Charley Toomey generally doesn't like to compare defensemen to Joe Fletcher, who set the gold standard for that position during his time from 2011 to 2014. But the Loyola Maryland coach couldn't help himself when asked if giving the responsibility of marking an opponent's top attackman might be daunting for Foster Huggins, a sophomore in his first year as a full-time starter.
"We asked a lot of Joe Fletcher when he was a sophomore," Toomey said Wednesday. "Our job is to win games and put the kids in place where they have a chance to be successful and this team in a place where it has a chance to be successful."
Huggins has emerged as the shutdown defenseman for the No. 16 Greyhounds (6-3). He has faced the likes of Virginia junior Ryan Lukacovic (one goal on seven shots), Johns Hopkins senior Ryan Brown (one assist in the final three quarters) and Bucknell sophomore Will Sands (zero points).
Huggins, who leads the defense in caused turnovers with 12 and has scooped up 12 ground balls, is meeting his coaches' expectations.
"We were hopeful that he was going to be playing at this level," Toomey said. "We've had guys like him in the past, guys like Steve Layne that might be a little bit undersized, but play with high energy, and that's what we really like about Foster. He probably gives us our best chance to put the ball on the ground although we don't consider ourselves as a checking team. He's just kind of around you and able to disrupt, and that's what we need from him."
Toomey said Huggins' strength is his high motor, which can also be a weakness. For example, the defenseman overplayed Navy's Jack Ray, who went back to his strong hand and curled around the right post for the game-winning goal with 37 seconds left in a 10-9 loss for Loyola on March 19.
"Those moments have to happen for you to take another step, and that was a real learning opportunity for Foster," Toomey said. "He's handled it the right way, and that's the biggest thing. When you play young guys, you've got to put those guys in those situations. Maybe it means a loss, but I'm OK with that if we get better and learn from it, and I think Foster certainly used that as an opportunity to learn from."