Between errant shots, shaky decisions or a growing sense of uneasiness, No. 13 Johns Hopkins appeared vulnerable to yet another late-season loss to Navy on Saturday.
Then the second half arrived.
The Blue Jays scored 11 straight goals to close the game, routing the Midshipmen, 15-4, before 3,646 at Homewood Field.
Mike Poppleton won 15 of 17 faceoffs, Brandon Benn scored five goals and John Kaestner added three goals and three assists for Hopkins (8-4), which lost to Navy in two of the previous three years.
“What was nice was you get a goal, you got the ball back,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “You got a goal, you got the ball back. You got in a rhythm. We would get the ball in the first half, get a great look and then they’d go down and play offense. ... The difference was we cashed in.”
Gabe Voumard scored three goals for the Midshipmen (3-10), who suffered their most lopsided loss in the series since a 17-3 defeat in 2003.
Navy ended the season on a seven-game losing streak, the longest in school history. It also wrapped up the spring with a nine-penalty day, including one with two seconds remaining in a season that unraveled long ago.
The Midshipmen did not score in the final 28:02, and finished the year with only 103 goals -- the smallest output for any Navy team since 1968, when it scored 101 goals in 11 games.
“I guess in some regard, it’s kind of the same old story,” Navy coach Rick Sowell said. “It just comes down to being undisciplined. That’s on me. That’s on the head coach. We’re an undisciplined team. Whether it’s turnovers early in the year or whether it’s penalties, some of the things we do -- it’s on the head coach. We have to get better. We’re just an undisciplined team.”
Navy tied the game at 4 early in the second half, but between Hopkins’ faceoff dominance and the Mids’ penchant for penalties, the Blue Jays controlled possession for nearly six minutes. They scored four times in that stretch and Navy couldn’t respond.
Hopkins played without attackman Zach Palmer, who sat out his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. Kaestner, a senior, set career-highs in goals, assists and points while starting for the second consecutive week in place of Palmer.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Kaestner said. “It’s been a great time. It’s been really exciting, but hopefully we can all stay grounded and look forward to the next game and just focus on the next job that we have.”
The Blue Jays were also without defenseman Tucker Durkin and midfielder John Greeley, both of whom sat out for a violation of team rules.
The win did little to improve Hopkins’ postseason profile, though a loss to the No. 52 team in the RPI (out of 63) entering the day would have been devastating.
Instead, the Blue Jays will need to finish the regular season strong over the next two weekends, notably when No. 8 Loyola visits Johns Hopkins on Saturday. The Blue Jays, who have reached 41 consecutive NCAA tournaments, finish their schedule on May 3 at Army.
It was a poor finish to a season littered with miserable days for Navy, which wrapped up the first 10-loss season in the program’s 106-year history and its third losing season in the past four years. Navy had only six seasons below .500 before this stretch.
“There’s some lessons to be learned there, even off a dismal season,” Sowell said. “You don’t want to get used to that as a head coach. There’s no way I’m getting used to that. I can’t accept that. ... That’s just unacceptable, three wins. I don’t know if we were a 10-win team, but I’m shocked to be sitting here with three wins given everything we put into it.”