The way Loyola coach Charley Toomey explains it, J.P. Dalton wasn’t supposed to be the team’s primary faceoff specialist.
“We didn’t expect that he would be the guy this year,” Toomey said Thursday of the senior who has won 54.2 percent (180-of-332) of his draws this season. “We had a young man here who we had every intention of probably taking every faceoff, but he’s not in the locker room at the moment. J.P. was forced into this role and has just never given it up to anybody else in our locker room. Kudos to Coach [Steve] Vaikness because he took him under his wing and has really honed him in on being a good faceoff kid. And J.P. has the attitude that you want every faceoff guy to have. He just has a pitbull attitude, and I think Steve Vaikness has done a terrific job of really giving him some of the finer points of winning around the X.”
Dalton, a Queenstown native and St. Mary’s graduate, is continuing a tradition of standout faceoff specialists that includes Dan Kallaugher, Tim McDermott and John Schiavone. Dalton, who succeeded Schiavone, said he didn’t anticipate the success he has enjoyed this spring.
“You always hope for the best,” said Dalton, whose older brother Will was a faceoff specialist at Maryland. “We’ve spent a lot of time all season preparing for different matchups. I’ve faced off my whole life and my brother taught me a lot of things facing off over the years. I hoped I’d be doing this well, and I’m just glad it happened. We’re just trying to stick with what we’ve been doing to be successful at the X. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of help on the wings with [junior long-stick midfielder] Scott Ratliff, [junior midfielder] Davis Butts, [junior short-stick defensive midfielder] Josh Hawkins and [senior long-stick midfielder] Kevin Moriarty. They’ve been a huge help in getting a lot of groundballs for me. They keep up that faceoff percentage.”
Dalton, who ranks second behind Ratliff in groundballs with 54, isn’t a traditional FOGO, an acronym that stands for “Face Off, Get Off.” He runs on the second midfield and has registered nine goals and four assists.
Toomey said the coaching staff will occasionally give Dalton a breather and insert freshman Nikko Pontrello into the second line, but Dalton said he prefers doing both.
“It’s a happy medium,” he said. “I’ve always done both my whole life, and that’s how I wanted it to be. I never really wanted to be just a faceoff guy. It’s exhausting from time to time, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”