Saturday the weather was cold, but Duke came out even colder, surrendering the game’s first six goals to No. 3 Notre Dame (1-0) en route to an 8-1 halftime deficit and a 13-5 defeat.
Although the No. 4 Blue Devils (2-2) mustered more fight in the second half, drawing within four less than seven minutes into the third quarter, the Fighting Irish scored the next four goals to quell any chance of a comeback.
Duke looked entirely out of sync right out of the gate, committing unforced turnovers and failing to move the ball into position for good looks at the goal. The Blue Devils did not even attempt a shot until more than 11 minutes into the game. After the first period, the Fighting Irish led 2-0 while outshooting the Blue Devils 10-3.
“We played a lot of defense in that first quarter,” head coach John Danowski said. “And even though we played a lot of defense it was only two-nothing, and we thought maybe we dodged a bullet.”
The onslaught continued in the second quarter, and Notre Dame scored two more goals just over three minutes into the period. Danowski turned to backup goaltender Ben Krebs to provide a spark, but to no avail.
The defense and goaltending, however, was hardly the only problem. For the half, the Fighting Irish outshot Duke 23-7, as the Blue Devils tallied their lowest shot total for a half since a loss to Penn in February 2011. Although Danowski credited Notre Dame’s strong defense for forcing turnovers and preventing Duke’s penetration, he admitted that the team looked tentative on offense.
“I think we were disappointed with our effort the first half,” Danowski said. “Notre Dame is a terrific team, terrific defensively, but we thought we were tiptoeing around a lot in the first half.“
The Blue Devils appeared to shift momentum by scoring with just 39 seconds left before halftime, but the Fighting Irish scored twice more in the final 13 seconds to build the lead to seven and effectively end the game at the half.
Duke opened the second half with Wigrizer back in goal and showed some of the playmaking ability that led to a preseason top-10 ranking. Junior Jordan Wolf scored just 19 seconds into the quarter on a transition play, and the Blue Devils’ next goal came after they worked it inside to Josh Offit for a good look at the net.
“When we scored that first goal [of the second half], it gave us a lot of life,” Danowski said. “I thought we got a lot of energy off of that. We created a bunch of turnovers and picked up a bunch of ground balls. It was a huge lead that Notre Dame had at that point for us to try to come back, but at least we fought to the end.”
The brightest spot for Duke, though, was the play of Brendan Fowler, who was named last week’s ACC Defensive Player of the Week. Fowler won 15-of-22 faceoffs for the Blue Devils while collecting 10 ground balls.
“Brendan is one of those young men that provides this real toughness,” Danowski said. “Now two weeks in a row he has really provided a spark and really been consistent for us.”
Sunday the Blue Devils carried over some of the fight they showed in the second half against the Fighting Irish. Duke leapt to an 8-0 lead in the first half against Mercer (1-1) before cruising the rest of the way to a 15-3 blowout. Wolf and senior David Lawson scored four goals each to lead the Blue Devils against the overmatched Bears.