Senior-laden Blue Devil squad fosters comraderie

For the Blue Devils, there are Super Seniors and then there are just super seniors.

Much has been made about the returns of 2007 Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Danowski, goaltender Dan Loftus and defensemen Nick O'Hara and Tony McDevitt-all of whom exercised their fifth years of eligibility granted last May by the NCAA.

But also taking the field this season for No. 2 Duke (1-0) is a class of standout fourth-year seniors led by preseason all-American Zack Greer, who set the ACC single-season scoring record in 2007.

Head coach John Danowski said he has been impressed so far with how his players have fallen into their roles--both in practice and in their opening contest of the season, a 16-4 win over then-No. 17 Bucknell last Saturday.

When the Blue Devils take on Vermont Saturday at 1 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium, they will look to both kinds of seniors to lead them to another nonconference win.

"It's been better than expected," Danowski said of his team's dynamics. "You're never quite sure-chemistry is always the last thing to develop for the team. And [the returning players] have been extremely sensitive to the seniors' role on the team.

"There are a lot of traditions here at Duke-from where you eat to where you live... and it's no different on the team."

Something else that has seemed to remain constant is the one-two punch of Matt Danowski and Greer-the former, Duke's all-time leader in points and the latter, the nation's active leader in goals. In beating the Bison, the duo combined for six goals and seven assists.

In their season opener, the upperclass-laden Blue Devils played with the ease that carried them through to last season's national title game.

"We've got a lot of guys back from last year, so we've sort of just picked up from where we left off on offense-and you can tell on defense, too," said Danowski, the reigning national player of the year. "We've all got each other's backs. It's just the way we play."

Despite the final score, however, John Danowski said there were some things he had his team tweak in practice this week in preparation for the Catamounts, who have yet to play a game this season. Danowski said the team needed to improve its riding game--or stopping the opponent from clearing the ball from its defensive end.

This will be particularly important considering Danowski expects Vermont to play a zone defense, and Duke had not spent much time before this week working on their zone offense.

But considering how many of these players have been here before-for four years or five-the small adjustments seem minor compared to the bigger picture.

"What I've always told the guys is that it's your team," Danowski said. "You decide the conduct and the chemistry."


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