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Strong defense helps Army lax take Patriot opener for 4th straight win

Photo by Mark Wellman/Army West Point Athletics

With the offense a bit off kilter and facing a hot goalie, Army coach Joe Alberici realized pretty quickly that his defense would need to step up to prevent a huge upset at the hands of winless Holy Cross on Sunday in Worchester, Mass.

The 16th-ranked Black Knights responded, resulting in a still somewhat-difficult 13-6 victory for Army in both squads’ first Patriot League game of the year. Army is now 4-1 on the season, while Holy Cross moves to 0-6.

“It was definitely a combination of our offense being off today and running into a goalie (Dawson Friers) who played very well and made 18 saves against us this year after making 18 saves against us last year,” Alberici said. “Our offense was a little off tempo and we did not cash in on our opportunities, especially in the first half. We were pushing the pace, got the shots, but they just did not go in often enough.”

Army’s offense, which was averaging 15 goals a game coming into the contest, started to get on track in the third quarter. With Will Coletti once again controlling the faceoff mark, winning 67% of the faceoffs, and garnering 10 ground balls, the Black Knights had numerous opportunities to extend their lead.

“We started to put things together with Will dominating the faceoff and freshman Evan Plunkett scoring three goals and assisting on three others in a seven-goal stretch in the second and third quarters,” Alberici added. “Also, junior Jake Morin (five goals) played terrific. He is an elite shooter and one of the best in the country and he showed that today.”

But, it was the defensive pressure that truly made the difference against Holy Cross. And, Alberici said there was no shortage of heroes on the defensive end of the field for Army.

“For one, Christian Fournier, a sophomore, long-stick middie had five ground balls and caused three turnovers,” Alberici said. “AJ Pilate was terrific today. His matchup (Holy Cross’ Thomas McIntire) came into the game as the leading scorer in the Patriot League and he did not score a goal until AJ was out of the game. Also, John Sullivan had another very good day for us and Knox Dent had a solid game in net.

“I am really proud of how our defense played. It was the third time this season our defense was able to hold our opponent to single-digits goals in a game and when we do that it usually results in a win.”

Plebe Gunnar Fellows notched a pair of scores for Army, while junior Bailey O’Connor also scored twice, his second and third of the season, and senior Andrew Kelly had his first goal of the season.

Army hosts Patriot League foe Lafayette on Friday at 6:30 p.m at Michie Stadium.

“Every win in the Patriot League is a big win,” Alberici said. “We are very happy to get this win and get this win on the road. The opening league game is always so important. Now, we move on to face a very good Lafayette team that gave Loyola a really hard time on Saturday (losing 15-11). In a very short week, we now have to focus on getting on second league victory against a quality opponent.”3

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