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Navy at Maryland: Three things to watch

Maryland is 54-33-1 in its series with Navy. The Terps have won the last four meetings, while the Midshipmen are seeking their first victory in College Park since April 4, 2008.

Navy (4-9) has dropped four consecutive games and seven of its last eight. The defense ranks 21st in Division I after surrendering 9.2 goals per game, and the unit has been anchored by senior defenseman Nik Mullen, who has limited Loyola Maryland junior attackman Nikko Pontrello and Johns Hopkins junior attackman Wells Stanwick to a combined zero goals and one assist. The Midshipmen will miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight campaign.

No. 7 Maryland (10-3) has lost two of its last three contests and three of its last six. If senior attackman Mike Chanenchuk’s balky ankle prevents him from playing, keep an eye on whether junior Jay Carlson or freshman Tim Rotanz regains his starting role. The team is expected to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which will mark the program’s 12th consecutive appearance.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at 1 p.m.

1) Navy’s man-up offense. The Midshipmen have been abysmal when they have been awarded extra-man opportunities, ranking 66th out of 67 Division I teams at 19.4 percent (7-of-36). The man-up offense has gone just 1-of-16 in its last six games, but the unit could be renewed against the Terps. They rank 53rd in man-down defense after killing just 56.8 percent (21-of-37) of opponents’ extra-man situations. Navy coach Rick Sowell is fully aware that the team must capitalize when the man-up offense takes the field. 

“We’ve got to be better,” he said. “As we attempt to find other ways to score – in transition or off the ride or on extra-man – if those opportunities present themselves, we have to cash in on them, and hopefully that will be the case. But first things first, they have to foul us, and then we have to take advantage of it.”

2) Maryland’s transition defense. The Terps rank third in the country with opponents averaging just 7.0 goals. But they struggled with their transition defense in a 6-5 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame in Friday’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal. The Fighting Irish scored three times in transition – including the game-winner from sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh with 6.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter – and almost got another. Maryland coach John Tillman said getting back into the hole has been a subject addressed by the coaches.

“Because everyone’s watching film and they see those opportunities, they say, ‘Well, geez, that’s how the other team scored. So we need to look to do that, too.’ I think we all do that when we look at film,” he said. “So that will be a point of emphasis for us. We’ve got to continue to work on that.”

3) Navy’s faceoffs. Judging by the numbers, Maryland would seem to have an advantage on faceoffs as junior Charlie Raffa ranks second in the nation with a 67.0 percentage (142-of-212) and 10th with 8.1 ground balls per game. But Midshipmen Brady Dove is no slouch, ranking 15th with a 58.5 percentage (158-of-270) and 21st with 6.2 ground balls. And he has outdueled the likes of Johns Hopkins junior Drew Kennedy and Boston University freshman Sam Talkow.

“Brady’s been pretty good against these big, high-profile matchups,” Sowell said. “We’re going to need him to be at his best on Saturday, and as I always say, we certainly need our wing play to be at their best as well. Being able to win faceoffs has helped us significantly throughout the season, and hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to win a few on Saturday.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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