As one of Syracuse's newer opponents, the two teams have played just 8 times. The Orange lead the series 7-1, the one loss coming in 2012. Notre Dame played their first season as a varsity sport in 1981 and since then have put together a 309-158 record. The Irish had their best season in 2010 when they fell to Duke in the finals.
Notre Dame seems to elevate its game against ACC foes. The Irish's two losses have come at the hands of Penn State and Denver. The Irish pulled out the one-goal win over UNC for their first ACC win. Their second in-conference win came two weeks ago when they put down UVA 18-9 in a rare indoor game.
Beginning with Syracuse on Saturday, the Irish have three games left against ACC opponents. As I detailed earlier in the week, a 2-3 finish in ACC play could lead to massive bottleneck for the third and fourth spots in the ACC Tournament. Assuming UNC can get wins against UVA and Syracuse to finish out their season, Notre Dame needs to realistically pick up two more wins to guarantee them a spot in the conference playoffs. That being said, I can't imagine the Irish beating Duke or Maryland, their other two conference opponents left, making this game against Syracuse that much more important. Still though, I expect UND to be an at-large pick for the national tournament.
As for the Orange, their only shot of making the ACCT would be finishing the year 2-3. Odds are that SU won't make the NCAA Tournament without another quality win against Notre Dame, Cornell or UNC. Saturday's matchup against the Irish is their best chance to get a win out of those three games. It is going to be very interesting to see if the committee will be willing to take all six teams from the ACC, and even though there is a lot of talent in the conference, it would most likely be a long shot. I'm really hoping I don't have to write about another unbalanced loss caused by a lack of possessions on Saturday afternoon, so for my sake let's all hope Syracuse can pull it together for this one.
Syracuse vs. Notre Dame will be played at Noon on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. The contest can be seen on ESPNU and heard on 99.5 WTKW.
This Notre Dame team finds most of their shots off dodges and long-rage or mid-range shots. They don't weave the ball to cutters or use their passing game to find open shooters as much as Syracuse's previous opponents have. That is why it will so important for the Orange to put constant pressure on shooters' hands. The ball holder is always a threat for this team inside the box. Against Hopkins, Cuse left shooters open deep in the box and were burned over and over again. Notre Dame has the same potential to snipe and we don't want a repeat of the performance Ryan Brown had against us at Homewood Field.
The ACC has a lot of impressive attack lines, and Notre Dame is no different. Matt Kavanagh is eighth in the country in points per game and has a .370 shot percentage. The sophomore from Rockville Center, NY earned an honorable mention All-American last year totaling 38 goals and 16 assists. Against Ohio State Tuesday, Kavanagh had a program record-tying 7 goals. Kavanagh doesn't play on the crease that much, preferring to settle on the wing. In possession situations, his scores mostly come from about 10-12 yards out. The defense will need to keep constant stick pressure on him with the ball, but off ball he is not a cutter. Still though he can be a versatile threat. He had one goal against the Buckeyes 10 yards out, double covered, with his back to the keeper where he simply threw it over his head for a goal. While Kavanagh's season has been impressive, the offense is fairly balanced. Other than Kavanagh no other member of the team has more than 9 goals or 13 points.
In his freshman and sophomore years Pat Doyle started all but two games. The junior has compiled 63 career points. Doyle had a slow start to the season picking up just 6 goals in the first four games, 3 of those goals coming against Jacksonville. In the last two contests he has contributed 3 goals and 3 assists.
Senior attackman John Scioscia had a breakout season in 2013 while only starting one game. It appeared his production would continue into this season but so far he has just been average. 5 of Scioscia's 8 goals have come on extra-man opportunities, and he leads all Notre Dame starters with a .444 shot percentage. Scioscia came off the bench for the first 4 games of the season, but he picked up at least one goal in each of those games. After Westy Hopkins produced just two goals in the first 4 contests of the year, Coach Corrigan started Scioscia in place of Hopkins against Virginia. Hopkins started 27 games through this year before being pulled and has 44 career goals. Since the switch however, Scioscia has had just two goals, and OSU held him scoreless. This third attack slot continues to be a problem for the Irish, and I would expect to see both Hopkins and Scioscia get time in Saturday's game.
Last week, Coach Corrigan mentioned to the Notre Dame student newspaper that with limited possessions his team is not as effective as he'd like them to be. Well Coach, I don't think that will be a problem this week. Entering the week, Liam O'Connor led everyone in the country but Joseph Nardella (Rutgers) in face-off win percentage. At a cool 70%, he has helped Notre Dame lead the country in face-off win percentage as a team. Against UNC Liam O'Connor went 16-23 and the team went 17-25. Against Penn State they went 10-19.
The Irish also have Nick Ossello in their back pocket. Ossello, who hails from Colorado, went .500 last year taking just under half of the team's face-offs. This year the face-off duties have again fallen primarily with O'Connor but Ossello is a very capable backup having won 12-16 through 6 games.
Other than senior, starter Jim Marlatt, Notre Dame has a young midfield crew. Marlatt is a two-time All-American and has 2 assists and 3 goals on 16 shots. The senior also leads his team in turnovers with 12. Marlatt has been held goalless against Virginia, Denver and Penn State. Freshman Sergio Perkovic garnered a starting position after joining the Irish as the #20 incoming midfielder in the country. 5 of his 8 goals have come in man-up situations, and he hits the net just over half the time. Playing in just 9 games last year, Trevor Brosco failed to score in 2013. Starting all 6 games in his 2014 campaign, Brosco has had just 4 goals. Brosco doesn't shoot the ball a lot, just 1 or 2 times a game, but he has .692 shots on goal percentage.
The defense is not as physical as they should be on the crease. They also appear to be a step behind their matchups when they are on ball. Additionally, the second slide is not that effective, especially on the crease. Senior captain Stephen O'Hara anchors the close defense. The West Chester, PA native is in his third year starting at long-pole for the Irish. O'Hara has just 9 groundballs on the year but leads his squad with 7 caused turnovers. Fellow senior Brian Buglione started all 16 games in 2013. This year the 6'4" Buglione has 7 groundballs but also has 4 turnovers. Matt Landis came to Notre Dame as the 18th rated defensive recruit in the nation. Although he did not start his freshman year, Landis did play in 15 games and pulled in 23 GBs. Through 6 games, Landis has managed 4 GBs and 2 caused turnovers while giving the ball up 3 times.
Assuming the SU offense gets their possessions, which is a big assumption at this point, the attack can definitely make a mark against this defensive group. Syracuse bounced Notre Dame from the Big East Tournament last year. In that matchup the Orange attack, composed of Rice, Derek Maltz, and Dylan Donahue, had a combined 5 goals.
Junior Conor Kelly received the first 3 starts for the Irish this year. In his final start in net however, Corrigan pulled Kelly in favor of Shane Doss after Kelly gave up 4 goals and made no saves in 8:54 of play versus UNC. Doss finished out the game with 10 saves and 6 goals against while Kelly hasn't seen any time since. In Notre Dame's next game against Denver, Doss got the first start of his career. The freshman out of Glen Ridge, NJ, came to South Bend as the 10th best goalie recruit in the 2013 class and entering the game against Syracuse he has a .485 save percentage.
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