This season, faceoffs have been a vulnerability for Johns Hopkins, but the return of junior Hunter Moreland could fortify that aspect of the game.
The White Hall resident and Boys' Latin graduate made his 2017 debut Saturday, winning eight of 12 draws and recording one assist in the No. 17 Blue Jays' 8-7 overtime loss to No. 6 Syracuse. It was admittedly a startling performance for Moreland, who – according to coach Dave Pietramala – provided "a lot more than we had hoped or expected."
"Styles are an interesting thing at faceoffs," Pietramala said. "You can be great in one game and then face off against another guy and the styles are so different that you're not as good. Hunter came in and, to his credit, he battled against a kid [Orange senior Ben Williams] that we think is one of the best in the country. He came in basically off of two days of practice and gave us a tremendous lift."
Wearing a bulky brace around his left knee, Moreland was expected to get just a handful of reps Saturday. But with senior Craig Madarasz going just one of six, Pietramala elected to take a chance.
"We just felt that at that time, we needed to make a change and the direction we needed to go in was Hunter," he said. "We were told he would be available, but we were told that the number of faceoffs that he could take would be limited. Twelve was probably more than we wanted to have him take, but that's what we needed. He did a wonderful job. Eight of 12 is a heck of a day for a kid who hadn't faced off in six weeks."
Madarasz, who entered this season with a .511 career faceoff percentage (161 of 315), has struggled thus far, claiming only 38.3 percent of his draws (46 of 120) with 18 ground balls. But Pietramala declined to anoint Moreland as the primary faceoff specialist for Saturday's game against No. 15 Virginia (5-3) and redshirt junior Jason Murphy (58.7 percent on 91 of 155, 16 ground balls).
"We have to have all hands on deck," Pietramala said. "Craig had some success the year prior. … Things unfold in a game, and you've got to be ready and adjust and use different people. We were prepared to do that with Hunter in the Syracuse game, and we'll be prepared to do that with all of them in this game. We've got to have every single one of them ready."