Hardly anyone would second-guess Denver coach Bill Tierney if he elected to start Saturday’s NCAA tournament semifinal against top-seeded Syracuse with junior goalkeeper Jamie Faus in the cage rather than opening with sophomore Ryan LaPlante as he has done in 17 of the team’s 18 contests this season.
After all, Faus was one of the primary reasons why the fourth-seeded Pioneers (14-4) are enjoying its second Final Four in the last three years. He made 11 saves and surrendered just five goals in more than 50 minutes of play after replacing LaPlante in the first quarter of an eventual 12-11 decision against fifth-seeded North Carolina last Sunday in the quarterfinal round.
But Tierney will not second-guess himself and announced during a conference call Tuesday morning that LaPlante will start against the Orange (15-3) with Faus spelling him for the second half.
“We’ve had two games this year where we’ve broken out of our mold,” Tierney explained. “One was when Ryan LaPlante started against Loyola [on April 13] and was playing lights out and Jamie Faus came up to me and said, ‘You should leave Ryan in. He’s really seeing the ball.’ And that turned into a great victory with Ryan having 18 saves. And the other day, it really wasn’t so much about Ryan, to be honest with you. He had given up five, but it was really about two choices. Making a change in the coaching staff, and I don’t think they were going to do that right at the quarter. They might have done that at the end of the game if we lost 24-0. But pulling the goalie is tough on the young man who is in there, but the team knows that something’s up and they’ve got to have great resolve. Jamie went in there and did an amazing job, but it wasn’t two minutes after the game when I went right to Ryan and said, ‘You’re starting next week,’ and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Senior midfielder Jeremy Noble said he and his teammates are as confident with LaPlante (10.14 goals-against average and a .557 save percentage) as they are with Faus (9.07, .567).
“They’re phenomenal goaltenders, and they could play for any school in the country,” Noble said Tuesday afternoon. “They’re definitely the best goalies I’ve shot against all year, and I have so much respect for those two. We have total confidence in whoever is in the pipes, and there’s a good chance you’ll see both of them this weekend.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun