After a quick turnaround and a trip back from Florida, the Blue Devils had reason to be tired Monday night.
But some fresh faces ensured Duke came out firing and did not let up after a long road trip this weekend.
The No. 4 Blue Devils upended Mercer at Koskinen Stadium 19-9, winning their second match in three days and continuing to shake off the hangover of their first loss of the season to No. 2 Denver last week.
“I thought we rode really well and what helped was our ability get the ball back,” Duke head coach John Danowski said. “When our first group was in, we shot the ball really well. Their goalie is terrific, having made great saves against us last year down in Macon. We just had a really good night offensively.”
Duke (4-1) shot out to an early 4-0 lead behind four different goal scorers, with Justin Guterding taking a Case Matheis feed from behind the goal to start off the scoring. The Bears (2-2) eventually found an opportunity to get on the board after a Greg Rhodes penalty gave them 30 seconds of extra-man offense.
Mercer attackman Chris Baxa capitalized on the opportunity and found the back of the net with a powerful shot from the top of the box to cut the lead to 4-1. But any momentum gained by the Bears was quickly snuffed out, as the Blue Devils proceeded to go on a 8-0 run through parts of the first and second quarters. Mercer did not score for 22 consecutive minutes in the first half, with Duke capitalizing on sloppy play by the Bears.
The Blue Devil offense was firing on all cylinders in the first half, with seven different players finding the back of the goal. Midfielder Jack Bruckner had four goals and Guterding exploded in the first half for one goal and three assists, including a helper to immediately answer Mercer’s first goal of the day. After winning the ensuing faceoff, Guterding found Bruckner, who was coming around the cage and buried it past goalkeeper Mike Nugent to stymie the Bears' excitement.
Defender Peter Welch, attackman Chad Cohan and midfielder Deemer Class all got in on the scoring before Mercer stopped the Duke run with a Brandon LeSane goal with three minutes left in the first half.
The Blue Devils kept on the gas early in the second half, as the Bears could not keep up with the high-powered Duke offense. Midfielder Teddy Henderson, who took face-offs all night as normal starter Kyle Rowe was out with injury, won the first draw of the second half and took it down on the break to score the first goal of his career. The Greenwich, Conn., native has earned high praise for his work at the faceoff X, where Henderson was 15-for-20 on the night.
“Teddy was terrific tonight. Anytime you are 75 percent in a Division I game, that is a phenomenal number,” Danowski said. “We were delighted at his performance and how he stepped up tonight.”
Mercer was able to get back in the game in the second half, as the Blue Devils began to sub on the fly. LeSane scored the second of his two goals midway through the third quarter after splitting his defender and getting his hands free from the top of the box. From a minute left in the third quarter to halfway through the fourth quarter, Mercer went on a 5-0 run, before Danowski decided it was time for the starters to put the clamps on for rest of the game.
Although they were competitive in the second half, the Bears could not compete with the deep Blue Devil squad. Mercer committed 17 turnovers and only gained 26 ground balls, as opposed to 40 for Duke.
“They are starting to learn how to play hard all the time when the ball is on the ground,” Danowski said. “I thought we did a great job of running through ground balls and creating opportunities. Guys are learning how to hustle when possession is on the line.”
Guterding, with six points on the night, is on pace to become the fastest Duke player ever to reach 100 career points. Current assistant coach Matt Danowski holds the record, having reached the century mark in 27 games, but with 92 points through 23 career games, Guterding is well on his way to surpassing his coach.
The shifty Garden City, N.Y., native—who converted all three of his shots on goal Monday—did not skip a beat when his head coach started substituting around him on offense.
“We were moving the ball great off the ground, the team was scrapping,” Guterding said. “Everyone wanted the ball, just to get it off the ground and keep moving it. It did not matter who came up with it in the end and we had a great day offensively. The [blue line] did great. They fight hard every single day in practice and it was a lot of fun to give them the opportunity to get out there and score some points for us.”
Following two games in three days, the Blue Devils have a week of practice before traveling to Hempstead, N.Y., to take on No. 12 Harvard Saturday at 3 p.m. at James M. Shuart Stadium.
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