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Defining stretch begins with win

Out of a timeout called by Penn State, Duke’s Tom Montelli sped down the center of the field. The defenseman passed it off to senior Ned Crotty, who fed Zach Howell. The attackman buried the ball in the net, adding another quick first-quarter goal to make the score 4-2.

The No. 8 Blue Devils (4-3) scored at least four goals in each quarter and raced past the Nittany Lions 20-11 in an up-tempo game that saw six Duke players earn two or more goals. Howell led the way with five tallies, while senior Max Quinzani added four goals and senior Parker McKee chipped in with a career-high three scores. The final tally of 20 goals registered Saturday at Koskinen Stadium marked a season high for the Blue Devils.

“The pace was up and down, which is something that we practice a lot,” head coach John Danowski said. “We play a lot of players, and we want to be able to dictate tempo. I thought today, tempo certainly went our way.”

Penn State (0-6) struck first, with a goal from Chris Hogan that gave the Nittany Lions a brief lead. Howell evened the score for Duke one minute later off an assist from Will McKee. After Penn State’s Matthew Mackrides registered one more goal for the Nittany Lions, the Blue Devils then reeled off five straight in a span of six minutes and didn’t look back.

Against a Penn State squad that was winning 62 percent of faceoffs coming in, Duke won 18 of 34 and was able to create offensively from the faceoff successes. Quinzani, especially, did most of his damage early, scoring all four of his goals in the first half.

“I was really just focusing on getting in synchrony with my attack group,” Quinzani said. “I met eyes with Ned [Crotty] a couple times, he hit me on a couple crosses. He did the same thing with Zach. When we get in tune with Ned, he gives us the ball and makes us look good.”

The nation’s leader in assists, Crotty finished with five helpers and one goal of his own.

Coming out of halftime, though, the Nittany Lions changed up their defense, marking Duke’s prolific attackmen more closely. The Blue Devils made the requisite offensive adjustments, with midfielders and defensemen going harder to the goal. The changes allowed Robert Rotanz, Steve Schoeffel and Mike Catalino to combine for five tallies after halftime.

McKee also answered the call with the first multiple-goal game of his career. With three minutes remaining, a ball dropped by Tucker Virtue sent the Nittany Lion defense scrambling to retrieve it. Virtue got the ball to McKee, who found the back of the net one more time.

“I just do what we normally do,” McKee said. “Six guys go across the field, it doesn’t matter how big their sticks are. We just go to the crease…. The ball just came to me. I was the guy right in front and put it in the back of the net.”

A slight source of disappointment for the Blue Devils came from a somewhat sloppy defensive effort, which allowed Mackrides four goals and Nick Dolik two. Although McKee admitted that Penn State shouldn’t have scored double digits against Duke, Danowski attributed giving up those goals to the speed of the game.

Against Loyola last weekend, the game was slower and played mostly in the box. Saturday, Danowski said Duke gave up a whole bunch of scramble goals to Penn State—for instance, after saving the ball on the sideline on the defensive end, or following a violation play on the faceoff—but “that happens when you’re playing fast.”

Freshman Dan Wigrizer had seven saves in three quarters of action, while seniors Devon Sherwood and Max Wygod manned the net for the Blue Devils in the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils’ games will now come fast and furious. Starting Tuesday, Duke plays five games in a span of two weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of games in a short amount of days,” Quinzani said. “It’s just good to get a win under your belt and start the track meet off right.”

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