find open shooters. “We’ve got to dodge and try to create situations where we can have assisted goals,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of it. If you go back to that Jacksonville game, we were dodging and then shooting too much, and that made it too easy on the goalie. I think we have to put the goalie in a position where he has to move to make saves. So we have to dodge better and move better and move off the ball well to be successful.”

2) Sliding to the shooter. The Bison won last year’s meeting, 12-11, in double overtime on the strength of an opportunistic offense. Midshipmen senior defenseman Matt Vernam said one area the unit lagged in was moving quickly and making effective slides to the Bucknell shooters. “Something that we struggled with last year was we had a lot of issues where we would slide and we didn’t have our fills,” Vernam said. “So I think if we can play as one and play together, I think we can do a great job of isolating their guys. Pretty much, it’s going to be about us. I think if we can play the defense we want to play and the defense that we show in practice every day, I think we can isolate a great Bucknell offense.”

3) Getting the edge on faceoffs. Both teams enter this game winning less than 50 percent of faceoffs. Navy has succeeded on just 39.1 percent (27 of 69) of its draws, while the Bison has won 46.7 percent (35 of 75). Sowell is confident that senior Logan West (26 of 67) can bounce back against junior Ryan Gutowski (28 of 56). “We expect that Bucknell will be solid and it will be a big part of the game,” Sowell said. “Whoever can come up with that faceoff the most, I think that’s going to be one of the keys for sure. But I think Logan will bounce back and have a strong game.”

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