A day after No. 7 Notre Dame knocked off No. 1 Duke, No. 18 Ohio State upended No. 3 Denver, 10-9, Sunday in a showdown between Eastern College Athletic Conference rivals at the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
But before Buckeyes fans begin breaking out the “Foxborough or Bust” t-shirts, coach Nick Myers emphasized that the game was just one in what he hopes will be a long season that ends with an appearance in the Massachusetts town that is the host site of this year’s Final Four.
“We had an early-season win at this time last year over No. 3-ranked North Carolina and didn’t finish the year the way we wanted to,” Myers noted. “I think this team is different. They really understand that this is a long season, and you face adversity at different points in the season. On Sunday, we played without our starting goalie [in sophomore Greg Dutton]and the Defensive Player of the Year in the ECAC last year [in redshirt senior defenseman Matt Kawamoto], and I was really proud of the way the men kind of rallied around each other. And a couple guys stepped into roles and filled those gaps. So I think you just have to take every week as it comes. We play a very tough schedule. Right now, we’re coming home and looking at a UMass team that is arguably one of the best UMass teams that they’ve since five, six, seven years ago when they made that national championship run. Watching film here as we speak, they’re excellent. So that’s really where we are focusing our attention.”
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Nonetheless, Ohio State improved to 3-0 and jumped eight spots to No. 10 in The Sun’s rankings. More importantly, the team assumed first place in the conference and could avoid meeting the Pioneers, a team that has captured the last two league championships and advanced to last year’s Final Four, until the ECAC Tournament final.
But Myers made it very clear that he and the Buckeyes don’t plan on counting out Denver.
“Let’s be clear that Denver is the team to beat in the ECAC,” he said. “They still are, and we understand that. Right now, we’re going to shift our focus to our non-conference schedule. We’re staring down [No. 7] UMass, [No. 14] Penn State, Robert Morris, [No. 1] Virginia and Notre Dame in our next five games. So I think there’s plenty of humble pie for the men. We’re going to watch the film today and just focus on getting better and preparing for a huge challenge this weekend from Coach [Greg] Cannella and his UMass team.”