Scaling back workload to focus on faceoffs has helped Shelton, Goucher

Senior's shift from defense to faceoffs has helped the Gophers revive one of the worst units in Division III last year

May 08, 2012|By Edward Lee

Heading into his senior year, defenseman D.J. Shelton was prepared to demonstrate his work in the offseason until Goucher coach Kyle Hannan asked him to commit himself to taking faceoffs.

For Shelton, it was an opportunity to make amends for his role on a faceoff unit that won just 35.5 percent (130-of-366) of its draws last season.

“Being the representative of the worst faceoff unit last year, it was a really big jump for me, to be able to come out and make a difference,” he said after the Gophers had defeated Drew, 10-7, to capture the Landmark Conference tournament crown Saturday. “I did it in high school and loved it, but coming to college, I kind of dropped off and went to defense and stuff. Coming back to it has been amazing and getting back to what I know has really helped the team get to where we are now. It’s just been magical. I absolutely love the position.”

Shelton, who won 43.3 percent (42-of-97) of his faceoffs last year, is succeeding at a 56.8 rate (175-of-308) this spring, and the unit as a whole is winning 53.4 percent (211-of-395). In fact, Shelton has become so adept at taking draws that he is no longer being asked to play defense, which suits him just fine.

“I live for the 15 seconds of glory more than starting a full game on the field,” he said. “I love playing lacrosse, and facing off, I love it. Can’t beat that adrenaline rush.”

Both Shelton and Hannan credit the presence of assistant coach Brandon Hastings, a former faceoff specialist who played for Villa Julie before being more popularly recognized as Stevenson. Hannan said Hastings’ work with Shelton was evident in his 9-of-20 performance against Rangers senior Sean McGowan, who entered the contest having won 70.7 percent of his faceoffs.

“We were one of the worst teams in the country last year, and now we’re beating the top guy in the country in the championship game,” Hannan said. “And Brendon Hastings, his coach who works with him every day, has just been phenomenal. And an unbelievable coach who has become a good mentor for these guys, and that’s a big part of it, too. Between D.J. and Coach Hastings, that’s a really good pair.”

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