Loyola attackman Mike Sawyer celebrates his extra-man goal… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
Midway through the third quarter of Saturday's game against Ohio State, Loyola's Reid Acton checked the ball and stick out of the hands of Buckeyes attackman Tyler Frederick, leading to a Greyhounds goal in transition.
The play perfectly underscored the matchup between two Eastern College Athletic Conference rivals that pride themselves on technically sound defense.
No. 7 Loyola grinded out a 8-7 victory before an announced 1,584 at the Ridley Athletic Complex. Even though the Greyhounds failed to reach 11 goals for the first time this season, they improved to 9-0 — their best start in 13 years — and remain atop the ECAC.
"It was probably not the prettiest game Loyola played all season, but I was happy with the result," Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey said. "Ohio State had a good game plan coming in and did what they wanted to do. They kind of took us out of our rhythm. They played a style we're more accustomed to doing. But we won the big stat. We won the hustle stat — the ground balls — and that's what we needed to do."
Loyola has not been undefeated this late in the season since 1999, when it reeled off 12 consecutive victories.
The Greyhounds, who improved to 3-0 in the ECAC, entered the game tied for fifth nationally in both goals per game (13) and fewest goals allowed (7.13). The Buckeyes' defense had been equally impressive, ranking seventh in the NCAA by allowing 7.44 goals per game.
Eric Lusby (Severna Park) led Loyola with three goals, while Justin Ward (Old Mill) had a goal, three assists and won five ground balls. J.P. Dalton (St. Mary's) won 12 of 19 faceoffs for the Greyhounds.
Logan Schuss and Jesse King each scored two goals for Ohio State (4-6 overall, 2-1 ECAC). The Buckeyes outshot Loyola, 33-27, but the Greyhounds won the ground-ball battle, 39-26.
Goalies for both teams played exceptional. Loyola's Jack Runkel made 8 saves, while Ohio State's Greg Dutton (Calvert Hall) finished with 12.
"It was definitely exciting coming home and having a lot of people here to support me," Dutton said. "But it was just another game, and I got up for it like every game. I was prepared all week."
The game was tied at three at the half. Loyola regained the lead two minutes into the third quarter on a goal by Scott Ratliff. Goals by Josh Hawkins and Lusby provided a three-goal cushion with 4:51 left in third quarter.
"We definitely tried not to slow it down, but when you're playing that much defense, you have to slow it down to give [the defensemen] a break," Lusby said. "We had some opportunities to take some big shots, but their goalie was making some great saves. Give credit to the Ohio State goalie."
The Buckeyes cut the margin to 6-5 on goals by Turner Evans and Nick Liddil with 8:19 left in the game. But Ward gave Loyola some breathing room with a goal with 2:30 remaining.
Lusby's final goal a minute later proved to be the game-winner, as the Buckeyes got goals from Schuss and King to cut the margin to 8-7 with three seconds left.
Loyola now enters its toughest stretch of the season with consecutive conference road games against Fairfield, Denver and Hobart. Toomey is confident his team will be ready for the challenge.
"This team has been so grounded and so focused that I know they're gonna come out Monday and be ready to watch film and prepare ourselves," he said. "We definitely talk about this being the toughest stretch for the program this season."