MLAX : Buhr finds consistency at faceoff X; Walters steps up in Syracuse’s man-up opportunties

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first_img Published on May 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img VILLANOVA, Pa. – After Brian Megill lost the first two faceoffs of the game, head coach John Desko turned back to his faceoff specialists.Chris Daddio and Ricky Buhr have struggled all season at the faceoff X, a facet of the game that has haunted Syracuse in its seven losses this season.But on Thursday, Buhr rose to the occasion to key an explosive performance on offense for Syracuse. The sophomore won 11-of-20 draws largely matching up with Villanova’s Thomas Croonquist, who entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in faceoff win percentage at 60.5 percent.Croonquist finished 10-of-17 at the X, and Buhr’s standout play set the table for the Orange’s 15-6 victory over the Wildcats in the Big East tournament semifinals.‘I just felt really comfortable at the X all day,’ Buhr said. ‘Everything was going my way and I felt real comfortable and I felt like I could get the ball out and once I got in that groove, I just kept rolling.’Buhr hasn’t found his comfort zone for the Orange all season, winning just 51-of-115 (44.3 percent) faceoffs in his first 14 games. On the season SU has won just 42.7 percent of its faceoffs, a number well below the 50-percent mark head coach John Desko has said his team needs to reach in games.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDesko feels if the Orange can win at least half of the faceoffs, it will have a chance to win. If it can’t, SU is already at a huge disadvantage.Trying to find a spark, Desko turned to Megill, the team’s top close defender and a physical presence, to shake things up at the X. The junior captain was impressive against Rutgers, going 8-of-12, but he’s had trouble in the team’s last four games.After the team went 13-of-25 overall and controlled possession in the second half, the head coach reiterated how crucial the faceoff X has been to the team’s ability to win games.‘All year long, I think we get the ball after a goal and we’ve been able to produce,’ Desko said.Walters shines on extra-man opportunities for SUMatt Walters was never on anyone’s radar screen.Walters entered Thursday’s game with two goals and two assists to his name. But he made his presence felt.The freshman midfielder from Villanova, Pa. had a memorable homecoming in Syracuse’s 15-6 victory over Villanova on Thursday. He scored two goals on three shots to provide a valuable lift off the bench for SU. But more importantly, each of those goals came in man-up situations, bolstering the attack that entered the game connecting on just 20-of-60 (33.3 percent) of those opportunities.With Walters surprisingly leading the charge, the Orange connected on 50 percent of its chances, going 2-of-4 on the man-up. It was a stark contrast from the way SU performed all season and provided the Orange with an added efficiency on offense.‘He has one of the hardest shots on the team as a freshman and I think the first part of the year was part of the learning experience for him being here for his first year,’ Desko said. ‘We had some problems with our man-up as far as the looks we were getting and really the output, the percentages that we were shooting.’Desko shuffled the deck with a new look on extra-man opportunities. That included adding Walters’ potent shot, and he proved his worth.After Villanova midfielder Mark Jackson cut down SU attack Tommy Palasek as he attempted to surge to the net, Syracuse earned its second man-up chance of the game.Palasek dished a crisp pass to Walters on the right wing, where he beat Wildcats goaltender Dan Gutierrez on a low shot with 10 seconds left in the halfto give SU a 6-4 lead going into halftime.Walters added his second goal on another feed from Palasek midway through the third quarter to give SU a four-goal lead and the Orange never looked back. And the new man-up lineup provided additional damage.‘We just changed some things up,’ Desko said. ‘We put Bob (Eilers) and Matt (Pratt) and Tim (Desko) on the perimeter and we’ve got Derek (Maltz) obviously, a very good inside player and Tommy, a good feeder and can finish, and Collin Donahue understands it, so keeping it very simple and Matt’s reaping the rewards of that.’[email protected]@syr.edulast_img

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