In opening the season with nine consecutive victories, No. 8 Loyola had accomplished many things, but had avoided trailing in the fourth quarter.
That changed Saturday when No. 19 Fairfield embarked on a five-goal spurt to assume a 6-4 advantage 3:01 into the final period. But the Greyhounds answered eight seconds later with a Davis Butts-to-J.P. Dalton goal off the faceoff, and that kick-started a four-goal run to propel them to their first 10-0 season since 1999.
While preferring to avoid falling behind in the final 15 minutes of regulation, coach Charley Toomey appreciated the determination that the players showed against the Stags.
"It's good that we needed to find a way to win," he said Monday afternoon. "I don't want to say that things have come easy, but we've had those quarters, especially the third quarter, where we've been able to build kind of a comfortable lead. That doesn't mean we've been able to coast because against Ohio State [March 31], they scored two in under a minute to make it a one-goal game. But this time, we had to come from behind and with the level of opponent that you're going to continue to see throughout April and May hopefully, you're not going to lead in every quarter and you're certainly not going to lead every time going into the fourth quarter. So I learned a lot about the team. They were willing to step up. They were confident that they could still make those plays. A lot of times, when things don't go well the first time and adversity strikes on the sideline, kids tend to snip at each other, but we didn't have any of that. They knew they had to stay the course and good things would happen."
By the way, Loyola is just two wins shy of matching the program's all-time best winning streak, which was set in 1999 when that squad opened the year with 12 straight victories before losing, 17-12, to Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. But Toomey said the players have kept their thoughts to themselves – with the exception of the occasional post on their Twitter accounts.
"I think they're excited about it, but it's not something that they talk with the coaches about," he said. "I think our seniors have driven this team and driven the success that we've had by keeping us grounded and focused and understanding that you're so close and that you're living on the edge. If you're not prepared, anybody can beat you."