Thursday’s news that defenseman Casey Carroll will not play this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is somewhat of a blow to the national title aspirations of Duke. Carroll, a redshirt senior who served five years as an Army Ranger after playing for the Blue Devils from 2004-07, was expected to fortify a unit that had graduated starter Michael Manley after last season.
But Duke has a number of candidates who can immediately step in, including junior Luke Duprey, senior Bill Conners and freshman Jamie Ikeda. And defense has rarely been the team’s calling card. Since John Danowski became the head coach for the 2008 campaign, the Blue Devils have ranked eighth in defense in 2008, 18th in 2009, tied for 17th in 2010, 31st in 2011 and tied for 21st in 2012.
As it has for many years, Duke’s postseason hopes will rely on the offense. That unit has ranked first in scoring in 2008, seventh in 2009, second in 2010, sixth in 2011 and tied for 11th in 2012. When the team won its first NCAA championship in 2010, it averaged 13.5 goals per game.
With the return of three 30-goal scorers in junior attackmen Jordan Wolf (32 goals and 33 assists), Christian Walsh (34, 15) and Josh Dionne (36, 7), the Blue Devils should be able to light up the scoreboard, and those goals will likely determine the team’s playoff fate.