1st-quarter fury fuels Duke

On paper, it might seem like unranked Vermont played No. 2 Duke closely Saturday. After all, the Blue Devils only outscored the Catamounts 9-6 from the second quarter on.

But given the way Duke exploded for 10 goals in the first period, those first 15 minutes were all the team needed to secure the 19-7 win and move to 2-0 on the season heading into its March 1 matchup with No. 7 Maryland.

"That was huge for us," captain Matt Danowski said of the outburst. "We started the game off on the right foot. When we start off well early, then it gives us the confidence we need for the rest of the game."

Unlike last week, when Duke came out rusty and scored only two goals in the first quarter of its 16-4 win over No. 15 Bucknell, the crowd in Koskinen Stadium was on its feet almost immediately Saturday.

Just 23 seconds into the game, Danowski lobbed what attackman Max Quinzani called a "Peyton Manning-like pass" from the midline to Zack Greer, who then put it away for Duke's first goal. Danowski registered another assist and a goal before Vermont got on the scoreboard to make it 3-1 at the 9:53 mark.

But the Catamounts' brief glimmer of hope was soon extinguished, as six different Blue Devils rattled off seven more goals in the remaining minutes of the first quarter. Duke was able to dominate Vermont so effectively by playing its signature run-and-gun style of offense and unselfishly sharing the ball.

When the opening period finally ended, the Blue Devils had outshot the Catamounts 19-2, won eight of the 11 faceoffs and converted on all three of their extra-man opportunities. Duke's shooting accuracy-79 percent of its shots were on goal-was perhaps the most impressive statistic of all.

"Guys have been working on shooting on their own," Danowski said. "You have to shoot well and you have to shoot smart, especially when we play tougher teams like Maryland. We're going to generate shots but they have be good shots, and we have to be in the rights spots to make them count."

Despite the excitement of the offensive fireworks in the first quarter, there was one moment of panic for the Duke faithful. Reaching out to try to corral a pass in front of the net, Greer collided awkwardly with a Vermont defender. Although he did take a few moments to gather himself, the senior star was able to walk off the field under his own power, and he later returned to score two more goals and tally three assists.

In fact, the Catamounts concentrated so much on All-Americans Greer and Danowski that Quinzani was able to tie his career-best effort of three goals. With the Vermont defenders looking the other way, Quinzani stealthily slipped behind the defense and set up right next to the goal for easy lay-ins.

"Obviously, all the concentration is on Matt and Greer," Quinzani said. "Coach likes to put me behind the goal.... The defenders have to creep out to Matt because he can shoot from so far out, so sometimes he finds me on either side of the goal when I'm sneaking from behind."

"On most other teams, he'd be drawing the first pole," Danowski said of Quinzani. "Here, he's taking the third defenseman. He's got a year under his belt, and he's playing with confidence. He's really playing well for us so far."

Quinzani's hat trick served as an example of how this offense expects to run all season. With teams forced to try to stop Danowski and Greer from scoring, Duke's talented supporting players are able to cash in on being overlooked. The two stars scored seven goals Saturday, but their ability to record nine assists to six different players is what poses a more dangerous threat to the Blue Devils' opponents down the road.

With the Bison and the Catamounts out of the way, Duke will have to ratchet it up against the Terrapins. With their biggest challenge to date just over the horizon, Quinzani said the Blue Devils are hoping next weekend will result in a little turtle stew.


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