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FINAL: No. 6 Duke 9, No. 7 Maryland 11

No. 6 Duke 9, No. 7 Maryland 11, FINAL: The Terrapins are dog-piling on the center of the field, celebrating their ACC crown...

There's not much to say here but it's awfully tough to win when you don't score, it's tough to score when you don't have the ball and it's tough to have the ball when  you don't execute on face-offs. The Blue Devils learned this lesson the hard way, losing their first game to an ACC opponent this sesaon in a game when it seemed like they never had possession due to a miserable performance on face-offs.

Thanks for reading The Blue Zone's live blog of this afternoon's ACC Championship, and check the paper tomorrow for a game story and analysis.

No. 6 Duke 9, No. 7 Maryland 1, 6:33 4th quarter: Well, Maryland put away the first goal of the period but the Blue Devils responded with a face-off win and then a goal to keep the game within one. They even won the next face off, but Amato made a nice save and the Terps converted on their next posession to increase their lead back to two. Time is quickly running out for the Blue Devils to turn the time of possesssion around and mount a comeback...

No. 6 Duke 8, No. 7 Maryland 9, 0:00 3rd quarter: And, the fourth quarter is set to begin with the Blue Devils down by only one. The Terrapins had another extra-man opportunity to finish the period after a penalty on Zach Howell, but they could not execute.

The fact that Duke is only down by one despite only having one 4-of-20 face-offs is remarkable. They have done a good job at scoring and preventing goals, even though possession has been scarce. Can Danowski find somebody who will get the team the ball in the final period?

No. 6 Duke 8, No. 7 Maryland 9, 3:03 3rd quarter: The Blue Devils briefly retook the lead, taking advantage of a second consecutive man-up goal. Nevertheless, Maryland quickly responded with another goal a minute and a half later to tie it back up at eight apiece. They then regained the lead with an extra-man goal after Chris Hipps was charged with a one-minute slashing penalty.

Oh, and in case you are curious, Maryland has won four-of-five face-offs thus far this period and 16-of-19 for the game. The fact that the Blue Devils remain in the game with such little possession is remarkable.

No. 6 Duke 7, No. 7 Maryland 7, 10:43 3rd quarter: And so it continues. . .

The Terrapins won the first face-off of the half, and converted it into the first goal of the period to give them their first lead of the game at 7-6. They won the second face-off as well, but could not convert and committed their first penalty in the process. The Blue Devils capitalized when Howell put one in the net for a hat trick.

No. 6 Duke 6, No. 7 Maryland 6, halftime: The period ended without more scoring, but overall was a major success for Maryland who got back into the game by winning this second period 4-1.

A bright spot for the Blue Devils this half was goalie Dan Wigrizer who finished the two periods with a total of six saves. He made a particularly exceptional one with just over a minute left to set up the Blue Devils for their final possession of the half. They could not convert, however, turning the ball over.

There is no doubt what Coach Danowski will harp on in the locker room during the break: face-offs, face-offs and face-offs. The offense played extremely well in the first period netting five goals, but expecting that level of production when they barely have the ball is unrealistic. Unless the guys in the center - primarily CJ Constabile and Brendan Fowler, who are both one-of-six on face0offs - can begin to give the offense possession more often, more periods like the second one can be expected. As a team, they finished the half winning only two of the 14 face-offs, one in each period.

No. 6 Duke 6, No. 7 Maryland 6, 2:49 2nd quarter: Maryland scored three goals in a row - including taking advantage of the game's first extra man opportunity - to tie the game up at six apiece. Coach Danowski must be irate with the team's performance on face-offs, now having lost 12-of-14.

Despite the tie score, perhaps it is time for a timeout; the team cannot continue to put itself in such a hole by consistently giving the Terrapins possession.

No. 6 Duke 6, No. 7 Maryland 3, 7:34 2nd quarter: The Terps notched a pretty goal to start the period, beating the Blue Devils in transition. Goalie Niko Amato saved a Duke shot and launched a long lead-pass to long-stickman Brett Schmidt who put it in. Amato was credited with the assist and Schmidt notched his first goal of the season. The Blue Devils finally won a faceoff afterwards, however, and were able to respond with a goal of their own when Lawson put his second goal of the game away. Lawson, Howell and Rotanz all have two goals.

So far this period, Maryland is again leading the face-off battle, winning two-of-three.

No. 6 Duke 5, No. 7 Maryland 2, 0:00 1st quarter: Duke's explosive offense kicked into full gear from the start of the game today, with a five-goal first period that forced the Terrapins to call a timeout just to collect themselves. Howell's two early goals were supplemented by one from David Lawson and two from Rotanz.

The real question is: can the Blue Devils sustain this offensive success? They have only won 1/8 face-offs, something they will need to change if they plan on remaining so offensively dominant.

Also, more than most days, endurance and depth will be a major factor this afternoon. With a blistering sun on the field and temperatures approaching 90 degrees, this is some of the most difficult weather the players have faced so far this season. Just ask this reporter who is sweating profusely typing a live blog on press row.

No. 6 Duke 3, No. 7 Maryland 1, 7:45 1st quarter: The Terps won the game's first face-off and had a nice breakaway to start the game but could not get one past Duke goalie Dan Wigrizer. On the ensuing posession, good ball movement  resulted in a decent opportunity for - you guessed it - Zach Howell who put away his team leading 36th goal of the season. Maryland won the second face-off but again could not convert, with the Blue Devils taking advantage and turning a fast break into a 2-0 lead, again with Howell putting it in the net. Duke could not stop Maryland on its next possession, however, who quickly scored after the ball was put back in play. Junior Robert Rotanz responded with the third goal of the game for the home team.

Despite the 3-1 lead at this point, one thing to watch out for is whether or not the Blue Devils can sustain their success despite being clearly overmatched on face-offs thus far. Curtis Holmes won the first four, and Duke just nabbed its first one after Rotanz's goal.

PREGAME: Welcome folks to The Blue Zone's live blog of this afternoon's ACC Championship contest between No. 6 Duke and No. 7 Maryland. The two teams made it to the finals of the tournament travelling very different paths. The No. 1 seeded Blue Devils exploded on offense in a 19-10 torching of the fourth seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Friday. The third-seeded Terrapins, on the other hand, barely eked out a low-scoring 7-6 victory against North Carolina in order to advance.

When the two teams met in the regular season, Duke won 9-8 in an overtime thriller, setting the stage for a thrilling rematch this afternoon, with the game scheduled to start at 3:30.

The Blue Devils took the field to Metallica's "Enter Sandman," famously the entrance song for MLB closers Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner. They are 4-0 so far against ACC teams this season, can they close out the tournament and make it 5-0?

Stay tuned here for updates, analysis and clever musings from here on press row as these two ACC titans prepare for battle.


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