Unable to win faceoffs consistently, Duke did the next best thing to generate offensive possessions as it worked to overcome an 8-6 deficit midway through the third quarter.
The Blue Devils forced eight Towson turnovers in the final frame, to go along with six in the third quarter, to rally past the No. 5 Tigers for its third top-five victory Saturday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium. Using a 4-0 run spanning the final two periods and scoring two goals in the final two minutes, No. 2 Duke surged to a 12-10 win.
“We knew this was going to be a 60-minute battle,” head coach John Danowski told GoDuke.com “Towson is well coached and already has some great wins. Going in we knew we would have to buckle up the chin strap for 60 minutes.”
With two goals in the final two minutes of the second period, Towson knotted the game at 6 and entered the break with all the momentum. The surge continued as the Tigers tallied on two more in the opening five minutes of the second half, with Brendan Sunday accounting for two of his four goals over that stretch.
The Blue Devils could not buy a faceoff, losing 19-5 at the X for the game, and 9-2 in the second half. Brian Smyth was unable to secure any of his six attempts while Peter Welch went just 1-for-8. However, rookie specialist Jordan Ginder was able to stop some of Alex Woodall’s dominance, going 4-for-10.
“For my money, [Alex Woodall] is probably the best [faceoff specialist] we’ll see all year,” Danowski said. “He was terrific. But it’s a faceoff game after the ball is picked up and I thought we did a pretty good job of riding and trying to harass him a little bit when he had the ball.”
However, Joey Manown broke the futility for the Blue Devils by burying home a pass from Brad Smith for his second goal of the day to cut the deficit to one and start the decisive run. Just 18 seconds later, Cade Van Raaphorst notched his first goal of the season, taking a pass from John Prendergast, to even the game at 8 with 6:26 left in the third.
As the Duke offense started to find its rhythm, the defense continued to lockdown Towson on the other end. The Tigers were held scoreless from the 10:25 mark of the third period to the 5:59 mark of the fourth—a stretch of just under 20 minutes. While Towson’s offense struggled, Joe Robertson and Garrett Leadmon registered two goals in the first two minutes of the fourth to give the Blue Devils a 10-8 lead that they would not surrender.
Although Sunday scored with just under six minutes left to cut the deficit to one, the Duke defense continued to clamp down and Smith and Prendergast added insurance goals to push the Blue Devils to victory. Duke caused 13 of the Tigers’ 25 turnovers with junior JT Giles-Harris causing four of the turnovers. The defense held Towson to just six even-strength goals and limited Brody McLean, who averaged 3.4 goals over his first five games, to just one score.
“I think [Cade and JT Giles-Harris] have been really consistent all year,” Danowski said. “Cade is playing like a senior and I think JT is playing like a senior as well. The two complement each other really well. They’re very dynamic athletes and I think they’re getting better each week.”
The contest started with the two sides exchanging goals and neither side holding the lead after the first six goals. Smith opened the scoring off an assist from Walsh, and led Duke for the day with three goals and an assist. The Blue Devils’ six opening half goals saw them distribute the wealth with Manown, Jake Seau, Kevin Quigley, and Ginder all getting in on the action.
The Blue Devils will open ACC play on the road in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse next Sunday. The Orange are 4-2 and are riding a two-game winning streak that saw them beat top-20 opponents in Johns Hopkins and Rutgers.
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