When No. 4 seed McDaniel and No. 1 seed Washington meet in one semifinal of the Centennial Conference tournament, the visiting Green Terror will have to overcome the opponent and history. The Shoremen have won the last 12 contests in this series and have never lost to McDaniel in the league tourney, winning 19-15 in 2001, 12-8 in 2002 and 13-8 in 2004. Washington earned the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of a 7-1 league record and is 10-4 overall. The Green Terror secured the fourth seed with a 5-3 conference mark and is 9-6 overall. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Roy Kirby, Jr. Stadium in Chestertown Friday.
1) Washington’s resilience. The Shoremen’s 10-9 decision against McDaniel on March 17 kickstarted their run through the Centennial Conference. What was remarkable about that victory was that Washington rallied from deficits of 7-1 in the second quarter and 8-3 in the third quarter. Making sure there is not a repeat of that would seem to be a priority for the Shoremen, right? “We want to avoid them, but my mindset is also one of that we’re a team that’s been able to come back,” coach Jeff Shirk said. “If we get down early, it’ll be the same mentality. I think the key thing is not getting into panic mode in the tournament because I’ve seen too many guys I’ve played with and too many guys that I’ve coached get too tight and not play their games. That’s what I’m going to stress to the guys. Let’s play our game, let’s stay loose, let’s stay focused, and we’ll get after them.”
2) McDaniel’s faceoffs. The Green Terror’s inability to hold onto the lead in the second half was exacerbated by a sudden drop-off on faceoffs. After both sides split 12 draws in the first frame, McDaniel won just 3-of-11 faceoffs in the second half. That opened the door for Washington to make its comeback. The onus will be on juniors Ryan Gillen (80-of-167 for 47.9 percent), Mike Marks (29-of-75 for 38.7 percent) and William Clary (14-of-41 for 34.1 percent) to perform better, and coach Matt Hatton thinks they will. “I think we’re better than we were at that point in the season,” he said. “Yes, it’s a concern going into the game. When you can score goals and get the ball back at the X, it’s hard to win. That’s what they were able to do to us in the second half in the first game. I’m confident that our guys are pretty good, and I’m confident that with the game plan we’ll have for him and maybe a little bit better wing play than we had the first time around, we’ll be able to make it a battle, and that’s all we’re really asking of our guys.”
3) Washington’s man-down unit. The Shoremen allowed the Green Terror to convert on 3-of-6 extra-man opportunities in that first meeting, including 3-of-4 chances in the first two quarters when McDaniel sprinted to a 7-1 advantage. Shirk realizes the benefits of keeping the penalties to a minimum, but he also doesn’t want to curb the players’ willingness to force turnovers. “That’s a double-edged sword because we stress to our guys to play hard and play physical and to not have any reservations,” he said. “If you want your guys to play that way, you’re going to have to accept some penalties. One thing we did after the McDaniel game was adjust the way we played man down, and I think we’ve played man down better since that game. The stupid penalties, we address to where it’s ‘Hey, if it’s the back of the jersey, you’ve got to hold up.’ Whether it’s a loose-ball push or with possession, it’s little things like that. The way we play, the way we slide, and the way we stress our guys to get after our opponent, we’re going to have a certain number of penalties every game. We just have to limit the bad penalties.”