Not even the brief flurries could get in the way of Cornell's spring break plans to exact revenge on the Blue Devils.
Behind a five-goal, fourth-quarter charge, the No. 3 Big Red (5-0) avenged a loss to the Blue Devils in last year's NCAA quarterfinals with an 11-7 win over No. 2 Duke (6-2) on the West Campus Turf Fields Tuesday.
With the game tied, 6-6, in the fourth quarter, a series of uncharacteristic defensive miscues spelled doom for the Blue Devils. Cornell's David Mitchell started things off by scoring the go-ahead goal while falling to the ground with 12:42 to play.
Less than two minutes later, Eric Pittard extended the lead to two on a wrap-around goal which he dropped in behind Blue Devil goalie Danny Loftus. Pittard, who entered the game with just two goals on the season, finished the period with a hat trick and had a game-high five points on the afternoon.
"What cost us in the fourth quarter was some defensive breakdowns," Duke head coach Mike Pressler said. "We had three key blunders in a row on defense and they capitalized on them.... We only gave up two goals in the first half, but the key was that we gave up nine goals in the second half. Defensive gaffes and blunders really let us down."
With 9:04 to play in the game and Duke trailing, 8-7, defenseman Bo Carrington picked up a loose ball in front of the Blue Devil net and tried to pass it back to goalie Danny Loftus.
Pittard, however, was still standing in front of the Duke net, and intercepted the pass. The attacker turned and fired the ball past Loftus to regain the Big Red's two-goal advantage.
"Bo was trying to make a heads up play," Loftus said. "He made a good play to get the ground ball. He spun around and didn't see the guy there and threw it back."
Duke's collapse in the final period was all the more surprising considering the team had given up just 4.4 goals per game entering the contest and appeared to have momentum after a 3-1 run to close the third quarter.
Down 5-3 with 8:47 to go in the third period, Pressler called timeout, trying to rally his squad. Once play resumed, the Blue Devils wasted little time. Faceoff specialist Brad Ross took the draw all the way down the middle of the field and fired a goal into the left side of the cage just ten seconds later.
Duke would continue to put pressure on the Cornell defense for the rest of the quarter, finally tying the game with 1:08 to play in the period. After Zack Greer sent in a high pass from just beyond the midfield line, forward Dan Flannery made an acrobatic catch and shot the ball past Big Red goalie Matt McMonagle to knot the score at six.
Aside from their third-quarter run, however, the Blue Devils' offense was inconsistent the rest of the afternoon. The team was outshot, 15-2, in the first quarter and received little offensive production from point leader Matt Danowski, who was held to just a single assist.
"We didn't play well on the offensive end," Pressler said. "We won the faceoffs, we stayed out of the penalty box, but we threw too many balls away. We weren't in sync today."
Duke's offensive woes were encapsulated on a key play midway through the second quarter. After the Blue Devils scored two quick goals to take their first lead of the game, 3-2, Flannery intercepted a Cornell clearing pass at midfield and found himself starring at an empty cage.
Despite a clear path to the net and a wide-open Danowski down by the crease, however, Flannery forced a shot from 30 yards out that fell short of the left post and bounced away.
"Our attack hasn't been in sync pretty much the whole year," Pressler said. "We haven't gelled. We're trying-it's certainly not for a lack of effort, it just hasn't happened."
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