PHILADELPHIA—If it felt like No. 1 seed Syracuse barely had the ball after it nurtured a 5-0 lead against seventh-seeded Duke, it’s because the Orange barely did.
Blue Devil faceoff specialist and tournament most outstanding player Brendan Fowler won 13 consecutive faceoffs in the second through fourth periods, allowing Duke to dominate possession en route to a 16-10 victory and the program’s second national championship.
“I told John [Danowski] after the game to buy his faceoff guy a big steak because he deserved one,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said. “We just couldn’t get the ball in the second half.”
The Blue Devils brought home the trophy for the first time since 2010 after reaching the championship weekend for seven consecutive seasons—all under head coach John Danowski and since the 2006 season was cancelled amid false allegations of rape.
Although the Blue Devils came out of the gate looking “tight” in the words of Danowski, they went on a 12-1 run in the second through fourth periods to secure a lead and the win.
The Orange built a 4-0 advantage in the first period, even though Duke won 3-of-5 faceoffs. Fowler was 2-for-4 in those while getting whistled for a penalty and adjusting to the style of the referees.
“I let it get to my head a little bit," Fowler said. "Once I cooled down a little, and just stuck to what I do every day, I got into a groove.”
The junior then won 15-of-16 faceoffs in the second and third periods as the Blue Devils narrowed the gap and eventually took the lead. He finished the game 20-of-28.
“We would say maybe this would be the week Brendan doesn’t win 65 percent of his faceoff and we figure out how to compete, how to win if he doesn’t,” Danowski said. “That day almost never came.”
Jordan Wolf broke the ice for Duke to make it 5-1 in the second period and scored again with 1:51 left in the half to bring Duke within one at the break, trailing 6-5.
The Orange struggled even more in the third period to gain possession as Fowler won all seven faceoffs in the 15-minute span. Paced by two goals each from seniors Josh Offit and David Lawson in the third period, Duke took a lead it would never relinquish and entered the fourth up 10-7.
The offensive onslaught continued in the fourth, though Duke only won 4-of-10 faceoffs in the quarter while Fowler faced a new adversary.
Senior Orange defender Brian Megill, who leads the team in groundballs and rarely spends time at the faceoff X, had some success pushing Fowler around and giving Syracuse some much needed possession.
“I just wish I went out there two quarters earlier,” Megill said.
Finishing with two fourth-quarter goals, Wolf paced the team with four scores while Josh Dionne and Josh Offit both added hat tricks. The Blue Devils finished the game scoring 10 of the last 13 goals.
In the game, Fowler extended his single-season record for faceoff victories to 339 while also finishing the season second in Division I history with 209 groundballs.
But Fowler was a diamond in the X for Danowski, who said he did not recruit Fowler and that the Chaminade High School product got into Duke “on his own.”
Danowski didn’t meet Fowler, who also plays football at Duke, until August of his freshman year. As a sophomore, Fowler broke his collarbone in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, a 12-9 win against Syracuse.
“We take no credit for the recruitment of Brendan Fowler,” Danowski said.