Loyola Maryland has won all three meetings in this series against Yale, including a 14-13 double-overtime win in the 1990 NCAA Division I tournament semifinals. The Greyhounds are 4-9 in the quarterfinal round and have won their past two appearances at this stage of the tournament (2012 and 2016). The Bulldogs are 1-2 in the quarterfinals and are making their first trip since 2013.
Loyola (13-3), the No. 6 seed in the tournament, is the hottest current team in the country, riding an eight-game winning streak into this game. The Greyhounds rank 13th in the nation in scoring defense at 8.75 goals allowed per game. Junior goalkeeper Jacob Stover (McDonogh) ranks 12th in Division I in goals-against average (8.58) and 26th in save percentage (.516).
Yale (14-3), the No. 3 seed, has won seven of its past eight games with the only loss coming to Cornell in the Ivy League tournament final on May 6. The Bulldogs rank 14th in defense at 8.76 goals allowed per game. Freshman goalie Jack Starr ranks ninth in goals-against average (8.32) and 49th in save percentage (.476).
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday at noon.
1) Loyola’s defense vs. Yale’s Ben Reeves. The Greyhounds have tangled with top attackmen such as Virginia sophomore Michael Kraus (twice), Duke senior Justin Guterding and Bucknell senior Will Sands this season. So Reeves, the Bulldogs senior, is another challenge for the defense. Reeves ranks second in the country in goals (53) and third in points (96), and is the only three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist in the field. But Loyola coach Charley Toomey said his team won’t alter its defensive identity against Reeves, who will likely see a lot of senior defenseman and Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Foster Huggins.
“We’ll press out guys to make them catch it out further from the goal,” Toomey said. “But we’ve never said that we’re going to face-guard someone and not slide from him and completely look away. That’s just not who we are.”
2) Loyola’s Pat Spencer vs. Yale’s Chris Fake. Fake, a freshman defenseman, is the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year and has shadowed attackmen such as Cornell sophomore Jeff Teat, Sowers and the Albany duo of senior Connor Fields and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke. Fake will likely get the assignment of marking Spencer, the Boys’ Latin graduate who ranks second in the nation in assists (58) and fourth in points (91). Spencer, who is already the Patriot League’s career leader in assists and points, acknowledged the possibility of facing Fake.
“Anytime you’re going up against someone who is considered one of the better defenders, it’s something you look forward to,” Spencer said. “But I don’t want to turn it into a one-on-one matchup either. I want to make sure that we’re doing the right things on our end of the field. He’ll be matched up on me, I guess, but we’re going to try to play our game and not really focus on that matchup.”
3) Loyola’s Mike Orefice and Bailey Savio vs. Yale’s Conor Mackie. Mackie, the senior faceoff specialist, ranks seventh in Division I in faceoff percentage (.643 on 249-for-387) and will be a bear for the Greyhounds pair of Orefice (.421 on 85-for-202) and Savio (.456 on 94-for-206). Just as impressive though is that Mackie has scooped up 168 ground balls, the third-highest total in the country. Toomey said Orefice and Savio need help from their teammates on the wings to make it a more competitive contest for loose balls.
“It’s pretty clear that they’re doing a great job of letting him win it himself,” Toomey said. “So we’ve got to come up with Plan A, B and C, and that’s what we’re working on at the moment. They lock your wings out. We’re going to try to make it a battle and not allow it just to be a one-on-one matchup, but that’s kind of how we have played all year. We’ve relied on our wings to help our faceoff guys, and if we can make it a 50-50 with three guys in there, we’re going to try to do that.”