The No. 19 Greyhounds are just a half-game behind No. 13 Massachusetts in the race for the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship and automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. Here are a few things Loyola must do against the Stags to stay in contention.
1) Score. A lot. Sounds simplistic, but Fairfield has some vulnerabilities defensively. The Stags are 0-4 when opponents have scored at least 10 goals, and the defense is surrendering almost five more shots in the losses than in the wins. Goalkeeper Charlie Cipriano has been one of the better freshmen you may not have heard of, but he was chased out of last Saturday's 18-11 loss to Yale after making zero saves while surrendering six goals. Possession is a root of scoring, and Fairfield has lost more than 50 percent of its faceoffs in the four setbacks. That bodes well for Greyhounds junior John Schiavone, who is ranked 10th in the country with a .591 faceoff percentage. This is an opportunity for Loyola to test the Stags' defensive resolve and take a lead that may prove to be insurmountable.
2) Keep an eye on No. 44. Fairfield's top two scorers are midfielders Brent Adams (23 points on 13 goals and 10 assists) and Chris Ajemian (17 on 11 and 6), but John Snellman appears to be the linchpin. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound freshman attackman leads the team with 14 goals, but he has scored just four of those in the Stags' losses. Steve Layne is the Greyhounds' top shutdown defenseman, but Steve Dircks has the frame (6-1 and 195 pounds) to tangle with Snellman. Adams, a freshman, might see a lot of Loyola senior long-stick midfielder P.T. Ricci.
3) Use home-field advantage to your advantage. The Greyhounds have been practically unbeatable at home against ECAC opponents. Until the team's 8-6 loss to Massachusetts on March 21, Loyola had been unbeaten at home in 11 ECAC contests under coach Charley Toomey. Conversely, Fairfield has never won in Baltimore in seven tries, and three of the team's four losses have occurred on the road. "I just think we've got to come out and defend our turf," Toomey said. "I'm stressing this is about us. We need to come out of our locker room and defend our turf in-league, and that's something we've been pretty doggone good at over the three years that we've been here."