No. 12 Irish open up home conference play in matchup with No. 8 Syracuse
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, March 29, 2019
No. 12 Notre Dame will open home conference play Saturday when they host ACC-rival and eighth-ranked Syracuse. While the Orange (5-2, 1-1 ACC) hold the all-time advantage over the Irish (4-3, 0-1) 10-4, Notre Dame has won three of the last five bouts. With four of the last six games being decided by only one goal, the matchup looks to be primed for fireworks. The Irish don’t shy away from big games either; Notre Dame is 36-28 against teams ranked in the top 10 in the USILA Coaches Poll since the beginning of the 2008 season, going 2-1 against top opponents in 2019. Since 2012, the Irish are also 14-13 against teams ranked in the top five by the same poll.
Notre Dame started the season with three wins out of four, including big victories over then-No. 2 Maryland and then-No. 8 Denver, but the Irish have stumbled as of late, losing two of their last three games, including last weekend’s overtime loss to Ohio State in the Arlotta Stadium opener.
A key strength for head coach Kevin Corrigan so far has been depth, particularly on the offensive end. Notre Dame currently has five players with over 15 points on the year. Their scoring efforts have been led by junior midfielder Bryan Costabile, who has notched 16 goals and two assists on the season, junior attacker Brian Willetts, who has 15 goals and three assists, and senior midfielder Brendan Gleason, who has 12 goals and eight assists. Further, in his first season as a starter, Wheaton Jackoboice has come on strong for Notre Dame. The sophomore midfielder has 17 points on the season off of nine goals and eight assists and has posted at least three points in each of his last four games, with his most notable performance coming in a two-goal, two-assist performance against Virginia.
On the defensive side, the Irish have a wealth of experience in seniors Hugh Crance and Drew Schantz. But so far much of the show has been stolen by sophomore defenseman Arden Cohen, who leads the team with 11 caused turnovers and is second on the team with 28 ground balls. Cohen had a season-best three forced turnovers last weekend against the Buckeyes, and he also scooped up six ground balls and led two key plays at the end to keep the Irish in the game. Overall, the Irish have caused 59 turnovers so far this season and are holding opponents to 9.71 goals per game.
While the team is still working out particular kinks as conference play starts to heat up, an area where Notre Dame has already been hitting top gear is during the second quarter — far and away the program’s strongest statistical quarter to date. Over seven games, the Irish have dominated with a 28-8 scoring margin, only allowing more than one goal once. But for the team to remain consistent, much of the work has to be done on the faceoff, where junior Charlie Leonard’s work ethic has been lauded by Corrigan.
Of Syracuse’s seven overall games, six have been against opponents ranked — at the time — in the top 25. The Orange enter the contest against the Irish fresh off of a thrilling 9-8 overtime victory over then-No. 2 Duke, and a victory which extended their win streak to three. Bradley Voigt will be the player to watch for Syracuse, as the senior attacker leads the team in points with 20 off of 16 goals and 4 assists.
The contest is set to start at noon Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.