Navy owns an 11-4 advantage in this Patriot League series, and the Midshipmen have won three of the last four meetings. No. 16 Colgate (6-2 overall and 1-0 in the conference) has won three consecutive games since dropping back-to-back contests to No. 2 Cornell on March 2 and Hobart three days later. The Raiders are averaging 10.9 goals per game this season and headlined by senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum. Navy (3-5, 1-2) has dropped its last two outings and has averaged just 6.2 goals in those five losses. Junior attackman Tucker Hull, who led the team in goals (23), assists (24) and points (47) last year, is third in goals (nine) and points (15) so far. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Saturday.
1) Navy’s offense. A loss Saturday would further endanger the Midshipmen’s hopes of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Patriot League tournament. To avoid that path, the offense is going to need to find a rhythm that has been missing since the team scored 12 times in a one-goal win against Lafayette on March 9. A majority of the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium figures to be pro-Navy, but coach Rick Sowell said the onus will be on the offense to keep the fans on the Midshipmen’s side. “We hope the crowd will be pro-Navy, and we can feed off of their energy, but we’ve got to give them something to cheer about,” he said. “Making saves and big defensive stops get a crowd going, but nothing gets a crowd going like good offense and putting the ball in the back of the net. That’s what revs a crowd up. So we have to get them into the game by how we’re playing and hopefully, we can feed off their energy and play through a high level during the entire game.”
2) Colgate’s Robert Grabher. Limiting the Raiders’ offense is easier said than done, but one avenue to neutralize is the faceoff prowess of senior Robert Grabher. He has won 53.3 percent (96-of-180) of his draws this season and ranks seventh in Division I with 8.1 ground balls per game. Grabher should be a familiar presence for Navy after he won 70.4 percent (19-of-27) of his faceoffs in Colgate’s 12-11 loss to the Midshipmen last year. It will be up to senior Evan McGoogan (52.9 percent on 45-of-85) and freshman Sean Reilly (54.7 percent on 29-of-53) to either beat Grabher or tie him up. “Their faceoff man, Grabher, is pretty good,” Sowell said. “They win a lot of their faceoffs. So they’re playing a lot more offense than defense, and that’s certainly an area where we going to have to come up with our fair share of faceoffs. Limiting their offense will be one of the keys to victory.”
3) Navy’s Nolan Hickey. One Midshipman who might get the unenviable task of shadowing Baum (23 goals and 11 assists) is senior defenseman Austin Miller, who has forced 19 turnovers and collected 29 ground balls. Colgate has a well-rounded offense, including sophomore attackman Ryan Walsh (20, 5), but ESPN analyst Mark Dixon said Navy senior goalkeeper Nolan Hickey (8.69 goals-against average and .573 save percentage) must play well for the team to have a chance at emerging with a victory. “Navy’s got to stop Peter Baum,” the former Johns Hopkins midfielder said. “That’s the primary focus for the Naval Academy. You’ve got to stop Peter Baum, and their goalie has to make saves. Navy’s goalie has to show up, and he has to make saves.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun