Mike Poppleton didn't score a goal, dish out an assist or register a save, but he clearly was the most dominant player on the field in Johns Hopkins' 19-9 win over Stony Brook on Sunday in an NCAA tournament opening-round game.
From the onset to the final whistle at Homewood Field, the junior midfielder from Manlius, N.Y., won 20 of 26 faceoffs and the Blue Jays won 24 of 31 in a game that was never seriously in doubt.
Poppleton's dominance came on a day when the Blue Jays defense struggled with Stony Brook's offense around the crease. But there weren't any major concerns because Poppleton kept giving Hopkins (12-3) possession after possession.
And when that happens, more talented teams like Hopkins bury inferior teams like Stony Brook (7-10). Sophomore attackman Brandon Benn led the Blue Jays with five goals, and fellow attackmen Chris Boland and Zach Palmer each had three.
"Faceoffs have been our Achilles' heel all season," said Seawolves coach Jim Nagle, whose team was at .385 percent going into the game.
"Mike had good technique and allowed us to start fast," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. "He allowed us to set up quickly and keep possessions. We thought we played well on the wings last week, but we wanted to play better at the X against this team. Mike just didn't play well; he won and controlled the ball."
With Poppleton playing so well, the game became a virtual shooting practice session for Hopkins, which outshot Stony Brook 40-21. The Blue Jays also had a 34-21 advantage in ground balls.
Offensively, Hopkins did what it needed and wanted to do.
"They did a great job of finding the open man, getting easy shots and sticking with their game plan," said Stony Brook goalie Sean Brady, who had nine saves. "Hopkins has always been a powerhouse in the playoffs and that didn't change today."
The most disturbing aspect of the game for the Blue Jays were the goals allowed. Their defensemen and long poles shifted well after initial passes, but they were slow on the second and third slides.
When Stony Brook won faceoffs, they scored often.
"I thought we had the right defenses," Pietramala said. "We spent a lot of time going over what we wanted to do against specific guys, but we didn't play well individually after we slid. Their offense was well-coached, well-schooled."
Hopkins did most of its damage in the first quarter, especially early. Before two minutes had expired, the Blue Jays had two goals and Stony Brook called a timeout.
With 3:14 left in the period, Boland had his second goal, and nine seconds later midfielder John Ranagan ripped another shot for a goal and a 5-1 Blue Jays lead. In the remaining time, Hopkins scored twice, including a third goal by Boland with 1:24 remaining.
The Seawolves did rally for two goals to open the second quarter and pull within 7-3, but Hopkins scored two more and any serious comeback attempt was halted.
Hopkins went into the half with a 12-5 lead thanks to three goals from Boland, and two apiece from Palmer, Benn and Ranagan. Stony Brook showed that it could score against the Blue Jays, but they seldom got possession of the ball. Hopkins won 16 of 19 faceoffs in the first half and outshot Stony Brook, 25-13, in the first two periods.
Stony Brook did not win any of the nine faceoffs in the first period and the Seawolves only took three shots.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun